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Organizing Your Teaching Supplies

Photo by evelynishere (flickr.com)

When it comes to organizing, some teachers are pros! They can find the perfect spot for every poster, every manipulative and every paper. For the rest of us who have more piles and boxes and bags than we know what to do with, we stand in awe of those who have amazing organizational skills. Since the chances of those great organizers coming to arrange and sort our classroom supplies is slim to none, we have to figure out ways to keep our teaching tools organized so they don’t take over our rooms. The tips below will help begin to conquer the clutter and keep teaching supplies under control.

Masters Book

With so many teachers having to buy their own paper for their class, the last thing that anyone wants is to waste it. Instead of keeping multiple copies of papers on hand, start a masters book. Use a 3″, 3-ring binder and tabbed dividers for each month that you are in school. If this is your first year teaching, start your book from scratch by keeping one copy of each reproducible that you use and putting it into the binder under the month that you used it in. Veteran teachers may have a stack of papers and supplies that are just waiting to be organized before school starts again. Work through the piles and boxes methodically. Toss what you do not need and keep one copy of each sheet that you use with your class. This helps control the print out clutter and gives you material to use during every month of the year. Another idea is to put the pages in clear, 3-hole sheet protectors, so that if there are extra pages, you can keep them all together and not print out as many during the following year. You can also arrange your binders by subject or grade level if you teach multiple grades.

Photo by LizMarie (flickr.com)

File Folder Box

How many times have you found the perfect map or article for an upcoming unit, only to have nowhere to safely put it until the unit begins? This year, purchase a hanging file folder box and keep folders for each unit that you do with your students throughout the year. Have files for the big unit studies, as well as, the quick units, so that when you find materials for them, you can file the resources away. When it is time to start planning the unit or lesson, pull out the file folder for that topic and everything will be right at hand. The trick is not to forget to look in the file folders when it is time to plan!

The Ultimate Planner

Some teachers can work within the confines of a small planning book and feel confident that they have everything they need. Others can be seen carting around binders, notebooks, date books, planners and more, but can never seem to find what they need. If this is you, have no fear. Create an ultimate planner for your school and home life. A large 3″, 3-ring binder is going to be your best friend for the rest of the school year. In it, place a date book with holes to fit in the binder, a planner for your lessons and a blank notebook. Everything should be together and through the holes of the large binder. Also place a binder pouch to store pens, pencils, a calculator and correction fluid. The date book is for your home life, the planner is for your lesson plans and the notebook is to write down all of your notes, to-do lists and reminders. Having everything together in one place will make planning school and home life a lot easier.

Photo by LizMarie (flickr.com)

Multiplying Manipulatives

By multiplying, we are not talking about math! We mean those manipulatives that seem to take over the classroom with their bulk and tiny pieces when no one is looking. Put a lid on these wayward teaching tools by keeping them in stackable bins, baskets or tubs. Clearly label each container with the contents, so everything is easy to find. When you use the manipulatives, be sure to put them back where you got them from. It may be tempting to toss them on your desk with the intention of filing them away later, but resist the urge and put them away immediately. Your desk and classroom will stay cleaner and more organized for the effort.

What is your favorite trick for organizing teaching and school supplies?

Leave a comment below and share your ideas with other teachers!


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90 comments
Breanne Simons
Breanne Simons

I love the idea of a masters book. Right now I have masters all filed with my regular files and samples. It is my first year teaching and since I inherited a lot of files from a retiring teacher, I am still sorting through what I will use and what I will not. Having a masters book would definitely help to keep my originals organized!

Angela Martin
Angela Martin

I have three plastic drawers I keep by my desk. I have each drawer labeled so I can easily reach and grab what materials I need. I have my dry-erase markers, staplers, post-its, tape, and rewards for students. I also got a treasure box from Scholastic using my bonus points and will use it to hold rewards students may earn. If you don't have a Scholastic Book Order account---get one. Your students and yourself buy books and then you earn bonus points. I got a new library carpet from there. I have also gotten items for student prizes, for the classroom and games for literacy centers. The bonus points add up as the book orders are placed.

Angela Martin
Angela Martin

I also keep a file folder on my desk with papers that need to be copied. The label on the folder is simple, "copy folder." This way I know what needs to be copied and I place it in the folder. Items that are larger that need to be copied like books I place with the folder. So when my planning time is open I go make my copies and then I have time to grade papers, work on lesson plans, and meet with anyone I have planned.

Angela Martin
Angela Martin

I teach 3rd, 4th and 5th grade Science as well as 3rd grade Math and Reading. I have to stay organized or I will be lost and my students will lose out. I have organized all of my science and math materials into plastic containers I purchased from the Dollar Tree and Wal-Mart. I place all of my important papers that will be passed out to the students in binders with labels. I label everything in my room and on my jump drive. I place all of my lesson plans, newsletters and homework sheets onto my jump drive. Any papers that I pass out to parents and students I keep a copy on my jump drive. Labels are the most important. This summer I went to school and spent time getting rid of items that I no longer use and that no longer meet VA Standards. It took just a few hours, but it will help me loads this year. I have purchased the 27 wooden drawer mailboxes from Really Good Stuff. I keep all papers copied and ready to be passed out to students in them. I also keep blank paper for the goods there. I place our typing paper there, too. It helps to be organized because it saves time and allows me to focus on teaching.

Crystal F.
Crystal F.

These are great ideas. Now that it is August I am getting back into my classroom and will be using some these ideas.

Janet Hughes
Janet Hughes

They say that most teachers with a creative mind are not the best organizers of things. I will have to say that this is true of me. I tried the binder system. Last summer I took every copy that I used and put it in a binder for math, social studies, science, health, english/reading. It looked great and when I needed something for the school year it was great – all I had to do was go to the binder and find it. Here was my problem. To move along quickly through my day I placed the copy in a pile to put away. Did I ever have time to put it away? Rarely because there is so much to do!!!! So by the end of the year I had piles of papers to put back into binders. So I’m going back to the file cabinet system. Go to the file cabinet, open it find the file, and drop it in!What’s your input?

Kayla T.
Kayla T.

Color Code Everything! For the past 5 years, red has been grammar/writing, yellow has been spelling/word work, green has been science, purple has been social studies, blue has been math, and white/black has been reading. The students know it, and I know it, and it works :)

Kristin
Kristin

I am a 4th year teacher of special education and organization in one of my downfalls. I can keep the students organized, but when it comes to my plans, dates and notes I have such a problem. I love the binder idea and how everything is together. It makes such great sense.

Kris
Kris

Just finished jotting notes from this blog and its comments in my Idea Notebook. Never too early to start getting ready and organized for next year! Now time to start shopping for more binders, tabs & sheet protectors, and plastic storage drawers!

Whitney
Whitney

I love the idea of using a binder for my reproducible copies! As a future teacher, all ideas to help me stay organized are welcome and appreciated! There are many teachers at the school I student taught at that are retiring, and I plan on going to load up in their "classroom sale" if I get a job! Thanks!

Meaghan
Meaghan

I find that I always come across lesson plans and activities for students when I am looking for other things. One of the things that I find most useful is having PDF Creator installed on my computer... whenever I come across lesson plan ideas, articles or teaching activities that I want to save, instead of printing it out as a hard copy and putting it on my desk, I use PDF creator to print it to PDF. I then file the article by subject and unit so that when I am planning or looking for resources, I look in my files first.

schelly
schelly

Love the ideas! I use a flexible file folder that has 6 to 8 sections. I have one for each month. I teach preschool and put everything I need for a week's theme in one or two of the pockets. I have found that I need to keep only a master copy because the folders are overflowing!!!! I like the idea of scanning them too. I am going to be teaching 1st grade next year and love the ideas on organizing my new room and my paperwork!!!

Sarah C
Sarah C

I like using a Master Book. You can have one binder for the months and keep seasonal activites behind the corresponding dividers in that binder. Then, you can have other binders - one for each subject. In these binders, you can organize your papers by state standard and keep all your information easy to find and easy to use!

Lori A
Lori A

I like the idea of a Masters Book. I do something similar for my reading but never really thought to do it for math. Thanks.

Amy B
Amy B

I keep binders for each topic...I teach grades 6-8 in math and science, so I have a LOT of materials. And given that I teach special education and try to tailor the work to individual students, I often have multiple versions of the same paper. By keeping the binders to overall topics and units helps me be a bit more organized. I take out the binder I need and then put it back when done. Also, they're tabbed with sub topics inside.

Kelly
Kelly

What about saving files to a cd? That to me is the perfect way to decrease the amount of clutter in the classroom-which is too much-and also to organize at the same time!

Pam
Pam

I have started a large binder as my 'Center of Operations.' I am also going to try monthly binders for all the original copies with tab dividers for each subject. It is hard to stay on top of all the paper and computer files, but I keep working at it! Thanks for the ideas.

cara
cara

Yes, I need help organizing my teaching supplies. I am finding with so many resources online, I am not using referencing my files.

Linda
Linda

Over the past 28 years, I've changed organization more than once. However, a few things have stayed the same. One way to mark an original is to clip a small triangle on the top corner. Then if it accidentally gets with the student copies, it's easy to catch...students know to look for this. I have lots of pocket folder 'games' that have a follow up worksheet...used in our flex group centers. I either laminate the original or put it in a sheet protector and leave it in the folder with the student copies. My second graders are sure to let me know if they use the last copy. It's great since I don't have to look through a notebook to find the particular worksheet that goes with that skill game. I have Ultimate Notebook (my term) for each of the subjects that I teach. Couldn't live without it. Since we have 9 Reading Units and about that many math units, as well as Science, SST, Health, I have a planner for each unit on my shelves. (We are so lucky to have a LARGE storeroom with about 8 feet of floor to ceiling shelves for each of the 1st and 2nd grade teachers in our new building.) I keep the lesson plans, differentiation for flex groups and accompanying worksheets all together as well as vocabulary cards, tests, etc. in a 2" notebooks labeled on the spine. I use sheet protectors to hold cards etc. Also, in the front I have an 'idea' pocket so that if I find things I THINK I might like to use with a unit, I slip it into the pocket until I am ready to teach the unit...toss it if not used with the unit. My games are all filed neatly in labeled skill folders at the beginning of the year, but my biggest organizational fault is getting them put away when I get the next set of skill games out. It makes the end of the school year...and summer a busy time filing games. One way I dealt with that, somewhat, this past year, was to have two of my center boxes labeled 'New Skill' and 'Review Skill.' I actually got SOME of the put away...will do better this year. I've just discovered this site and in spite of being old enough to retire, I love reading all of these ideas and look forward to using many of them into my room. Now, if only I could get that desk organized!

Karen
Karen

I am one of those teachers who is always trying to get organized. I am going to try the copy binder with the months. I think that if I can get it started over the summer, it will make my life a lot easier. Let's see how organized I'll be this year. Here's hoping!

janine
janine

Love the ideas. I have taught for several years, however, the ideas in the article will help me become more organized and efficient. Love the masters book idea.

Rebekah
Rebekah

I am color coding the subjects that i teach. All my masters for each subject will go in a binder in a color for that subject (red-reading, yellow-social studies, etc.) That way it will be easier for me to grab the right binder. The students will also have folders for each subject, so they can organize their work as well. Then, I will collect the folders when I am collecting their work for that subject. Easy to see who is missing work, and in what subject. Also, this way no student should have papers just floating around in their desk!

Cara
Cara

The file box is a great way to organize your teaching supplies. Unfortunately, I don't purge items from my boxes like I should. Remember, you don't have to keep everything!

Jennifer Bond
Jennifer Bond

I made an ultimate planner last year and LOVE it! Everything I need is organized and at my fingertips. I also have various Sterilite storage bins and drawers in my room. A tip I learned from Debbie Diller at the Primary Conference last year - Keep 1 master copy of each paper and mark it with a yellow highlighter. Recycle the rest. The yellow doesn't show through when copied and you know which one is the original! GENIUS! I went through ALL of my files before school ended and recycled TONS of extra papers. Here is a link to my classroom if anyone wants to see how I organize everything. Click on the Classroom Tour links to see photos: http://teacherweb.com/MO/MillsElementary/MrsBondsFantasticFirstGraders/index.html

Sofia Dirkswager
Sofia Dirkswager

As a third year teacher now I have been changed from one grade, then back again (k to 1 and 1 to k) this year I have not been told exactly what grade I will be teaching. It makes it difficult to plan let alone organize..All these ideas are very helpful...thanks from us newbees

Glo
Glo

Ultimate planner is a teacher's lifesaver! I keep my plans in here,student info, district calendar, and grade level objs; also keep monthly calendars that I print out with holidays or special school days.I take it to all my meetings.

Kathy
Kathy

All great comments! I agree with so many veteran teachers...if you haven't used it all year, chuck it! I was always one to say "oh, I may use that later"...later never came b/c I found something better to use instead! Our 1st grade team will be implementing the Daily 5 and organization is key! I have been working everyday on jotting down ideas and items to get. I hope we can share pics of our classrooms soon!

Jen
Jen

Love the ultimate planner idea! I have co- taught with the most amazing and organized teacher for the last 2 years. Unfortunately I couldn't get her to rub off on me. I also rely on my organized kiddos. Before I left on maternity leave we started an assessment binder that housed all of the teacher made assessments as well as worksheets we use to assess certain skills because rash year we scramble to find appropriate assessments.

Cathy M
Cathy M

I have a file folder for each month of the school year. I save all the copy masters I will need for the month in that folder. Last school year I broke it down by weeks, and saved each copy in a weekly folder- still bundled inside the monthly folders, so that next year I can grab the weekly folder, make my copies, and be ready to roll in one swoop.

Tracey Ray
Tracey Ray

Really Good Stuff has so many good ideas for orgainizing teacher stuff. I plan to use some of the tubs they offer under a table by by Smartboard, so that I have those certain things easy at hand...

Erika McClure
Erika McClure

In Reference to the Master Book, I began this last year, and it worked wonderfully. I filed one copy away, and I placed the extras in a special basket that the students could take work from if they were done with their work early. The students loved to take work from the "extra work" basket to complete. Some students even asked to take some of the extra work home. If they brought it back completed, I would give them a little treat. I stayed organized, and the students got extra practice. I feel way more prepared for next year!

Penny
Penny

I keep most things in files on my computer now which helps with clutter. Lots and lots of baskets in the room for everything! Love reading the suggestions, Keep them coming!

Jennifer
Jennifer

I love the master planner! I'm pretty organized compared to other teachers at my school, but I feel like I really need to improve more. I would love to organize my drawers where I just throw in the stickers, post its, staples, pencils...who knows what else is in there!

Barb J
Barb J

I am a super organized person! I LOVE the idea of using binders to stay organized, but keep things organized in a slightly different way than mentioned here. I keep a binder for each subject (decoding, writing, reading comprehension, math), and then have tabs within that for different concepts. When I need something, I know exactly where it is. I also love the tip to use containers to hold extra manipulatives and supplies. That's such a great idea!!

Jennifer Berdion
Jennifer Berdion

The master binder is a great idea. I use a filing cabinet but that can get too full and messy too! Thanks for all the great ideas, I can't wait to get more organized.

Charla
Charla

I have attempted to stay organized, but tend to just throw everything into a monthly tub. Each year I have to go through it all again. The binder idea sounds fabulous!

Melissa
Melissa

I really needed these tips. I was told by administration that my room needed organizing. The masters book sounds like a great idea. I was one who always had papers sitting around. It's a good idea to keep manipulatives in boxes, but the boxes can cost a lot.

Erika
Erika

I have struggled every year for 14 years!! The only thing that helps me at the moment is to make sure my desk is cleaned off and I have the next day's work and lessons ready to go. I also have a plastic drawer set with 6 drawers. These are my turn in drawers for the students. Each drawer has a designated period.

sherrie weerheim
sherrie weerheim

I am going to print this article out because every year it's my goal to be organized. I got more organized a couple of years ago with my lesson plans. Instead of using a lesson plan book, I keep it on my computer so that way, I just refer back to it. I love the bins, but my classroom is short on where to put those bins. I have a large filing cabinet that I will start to go through soon...while keeping this article on hand...hopefully I don't lose it! Thanks so much for the article!

Christine Hagerman-Holm
Christine Hagerman-Holm

Love these ideas. I am definitly one that is organizationally challenged. My principal gets on my daily about the office and my room. My goal this year is to keep my room and office area clean...and organized! Wish me luck!

Amy
Amy

PAPER: I have been moving classrooms/schools for the last 3 years and found out that my heaviest boxes were my file boxes (I think I had at least 5). I took on a project this year that I am hoping will pay off in the end: I scanned in all my documents. Yep, all five folder boxes worth. It took me the better part of spring break but now everything is on my flash drive, organized into folders. For example I have a folder named Math and within that folder there are folders named 'counting' 'measuremenet' 'fractions', etc. SUPPLIES: I use the clear shoeboxes (you can buy them at WalMart or Target) and keep the lids. During the year the lids stay off so the kids know where the glue bottles go back to, scissors, pencils, etc. At the end of the year I put the lids on and tada! Done! Into the closet they go. This year, since alot of the glue bottles were empty and pencils were too small to be sharpened again I put them all into one shoebox and kept the others for something else.

Catherine
Catherine

My biggest challenge is organizing bulletin board materials. They're bulky and won't fit in file cabinets. Plus, I'm in a POD without any built in storage. Any ideas?

Jeannette Erickson
Jeannette Erickson

I love to organize. I do it every summer, it's during the school year that I fall apart! I use a master planner and that works well, but the hardest part for me is organizing the copies--stacks pile up everywhere. I think I will try the master copy binder this year. I am luck this year that I am changing grade levels--I can start from scratch. I'm crossing my fingers!

Shelly
Shelly

Our district uses the Treasures reading series. To elminate the vocabulary, retelling card, and phonics card storage boxes; I labeled a file folder with the name of the story for the week and put all of the needed materials in this folder. I also store a copy of the weekly test and a master copy of the worksheets here. I am planning on incorporating "The Daily 5" this year. To store all of my word work materials, I have purchased a seven drawer craft storage container. Each draw comes out of the container and is like a suitcase that the students to take to the work area.

Melissa Fail
Melissa Fail

Organizing has always been a problem even with the old amount of 20 students...but now with 31 in a room, I am even more cramped...so what is a teacher to do? Organize! Instead of using the cubbies for backpacks, we needed them for daily supplies and indivdual personal space for backpacks? Well those were hung on new hooks on the cabinets in the back of the room...a wasted wall of doors is now a new storage area for backpacks.

Lesley
Lesley

I had a Masters Book for math until they changed math series. I haven't been able to start a new one for this series yet. I plan on starting a Masters Book for reading as well as work on one for math. It is easier for me to organize by subject rather than by month. I also use daily folders for keeping my worksheets. I fill them every Friday so that I am ready come Monday morning. Plus, I was pregnant this past year and having the daily folders filled was a must in case they needed to get a sub for me.

Heather Burke
Heather Burke

I scan most of the "worksheets" that I like and save them as a pdf on my portable hard drive. This summer I plan on taking my favorite "teacher books" and doing the same with them. This way, I get rid of the bulky books around my classroom and have A LOT more storage. My filing cabinet holds notebooks I've received from professional development and my student portfolios instead of the usual teacher copies because everything I need has been saved to my portable hard drive! (I'd LOVE to get rid of my filing cabinet, but it is assigned to my classroom and has to stay!) At the beginning of the year, I collect all student supplies and put them into different colored rubbermaid containers. These containers go above my cabinets and add a bit of color to the room. I would MUCH rather look at the containers than a bunch of boxes of crayons and tissues! In my teacher closet, I have clear containers that are labeled on the outside. I like having the clear containers because it is easier to see exactly what is inside. The other favorite thing I have in my closet is a shoe organizer that I hang from the back of the closet door. It holds bulletin board die cuts, craft supplies, and more!

Karla
Karla

I love the idea of the ultimate planner. In my Special Education room we use the stackable bins with labels for numerous things!!! Great ideas!!

CAROLYN BOLES
CAROLYN BOLES

I use similiar items to help organize. I have a folder for each school month also folders for each letter of the alphabet and special holidays or units of study. Now with the internet I know many young teachers use it but often when they need something on a subject they come to me because of my folders! I love to share and have more than can be used.

Kyla Turley
Kyla Turley

I will try to implement the Masters Book this year. I need to clean out my overflowing file cabinet but it will be at the end of July before I have time to get into my classroom. So much to do so lottle time.