My classroom is ALMOST finished! I'm loving how it's turning out--the "soothing" theme I'm going with this year is definitely making me smile. I will post pictures of the finished room later this week, but first I wanted to share some pictures of the systems I have in place to stay organized. I'm a pretty organized person, and staying organized in the classroom is so important to me. I know I am not at my best as a teacher if I'm not organized, and if my classroom isn't organized, I feel that my students aren't at their best! Keeping an organized classroom helps my students focus and helps us not waste precious seconds locating and distributing materials, etc. Moving to my new school involved moving into a classroom that is much smaller than my old room, so I knew that keeping ultra organized would be super important in making sure everything FIT! This leads me to...
Step 1: Purge unnecessary materials and files
|Not pretty, but it does the job!|
Finally, I ditched a ton of old math manipulatives that I either had in excess or never used. I was able to give most of them away to teachers who barely had any manipulatives, and you bet they were excited to get them! This brings me to,...
Step 2: Designate spaces for materials for each discipline
If I'm in the middle of a math lesson and decide that I need fraction circles, I need to be able to find them IMMEDIATELY without looking in 4 or 5 cabinets. That's why I set store materials for each subject together. That seems like a no-brainer, but I also try to limit myself to one shelf or cabinet per subject. If the materials are overflowing, it may be time to purge! I have a cabinet devoted to math that holds my tubs of manipulatives, my Everyday Math teacher materials, and an additional tub of math resources and games:
Step 3: Repeat after me: "Bins are my friend"
I love bins. So much. My absolute favorites are IKEA blue tubs which are only $1.99 each. I start every year by picking up another stack of these babies--I guess every year I find more uses for them and require a few more! I also love shoebox bins with lids from walmart which are only $0.99 each. As you can see in the pictures above, you can fit SO MUCH stuff in cabinets and on shelves when it's in bins versus just stacked side by side. They also keep materials so much more organized and make it super easy to find things. I keep many of my recess games in bins. Before I started doing this, the recess games cabinet was always ridiculously messy. Now, all smaller games are in ziplock bags and kept in bins.
If you're going to embrace bins, make life easier on yourself and LABEL THEM! That way there is no time wasted pulling every bin off the shelf to figure out which one is housing your glue gun. I love my Brother label maker--I bought it at Costco a couple of years ago and immediately went crazy labeling everything.
Step 5: Use Every Space!
In my old classroom, space wasn't an issue, but moving into the new room I knew I'd need to use every nook and cranny. I love this idea I got from Pinterest for storing bulletin board boarders:
This is one of the biggest things I still struggle with, and I know many teachers are right there with me. It is really unbelieveable the amount of papers teachers deal with on a daily basis. There is student work coming in, student work being passed back, memos and notices to send home with students, meeting agendas and handouts, homework to copy, etc. etc. etc. I have posted about a couple of systems I've used in the past already to manage these papers, and while my method this year looks a little different, it is basically the same idea. For me, it is critical that I have a spot to organize three things: papers to grade, papers to copy, and papers to file. It is also critical that I have a spot to store copies and materials by day for the upcoming week, as well as a miscellaneous "In Bin" for kids to turn in random things throughout the day. (I colect homework using these fabulous magnetic pockets from Lakeshore. I'm obsessed with them.)
This year, I was lucky to get my hands on one of those beautiful standing colored drawer units many teachers have. I've never wanted to spend the money to buy my own, but one of my new teammates was trashing it ebcause the wheels were wobbly, and I snatched it up knowing my dad could tighten the wheels up. I am using the top drawer as my "In Bin," the second drawer to store papers to be graded, and below that a drawer for each day of the week, plus "Next Week."
I also have a little standing file unit on my desk (that of course I forgot to take a picture of), which I bought to replace one of the larger three level stacking paper holder thingies I had last year because the vertical design of this one took up way less space. I am using the front space to store my notebook and calendar during the day, the middle for papers to be copied, and the back for papers to be filed.
I am a Friday Folder girl. This means that I save all graded work, office notices, book orders, etc. to be sent home in one big stack on Friday. This saves me the time of passing back a bunch of things every single day. I know a lot of teachers who use mailboxes to house these things during the week, then transfer them to the folders on Fridays. To me, mailboxes have always seemed like they take up a crazy amount of space. My mom taught me this trick, and I LOVE it. I keep a small hanging files unit on my counter, and during the week, I have student helpers file the Friday Folder papers into each student's file. Then, on Fridays, student helpers transfer the papers from the file to the student's Friday Folder. It works like a charm and takes up less space than mailboxes. I keep the papers to be filed in a wire bin next to the hanging files, and the student helpers file them as they accumulate during the week.
This tip was new to me last year, but I love it. I noticed that it was taking a long time to distribute my mini dry erase boards, markers, and erasers every time I wanted to use them, and it was driving me crazy! I decided to separate the boards into a stack for each table, and I started storing dry erase markers, erasers (pieces of fleece), and some regular colored markers in a tote bin for each table. Then, I set them out on a shelf (or on two empty desks this year) so that when it was time to use them, all I needed was for one student from each table to retrieve their group's supplies. Bingo! Last year I also orgnaized my Treasures literacy books and Writing Workshop folders this way too, but I am mulling over some new ideas for those materials...
I know some teachers collect all student supplies, but I have always let the kiddos keep the majority of their art materials (crayons, scissors, glue, etc.). I do keep a supply of extras on hand at all times. I use this handy organizer and small plastic bins/pencil boxes to store each supply and label them on the side. I also label each cubby in the storage unit so they are returned to the correct compartment. I also have a compartment for "extras" where I keep any extra copies. This way, if students lose their homework, they know right where to go to find an extra! Finally, I use one of the slots for "scratch paper," or paper that is blank on one side. (Usually, when the extras bin is full, the old copies get transferred here.) This is the paper I tell students to use when they need scrap paper in math or want to draw.
(The blank slots will hold "extras" and "scratch paper")
I am still learning this lesson, but I THINK I am finally on top of things in this department! When I was cleaning out my room in preparation for my move last May/June, I couldn't believe how much JUNK I found crammed in the back of those deep drawers in my teacher desk. Holy trash. I found random things I had shoved into those drawers my first year teaching that I hadn't seen since! For me, the drawers in that desk were just so deep that they were BEGGING for me to fill them with junk. I may be organized, but aren't we all guilty of shoving things out of sight and out of mind when we have a place to shove them?
This year I downsized to this cute little desk I purchased at IKEA:
|Yes, it's missing a drawer. I couldn't figure out how to put it in...Help please, Dad...|
Well, that's about it! Now, the giveaway!I had the opportunity to review the book Organizing the Elementary School Classroom: 100 Effective Strategies by Todd R. Tystad. Todd is a teacher himself, and wrote this book based on his own practical experience with organizing his classroom in logical, effective ways. Todd believes in the importance of a well-organized classroom, and in his book, he spells out EXACTLY how to organize materials, communicate with parents, implement systems like newsletters with ease, and keep your classroom running smoothly through clear, consistent routines.
This book is a quick read, and I love the way it is divided up with numbered strategies. Tystad also includes an appendix listing each strategy by number for easy reference. As a pretty organized teacher already, I found that I already have systems in place that work well for me when it came to most of Tystad's strategies, but I found a few tips that I will definitely implement this year. One of these was to create an "Available Activities" anchor chart for indoor recess time. What a simple idea, and why have I never thought of that before?? I plan to stay in with my class for part of their first indoor recess and take the time to create a chart and discuss all available options. Tystad also had some interesting ideas for managing restroom breaks, something I continusously reinvent in my classroom.
In my opinion, the only real negative to this book is that there are no pictures. I am a hugely visual learner and would really have benefitted from pictures of some of the strategies described. That being said, it is still a great resource and presents a wealth of information. If you are a new teacher, I think this would be a very helpful read. If you're a veteran, you still might find some new tricks you never thought of before! I think this would make an outstanding gift for a student teacher or intern! Organization is one thing I really think you don't understand the importance of until you are actually in the midst of your first year. They definitely didn't teach me this stuff in college, folks!
- 1. Be a follower of Juice Boxes + Crayolas and leave a comment letting me know that you are. (Mandatory)
- 2. Leave a comment telling me your favorite organizational strategy and/or one area in which you struggle with organization in the classroom (+1 additional entry)
- 3. Like Todd on facebook (+1 additional entry)
BTW, the kindle edition of Organizing the Elementary School Classroom is also available for download on amazon for only $2.99! A steal!