I was speaking to a friend one day and she was telling me about how her mom did not keep their house the most organized. She said her mom was not a “Domestic Goddess.” I love this phrase so much! Organization does not come to me naturally, it is something I have to work at constantly. Each day I have to evaluate my organization and stay on top of it. I wanted to share with you my tips on how I keep my classroom organized and running smoothly, even though I am not a “Domestic Goddess.”
Before you can begin to organize your own things, you must purge the room of any crap left by the previous attendant. “The Purge” is my favorite step because of all the crazy things I have found throughout the years! Politely ask the sweet custodians for their largest trashcans and get to work! If it doesn’t match your vision for your classroom, it goes! You can watch the video of me purging my 5th classroom here.
2. Find Free Things
You never know what you can find in a school, especially if your school is an older one! This past year I found 15 clear, plastic shoe boxes in a janitor closet. I asked around and no one was using them. What a find!! I used these to organize my task cards. Before school starts, every school I have worked at has a designated place for unwanted items. Find the location and shop! Accordion folders, large envelopes, any plastic container, and labels are all great free finds!
Daily Materials Organization
You have to have your materials organized for the week or for the day. I enjoy having the ability to organize two weeks’ worth of materials. Here are a few different ways to do it.
Accordion Folders and Crate
4. Routines and Training
One way I keep organized is by getting the students to help! I take time teaching my students classroom routines for every part of the day. My classroom schedule is the same every day, down to the minute. They know where to turn in papers, get materials when we run out, what items they keep in their desks, and what items to get when they enter the room.
There are so many different ways to organize your classroom library. Choose one way and then stick to it. Assign students the job of “librarian” and then teach them how to keep the books organized. Any job you can pass off to students means less work for you! Two ways you can organize your books is by level or by subject/author.
Label All the Things
Go crazy labeling buckets and items. Why you ask? So students don’t have to ask you where to find things. You will also save yourself time when looking for an item.
Here is a list of everything I label:
Extra school supplies
Daily materials drawer
Library book baskets
My office supplies
Guided Reading/Math Group boxes
Lost and Found
Students bring items to me constantly! Sometimes they are pencils, dice, colored squares, and even trash. Well instead of stressing about putting it away immediately, I have a lost and found. The trash obviously belongs in the trashcan but the rest of the items can go to the lost and found until I am able to put it away. What a time and headache saver!!
Clean off your small group table daily!
I used to leave my classroom with papers and materials all over my small group table. Then in the morning I would pile up the crap and leave it in a big stack on the corner of the table. This was just a giant distraction and an accident waiting to happen. Today, I don’t ever leave without cleaning off my small group table. It’s equivalent to making your bed every morning. Well I honestly don’t make my bed every morning, so it’s more like locking up the house before you leave.
Mailboxes or Send Home Bin
Student mailboxes are a great way to organize all of the papers teachers send home. You can even make it a student’s job to organize the papers into the mailboxes so you don’t have to. Another option is to use a book box and just put the papers inside that need to be passed out. I usually just divvy up the papers between all of the students, then passing out papers runs pretty quickly.
Grade File Copy Bins
Have a book box, hanging bins, or plastic trays for papers to grade, papers for file, and papers to copy. This solves the mystery of the age old question, “What’s this paper from?” This is also a great solution when you run out of time to do one of those tasks.
Minimize What Your Students Keep
In order to help my students stay more organized, I allow them to keep very little in their possession. The rest of their materials I organize in the classroom somewhere. They only need to be responsible for what they can actually keep up with.
There are many different ways to store your iPads and tablets. My favorite is the stands with built in chargers. Other ideas are:
- Letter Trays
- Plastic Drawers with holes cut in the back for wires
- Dish Rack
My school has the student scan their lunch card when going through the lunch line. So I labeled a jewelry organizer with their names and the cards fit perfectly inside! You could do this for earbuds as well!
If I ever take off last minute, I have a sub binder with all of the information and materials they will need for the day. I found my template here. It also has long term substitute sections!
I limit the paper I file away. If someone gives me a paper copy of something, I will scan it and save it to my computer. Getting rid of filing cabinets frees up a lot of space! Don’t let digital files overwhelm you. Just create file folders like you did in your filing cabinet. The benefit to online files is not only do you save space but you can search for the file in the search bar instead of searching and getting a paper cut!
It’s time to get busy purging and organizing! Be sure to comment with the weirdest things you find when purging your classroom!