I think it is safe to say that a new school year can mean a lot of different things to every teacher. Whether this is your first school year, your tenth or even your twenty fifth years, each year brings something new. This year in particular is my sixth year of teaching. I teach students with special needs. Each year, I gain a new caseload of students, all bringing different talents along with new challenges. The greatest lesson I have learned is how to manage the stress. Sure, you’re thinking. How do you even do something like that? I’ve learned that classroom organization is the key to managing my stress. Everyone has the ability to get organized; it’s just taking the time to make sure you have everything is in place to have a great start to the school year.
To eliminate some of those beginning of the year stresses I organize… I organize everything. I use bins as an organization tool to keep myself ahead of the game. This allows me to focus on my students, their needs and to help them to achieve success. Well, actually it allows us all to be successful. I give each of my students their own book bin. In these bins, I put my students’ IEP snap-shot, various assessments, task cards, sensory items and tools to meet their IEP goals. Some of the sensory items that I use in these bins are stress balls, play dough, fidgets and kinetic sand.
I use these bins in my classroom library, for my students IEP goals, and also for teaching materials, and manipulatives. If everything is in one spot, every lesson can run smoothly, alleviating stress and also helping your lesson run smoothly. I know personally that my time with my students is valuable, so why not set myself up for success? Each morning, I grab my materials for the day and place them into my teacher bin near my small group table. This way, I can quickly access the copies, books or manipulatives that I need for each lesson and it helps my lesson to run smoothly. You will find folders within this bin because I work with numerous groups throughout the day, with varying needs. Each folder is color coded and labeled to meet the groups that I work with daily. Having a bin near my small group table allows me to have all of these materials near me without being a distraction to my students.
Old School Values
I am also still a little “old school” in the sense that I still like to have paper copies of some materials. So, I use binders to help me stay organized and to break down the standards to which I teach. Then, whenever we are working on a specific standard, I have all of the master copies readily available to me and ready for the copier. My binders are labeled and organized for each quarter. I can’t say it enough, but labeling your entire classroom will help you to stay on top of the mess that can become your classroom. Of course this takes time, but it will keep you sane in the long run.
In addition to using bins, I am a folder queen. I love using folders to hold my students data from their IEPs, this allows me to keep the important data all in one spot, without it becoming clutter. I use these folders to hold not only the data for their IEPs, but also for their IEP itself. This is a tool I take with me to meetings and conferences, if everything is in one spot, I don’t have to worry about spending all of my time gathering the data and putting it together. This year, I have chosen a two sided poly snap folder, which allows me to put their IEP in the snap pocket, and their data at my fingertips in the open folder pocket.
I label everything in my room, down to the tiny little bins in my teacher drawer. This just helps if I have a sub or if someone needs to come into my classroom to borrow something. My students love the fact that everything is labeled as well. They know exactly which bin is theirs, where to put their broken pencils or where to find my favorite books for the month. Simply put, if you can see it, can’t see it or might need it, chances are I have labeled it.
I can’t lie, I am that teacher. Yes, the teacher who has a bin for everything, a place for everything and you better believe a label for everything. Sure it a take a lot of hard work to get to the place I am with my classroom organization, but I can happily say entering into my sixth year of teaching I am proud of my room. I figure if I am going to be spending most of my day at school, it should be a place I am proud to call home; a cozy, clean and welcoming place that my students can call home too.
What methods do you use for classroom organization?