Classroom organization goes to the next level with these teacher-suggested ideas. From organizing small classrooms to taming the paper monster, these activities and ideas have all been used in the classroom. Having trouble keeping things organized? These suggestions are sure to help!
14 Classroom Organization Ideas
1. Top Drawer Supply Sorter
Idea by Ann, a 2nd Grade Teacher, in Brunswick, GA.
I like to use the summer months to get organized for the upcoming school year. One of the biggest problems I encountered last year during my teaching was organizing manipulative samples I had collected. I recently found that drawer organizers, fitted with several different compartments, met my needs nicely. The compartments allow me to store multiple samples of manipulatives, such as coins and double-sided counters. I can easily tote my sample supplies around the classroom as needed and slip them right back into the drawer at day’s end.
2. A Place for Everything
Idea by Sandy, a Special Education Teacher, from Lititz, PA.
I teach my students a very systematized way of organizing their desk supplies. Inside their desks, my students each have a blue box with a smaller box inside. They use the smaller boxes to store pencils, highlighters, erasers, and calculators. On the outside of their boxes, they keep their lunch cards and wallets. (We have a money system in the classroom). Next to their blue boxes, they each keep a black expanding folder that houses their academic work folders for different subjects. At the beginning of each day, I have students take out the papers they will need and place these on top of their black folder in the order they will complete them. On their backs of their chairs, they each have a chair pocket where they keep their everyday folders. Students use these folders to keep their behavior charts and To Do lists handy. We do a blue box check every Monday to make sure that students stay on track with this system.
3. Tool Cups
Idea by Lynda, a 1st Grade Teacher, from New Middletown, OH.
To help students keep their desks organized, I purchase a supply of vibrant plastic cups at the dollar store. I decorate the cups with stickers that reflect whatever theme I am doing that year. (Last year I used Cat in the Hat stickers from Really Good Stuff®). I then use interlocking fabric tape to adhere the cups to students’ desks. Voila! I’ve instantly transformed each student’s desk into a mini office complete with a pencil cup to keep writing tools at hand.
4. Use Task Baskets to Tame Papers
Idea By Susan, 2nd Grade Teacher, Delphi, IN
Really Good Stuff’s colored plastic baskets have proven invaluable for organizing classroom papers. I assign each subject a different colored basket. At the end of the day I stack the baskets for quick transport home. The baskets are great for ongoing or for unfinished assignments. They do not get lost in student desks. Thanks Really Good Stuff!
5. Create a Color-Coded System
Idea By Kate, Kindergarten Teacher, Frederick, MD
I use plastic 3-drawer bins to keep my literacy center activities organized. I assign each student a color that corresponds to his or her reading group color. I put matching color dots on the bin drawers so that when the children go to their literacy centers, they know exactly which drawer to open. This allows me to differentiate activities, and the children are always excited to open their drawer and discover the activities inside. For example, I may want all of the children to use stamps to complete a particular activity, but the drawers allow me to determine which stamps each group uses (e.g., beginning sounds, middle sounds, digraphs, etc.).
6. Use a Gutter for Book Displays
Make the most of materials with this idea by Laura, a 1st Grade Teacher, in Freehold, NJ.
This summer I visited a home improvement store where I purchased a 10-foot length of vinyl rain gutter and plastic hangers. I asked that the gutter be cut into three smaller pieces. I spray-painted the three pieces and hung them in my classroom library where I use them to showcase seasonal books.
7. Map Out a Theme
Get going with this idea by Dusty, a 3rd Grade Teacher, in Midwestern City, OK.
Each year before school starts, I decide on a theme for my classroom. I then draw a map of my classroom and plan where I will situate the desks and furniture. I also plan out my bulletin boards, incentives, and rewards so that they all revolve around my theme. The best part is, everything has a place and is organized!
8. Organize Classwork with Baskets
Organize classwork for multiple classes with this idea by Ruth, a 5th Grade Teacher, from Monrovia, MD.
I teach four elementary math classes and need a quick and organized way to return papers to the correct classrooms. To assist me, I use Really Good Stuff’s neon rectangular Classroom Baskets (paper size) and labels. After correcting my papers, I sort them by labels into the various baskets. It’s a quick and easy process that makes my job easier. The extra labels come in handy when extra classes are added to my list.
9. A Dab of Glue Will Do
Keep your supplies organized by trying this idea by Janine, a 2/3rd Grade Title I Teacher, from Pickerington, OH.
I used to be frustrated when my students would use a game board only to have game pieces fall off each time a child accidentally bumped or jostled the game in play. To solve this irritating problem, I use a glue stick to apply a bit of sticky film to the bottom of each game piece. Just a touch will help pieces stay put while still allowing for them to move when appropriate to the game.
10. Encourage Picture Perfect Desks
Control the classroom clutter with this idea by Marie, a 3rd Grade Teacher in Millville, MA.
If you’ve always dreamed of a classroom where students actually strive for neat desks, your dream can come true! In the beginning of the school year, after all the materials have been distributed, I neatly arrange a typical amount of materials in a student desk and take a photo of this desk, I also have student volunteers stage a messy desk and I take a photo of that desk as well.
I have each photo blown up to 11” x 14” size, and mount them on paper. I label the photos Picture Perfect Desk and Desk Disaster. Each week, at an unannounced time, I choose one student to secretly inspect our room in order to report back to me on the most Picture Perfect Desk of the Week, plus two runner up desks. I then award the desk of the Week a Blue Ribbon and take a photo of the winning desk wearing its ribbon. I also award all three neat desk owners a pass allowing them to skip one night’s homework.
I post the photos of the Blue Ribbon winning desks around the mini-poster photo of the Picture Perfect Desk. This has really encouraged students to clean up their desks.
11. Purge Away
Idea by Tammy, 2nd Grade Teacher, Blaine, WA
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of things you have to clean and organize, my best advice is to get rid of stuff. Let’s face facts: we teachers tend to be packrats. We keep stuff because we hate to be wasteful and because we think that someday we will put the stuff to good use. I’ve found the best approach is to look at what I have, decide what I need, and start removing unused things from my space. Admittedly, it was tough at first to part with those things I thought I might possibly need someday, but I love my clean, uncluttered space and have been spreading the message that decluttering is where it’s at! (Tip: If you give your stuff to friends and colleagues, you can always borrow it back temporarily, if need be!)
12. Use Google Docs
Idea by Elizabeth, 12th Grade Teacher, Hartland, WI
To tame the paper dragon, I don’t have my students submit hard copies of their work. Instead, I have them submit all homework assignments via Google Docs, whereby they simply upload completed assignments electronically. That way, I can easily see who has handed in documents and who still owes me assignments. No more lost or misplaced papers. This method also allows me to work at home without dragging home a tote bag full of papers. (I teach 12th grade writing, so even one assignment generates a lot of paper!)
13. Praise is Powerful
Idea by Blanca, 4th Grade Teacher, Tucson, AZ
The best tip I have for getting kids to help with clean-up efforts is to do what savvy corporations do when they want to enlist their employees’ cooperation. I take time to train students on the expected procedures for clean-up and organizational maintenance, then I support and reward their efforts. After walking kids through what is expected, I post photos and labels around the classroom to remind students of my systems and expectations. I also remember to praise my students when I notice them taking responsibility for clean-up and organization, and to offer positive consequences for all positive behaviors. It always helps when I walk around and deliver specific words of praise such as, “I like how Johnny did this; thank you, Johnny!” As I notice aloud students’ individual efforts, I know more kids will soon follow suit.
14. Get Kids Cleaning
Idea by Julie, Pre-K Teacher, Bartlesville, OK
In Pre-K, we try to make cleaning up fun by working together, singing songs, and playing music all while employing one of our classroom helpers: The Clean-Up Monitor. The monitor gets to wear goofy, big sunglasses around the room to “inspect” our progress while we’re cleaning up. He or she also gets to offer suggestions and help classmates with their clean-up efforts. To boost our efforts, we love the song “Oh My Goodness, Look at This Mess” by the Grammy award-winning African-American female a cappella ensemble, Sweet Honey in the Rock. When that tune begins playing on our sound system, my little ones jump into clean-up action and sing their hearts out.