I pride myself on being a very organized teacher. Setting up good organizational system helps me to save time and eliminates so much stress. I have been asked to write a post about organization for a LONG time. Well.... it's finally here! I am going to share how I have my classroom organized. Some things might work for you and some may not. That's the thing about organization- every person and
space requires a unique solution.
I have a bit of an obsession with Avery binders. I see them and I must have them. I know that in this digital age, it makes lots of sense to just store digital files of my resources rather than masters. But the reality is that our school printer doesn't always work and the binders make it easier for me to flip through and see exactly what resources I have for a particular skill or holiday. I have binders for each month, and binders for each domain of reading and math. Inside my math and reading binders, I use dividers for each standard in that domain. For example, I have a binder for Number and Operations in Base 10 and the binder has dividers for NBT.1, NBT.2 and NBT.3. When I buy or create quality resources for these standards, I put them in the binder to remind me to use them and to make copying easier.
Speaking of copying....I copy materials for an entire quarter all at once. This makes my weekly prep and lesson planning a ton easier. It does mean that I need to be very organized with all the paperwork or it will take over my classroom.
I have one file cabinet (the one you see next to it belongs to my partner teacher). I use the top drawer for my copied resources for the quarter. I have all my spelling lists, vocab lists, assessments, math facts, reading menus, reading passages, reading calendars, etc Before the quarter starts, I take a calendar and pencil in when we will be covering major topics. I turn my masters into the copy center or have my parent volunteer make them. (I have one mom who comes for an hour every week just to make copies! Get one of those!)
After the copies are made, I am able to easily slide them into a weekly folder for safe keeping in my file cabinet. I like this folder system because it makes it easy to rearrange when plans change! If I don't get to something and need to push it back a week, I just move the resource to the next folder. Simple! I make sure to have my folders ready before I leave on break. Then I am not worrying about planning and prepping on valuable time off. When I come back, I am ready to go. I can laugh at the teacher in line to make copies. I am kidding. Kind of.
Every Friday, I pull out the weekly folder for the next week and separate the materials into my daily drawers. I use 2 Sterilite drawers that are stacked on top of one another. These drawers make it a piece of cake to prep for the day. I have everything in one place and don't waste time searching through drawers and folders.
The other paperwork that has to be organized is the completed student work. I use a mailbox system. I like this Sterilite Portable File Box because it doesn't take much space and can be moved around the room.
The first few folders are where students turn work into me. I have a folder for their homework and another for their classroom. I also have a folder labeled "Notes." This is where students turn in anything that parents want me to read or that they had to get signed by parents. The last colored folder is for me. I throw anything in there that needs to be filed into student mail folders. Then, I have a folder for each of my students. This is where I put anything that they should take home. This includes school letters, book order forms and graded work. Using a mailbox system is so much faster than passing things out to students in their desks. Students know to check their mailbox everyday when they are packing up.
On the topic of graded work- I DO NOT grade everything. That would be a nightmare! I do lots of quick performance based assessments where students are completing work in their interactive notebooks or on their white boards. I quickly look as I walk by and make a list of students who need extra practice. Also, you can have kids trade and grade. If you do all the grading- you will always feel behind and like the paper are taking over.
I have lots of supplies that I also have to keep organized. I have a very small classroom, so being organized is the only real way to fit everything. I have lots of 18-Gallon Black Totes that I purchased at Walmart. At the beginning of the year, we have an open house where families bring supplies from the list that we send home over the summer. I put these tubs on the ground and families can throw the supplies into the correct bin. Then they get stored on top of my cabinets.
The bins are pretty high and hard to access, so we make sure to have a stocked drawer of student supplies down low. I restock this each quarter or anytime a tall man comes in my classroom. ;-) My table groups each have a caddy that they keep their supplies in. We share almost everything. When something is running low in their caddy, they can come get some more from this big drawer. I don't have a picture, but I keep paper towel, cleaning wipes and tissue under my sink. I restock that from the big black bins as well.
Teacher supplies are kept in my toolbox on the counter. You can also see the bottoms of the hanging cups where I keep my pens and pencils. Students know that their supplies are in the big drawer and they may not use my special supplies! You can read about how I made this toolbox HERE.
I have a tall cabinet in my classroom. I use it to store arts and craft supplies and extra office supplies. I use inexpensive clear shoe boxes to organize these materials. I am a little embarrassed to show this picture with the mismatched labels. But I'm real. My classroom is not perfect!
I also store my tubs with math and language centers in the tall cabinet. These are monthly centers that my students use. I keep each month in Ziplock bags and store them in boxes like the ones pictured above.
The set of centers that my students are using for that particular month are kept in a tiny plastic box. Each center is stored in a zipper pencil pouch. This is an entire month's worth of centers and it only takes up about 36 square inches on shelf! Plus the centers are portable and the pouches are durable enough to withstand many years of use.
I love books. I buy them constantly. I just can't help myself. I do not organize my classroom library by reading level. I think that this really limits kids and places them in a box. Sometimes I want to read a super easy book because I enjoy the characters. Sometimes I am willing to work extra hard on a complicated text because the topic interests me. I want my students to love reading. So they are welcome to read anything they want. I organize my books my series, author and topic.
I use inexpensive Sterilite shoeboxeses to keep the books organized and the covers facing out. The boxes are labeled and this makes it easy for students to find what they are looking for and to put books back where they belong.
I also have picture books that I use as mentor texts or during specific science and social studies lessons. I keep these on a higher shelf, out of the reach of my students. I used paint sticks and binder clips the label and organize the books based on the uno or holiday that they are used for. You can read more about how I made them HERE.
I ask my students to bring a water bottle to school each day. We live in a hot climate and it's easy to get dehydrated. However, I can't stand having the water bottles on their desks. They fall, tip and leak. They take up precious working space. So I purchased a Over-the-Door Shoe Organizer, Java. I stapled student numbers to the pockets and now every student has a place for their water. They are encouraged to grab a quick drink anytime I am not talking.
I love color paper. I use it all the time for my interactive notebooks. I keep the opened packages in these Plastic Stackable Side-Load Letter trays. I got so excited last year when I organized the colors in ROYGBIV order. Yes, I am crazy! The unopened reams are just stacked at the bottom of my cabinet.
I keep a Sterilite Dishpan in my classroom. This is where I place any papers that need my attention after school. The tub keeps the papers in one place. The first thing that I do after school is empty my tub. I never let it go. This means I never have a huge stack of papers overflowing! I can actually get everything put away or filed while my lunch is heating up!
I keep my teacher binder on top of my tub. I keep my binder simple. When I first started teaching, I bought a binder set on TpT and printed everything. It looked awesome. But I never used it! Now I have a binder and 5 dividers: Lesson Plans/Calendars, To Do, Student Data, Meeting Notes and Passwords.
I purposely use a small binder so that I am forced to keep it neat and actually do those things that I place in the To Do section!
So this is how I keep my classroom organized and functional all year! I hope you found a tip of two that will help you tame the madness!