Organizing your classroom can be a daunting task. Keeping it that way all year can be even harder. It seems the younger the grade level, the more stuff you have and use! These 10 easy classroom organization ideas will start you in the right direction and help keep you and your classroom organized all year.
Classroom organization isn’t taught in college.
The first thing I tell student teachers when the topic of organization comes up is that you don’t have to do it all at once. If you can start the year with a place for everything, it’s a whole lot easier to keep everything in its place!
Organize one area at a time.
I can’t think straight when my space is in disarray. God bless teachers who can. Getting organized can be overwhelming, so don’t try to do it all at once. Divide your classroom into zones. Think about your classroom and everything in it as belonging to one of those areas. Planning, teacher desk, reading table, files, centers, classroom library, and small groups.
Take one thing at a time, starting with whatever area is command central in your classroom. Create a place for everything so you can find what you need when you need it. Use bins, binders, file folders, stacking trays, or drawers. Use whatever works for you and your space. When you feel overwhelmed, take a break.
Get creative with storage.
Use baskets from Big Lots, Dollar Tree, Walmart, 5 Below, or Target to make “drawers” inside extra desks. These work well for storing community supplies, task cards, calendar wall parts etc.
Supply labels source
To cut down on clutter, use Sterilite drawers with paper placed in the fronts. These I found at a garage sale and a thrift store. Using scrapbook paper, I cut it to fit the drawer fronts. Measure the inside first, cut the paper, and then tape the paper in. It hides all the necessary things in the drawers for a less cluttered look.
These numbered bins are from Walmart and used to store math centers. When doing rotations, train your students to put each numbered bin in a designated spot for students to work. At clean up time, they know to put the lid on and place the bin back under the desk.
Anchor chart storage
Use a laundry basket or a tall, clean trash basket to store rolled up charts. At the end of each quarter, rotate out the ones you don’t need and rotate in the ones you’ll use next. I keep another tall kitchen trash can behind the class library to store charts we aren’t using.
Anchor chart label source
Teach students to stay organized.
Explain and model your desk expectations the first week of school. Teach students how to keep their desks organized by stacking their folders and keeping pencils, scissors and crayons in a pencil box. Explain (and demonstrate) your expectations for every child’s desk. Include a minute to straighten inside desks as part of your dismissal routine.
Provide bins to use as “table boxes” (as we call them) to hold whiteboards and anything else students use regularly. This prevents them from having to get up every time they need a white board, which can take up a lot of time when you’re teaching and space inside their desks. We used the bins that came with our cubbies.
Number and color code everything.
Using a number system will save you a ton of time. Number your class roster, the cubbies or mailboxes, earphones, computers, book bins and anything else that will help. This way you aren’t changing out name labels each year on all of these items.
Have students put their number alongside their name on all of their papers. Once they are graded, it is quick and easy to pass them back into the numbered cubby they belong in.
Consider color coding your anchor charts by subject. You can see at a glance the subject you want, especially if you only keep the current quarter’s charts in the basket.
I color code my “teams” or groups of desks and students. This makes it easy to call each team to line up. Use foam squares from the dollar store as color coded coasters for water bottles. No more wet papers!
Use Ziploc bags to organize classroom materials.
Organize your centers and leveled readers in a way that works for you whether it be by skill, week, or level. Set up binders to organize your data, assessments, fluency, and running records. Make one for small group plans and resources as well. Pick one thing at a time that is causing you stress or struggle and fix it.
Quart size Ziplocs are just the right size for sets of small group readers, chapter books, and “take home books” that students may use for homework. The gallon size is ideal for storing centers and master copies of student pages. I use them to organize vocabulary cards, science readers, calendar wall pieces not currently being used, word wall cards and anything else that gets changed out.
I’ve used them for book club chapter books that students can take home, leveled readers, and even sets of Reading A-Z readers.
Consider storing sets of student letter cards or magnetic letters for word building in sandwich size bags and sets of base ten blocks or discs for guided math groups.
Give away items you don’t use.
One key to classroom organization is to get rid of everything you don’t use. I highly recommend purging before the end of the year so you don’t have to pack up your classroom with things you never use.
Most schools have a place in the workroom where teachers place things they want to give away. Go through your cupboards, files, bulletin board border, and books to sort out things you don’t use. Every school has brand new teachers that appreciate things they are given and didn’t have to purchase themselves.
Use clothespins and paperclips
Use this nifty trick to spray paint clothespins to match your classroom. Glue a flathead tack to the back or hot glue them to a cardstock shape and use them to display student work.
Using clothespins makes it fast and easy to change out students’ work. Use fabric on the backgrounds of your bulletin boards. It stays bright and lasts much longer than paper.
Create a classroom news bulletin board to hold missed work, extra homework, school lunch menus, etc. Staple a sheet of construction paper to the board and place large paper clips on the top to hold your weekly newsletter or any other items you want students to see.
Bulletin Board source
Label your class library.
Every organized classroom has systems in place to make things easier to find. This goes for your classroom library as well. Label the bins in your classroom library in a system that works for you. I originally used wash tubs from Walmart as book bins and editable labels. Since we use Accelerated Reading, I labeled them by AR level. I then color coded the labels and put a color coded sticker on each book. That way students know to which bin to return them.
You can also label your library by subject, author, Lexile or DRA levels. Have a parent volunteer help with this at home or in the classroom by looking up the levels and putting on the appropriate colored sticker. I also put on a sticker with my name because I let students take classroom books home. (I rarely don’t get them back.)
Make up a basket with everything your volunteer needs to do the labeling along with a direction page. That way they can get started right away without you interrupting your teaching to explain. Put any new books you get straight in the basket to be labeled.
Organize your instruction
Keep your curriculum map and long-range plans handy. Get your weekly plans up to date and your weekly copies organized by day or week. I use a crate with hanging file folders for each day. The crate contains 3 weeks of daily file folders where I place copies, homework, spelling lists, read-alouds and anything else I need to teach that day in the file. I do the same for reading and math groups in the rolling drawers behind my reading table.
Assign Student Jobs
Set up a class job display and rotate students through various class jobs each week. Write each student’s name on a craft stick. Place the sticks in the pockets of their assigned jobs.
Include a few minutes during your dismissal routine for students to do their jobs. It makes all the difference to have students help and you will come into a tidy classroom each morning.
Creating an organized classroom takes some initial planning at first, but once you have everything in place it’s much easier to keep up. I hope these classroom organization ideas help you design a calm and cohesive space, and remember to take it one step at a time!
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