After 10 years in the classroom, I have accumulated more stuff than I know what to do with! So, this year my goal is to work hard to get better organized. Now I will never be the teacher with the pristinely neat classroom because I believe a messy day is a good day and I am a packrat and a self-proclaimed "stuff girl." However... I am eager to get a handle on some of my clutter. (Probably need to throw a lot of it away but you never know when you might use that empty peanut butter jar, right?) So, I dedicate this page to sharing organizational tips that have worked for me in the past and new ones that I will try out for this coming year. Whether you are a veteran teacher or a brand new teacher, all of us could use a new organizational tip or two. If you have great organizational tips or links to share, please feel free to email me! I would love to hear what works for you!
Professional Resources, Books, and Websites
I am a huge fan of resources from The Responsive Classroom and love their books. I am also very excited to read Debbie Diller's newest book Spaces and Places! For the first year teacher, The Organized Teacher offers lots of practical advice for setting up your first classroom. My biggest mistake was forgetting to sharpen pencils on my very first day of teaching school. I know, how dumb?! Maybe if I had read some of these resources back then, I wouldn't have made such a silly mistake! I recently read So Much Stuff, So Little Space. It offers some practical advice and tips. I have been to workshops by Suzi Boyett and she always shares great tips that are useful and practical. Susan Nations and Suzi Boyett also authored Primary Literacy Centers and More Primary Literacy Centers.
My favorite websites for organizational tips:
Ms. Powell's Management Ideas for Teachers is a fabulous resource for organizational tips and new classroom management ideas. She recently published her own book, The Cornerstone, to help teachers with classroom arrangement, organization, and overall management! Wow! What an accomplishment!
Trying to organize your classroom libraryy? Mrs. Newingham's site will blow you away. Her library is unbelievable and she has great ideas and tips for organizing and leveling your own library.
Organizational Tips for Centers
Wouldn't it be nice if we had a corner of the room for every center in our classroom? Well since we don't, here are some ways to save space!
I needed a place to store math games and manipulatives as well as have room for students to work. Here is what I found and I love it! The Little Tikes Mission Design storage unit is perfect for housing math games and setting up inviting math games. I also used to have the primary colored 12 bin organizer. I loved it, but since I purchased it with school money it didn't get to travel with me to my new school. I don't know why the price is different for the two colors currently. I absolutely love my 20-Drawer Double -Wide Mobile organizer. I store all of my fact family games from The Schoolbell in these drawers. The kids can take them out and use them around the room and then put them back. 20 centers in one place!!! Awesome! I have some friends who used these drawers for literacy centers. They got rid of all of their plastic tubs and used the cart instead. Costco used to sell them for around $65 and also sells a smaller and shorter 10 drawer version. However, it has gotten more difficult to find.
Here are some other organizational items I found that I thought would work really well for math or literacy centers! Don't you love the 18 pocket rolling shoe rack?! How great would this be for storing centers, books, or student materials and what a great value! Here is another rolling drawer storage center. Different size drawers would be great for those centers that have large items.
Now that you have a place for all of your math manipulatives. You are going to need some labels. I use labels for everything from workbooks and folders to center tubs. They also make whole sticker sheets and whole magnet sheets that you can use in your printer to create different size labels and magnetic words for word walls. I also like to use my label maker to label things quickly since I can't resist adding graphics to the labels I create on the computer. I have a P-Touch label maker and creates labels fast.
The Iron-on T-shirt transfers are wonderful for creating graphic designs for traveling bags. Design it on the computer, print it and iron it onto a cheap canvas bag. Visit my Traveling Bag page for ideas on enriching learning at home!
How do I
organize all of my themes and units?
What to do with all of those things you have collected for various themes and units! Well, over the years I have tried lots of different things. Like most teachers I started out with simple file folders in a metal filing cabinet, but that got messy so I moved to cardboard boxes for each theme. Well, the boxes didn't hold up over the years, so I gradually moved over to plastic tubs. I like the clear tubs because I can see what's in them and I have space for larger items. However, I will admit that I am lazy when it comes to putting things back in the tub. So, I am on the prowl again to solve this problem. I am planning on moving the units I use the most into clear plastic drawers. That way I can access them without unstacking them and can easily shove sheets back in the tub when I am done with them. Since I plan math, I will be moving my math files out of tubs and into drawers for next year. I am also considering purchasing more sets of smaller drawers for guided reading and my writing center. I found some rubbermaid 3 drawer units for just under $4.00 in Big Lots and thought they might be good for my community supply shelf. However, this one from Amazon might be even better because markers might fit in the bottom drawer.
I have heard of teachers using binders for each unit, but I know I would never put the papers back in the rings and who has time to hole-punch things?! So, I am going to stick with my big plastic tubs for the most part and transfer items used on a regular basis to drawers. For arts and craft supplies, I save the plastic baby wipe containers and they work great for storing things like popsicle sticks, q-tips, glitter, etc.
I recently purchased six 16 quart drawers and plan on filling them with mainly math materials. My desk is a table, so I look forward to having some drawer space underneath.
The Endless Paper Trail
In an effort to gain control of the endless trail of paper in the classroom, I finally broke down and purchased a 24 slot paper sorter. I plan on using it for student mailboxes for papers that need sent home. I might have students keep their Jungle binders inside also, but not sure yet. I also plan on assigning 1 or 2 students to the job of sorting papers. Here is the one I chose:
Yes, I could have chosen a less expensive one, but then it wouldn't have enough slots or it was made out of cardboard. Here are some other choices that I seriously considered:
Important Notes for the Teacher
All important notes are put in a special mailbox. My teacher friend Cindy Gibson and her children decorated my mailbox to look like a bumblebee and it is sooo cute. I will try and post a picture of it at a later date. My students put any important notes, book orders, etc. in the mailbox. I refuse to take notes directly from students because I will loose it probably before I even get to read it. So, as part of our morning routine students put things in the bumblebee mailbox and I make it a habit to check it every morning. I got my mailbox from Home Depot for around $20 and originally used it just simply decorated with stickers. However, after my friend Cindy painted her mailbox to look like a Zebra, I had to have her decorate mine to look like a bumblebee!
Last updated 06/12