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July 17, 2017

Organizing a Classroom: Ideas from Really Good Teachers

Written By: Brandi Jordan
X Organizing a Classroom: Ideas from Really Good Teachers

Organizing a Classroom: Ideas from Really Good Teachers

Ever wonder how Really Good Teachers around the country organize their classrooms for success? We asked some of them to share their best tips and tricks for organizing their supplies and materials. The response was overwhelming as ideas for organizing everything from tissues to paper to centers surged in! Below are some of the best ideas teacher-tested tips for organizing a classroom. What would you add to the list?

Tips for Organizing the Classroom

Organizing Tissue Boxes

Classroom storage is always a hot topic.  Elizabeth, a 1st Grade Teacher in Culpepper, Virginia, has come up with a great solution that is nothing to sneeze at! At our school, we request that students each donate a few boxes of tissues for classroom use. Each year, when the tissue boxes began arriving, storage was a problem. But, here’s how we solved this problem. Using hot glue, we stick the tissue boxes to the walls around our classrooms. We place the boxes all around the room and at heights that make it easy for the children to reach. When a box is empty, we pull it off the wall and replace it with a fresh one. Any glue residue that remains behind can be easily removed at year’s end.


Literacy Totes

Heidi, a Pre-K Teacher, from American Canyon, CA shared her favorite way to organize the classroom library books.  She said, “For me, the best way to store my class library is with the help of plastic tote bags. I designate a plastic book tote for each month of the year, and a couple extra for the major holidays. In each tote I place all the books that are specifically for that month, theme, season and/or holiday. I use additional totes to store the rest of my books according to readability levels and book lengths. To keep my book offerings fresh and fun, I rotate the selection of books I make available to children each month.”


Using Folders for Organization

Farrah, a Kindergarten Teacher, from Nanuet, NY is all about organization using folders! “I organize my folders according to alphabet letters, numbers or themes,” she explained. “I also color-code my entire collection of folders (one color for each category). I place one original of each activity or activity page that I used that year into the right-hand pocket of a pocket folder, and place one copy of each page I did not use this school year (but still want to keep) into the left-hand pocket. I store all folders in a filing cabinet. I prefer using pocket folders to regular file folders because my papers stay together and protected. For journals and items that do not fit inside pocket folders, I use plastic bins labeled for each month. I store items belonging to a particular theme or month together and place all the baskets in the back of my room.”


Art Supply Organization

“I’ve found that one of the best tools for helping students get organized is self-sealing, heavy-duty freezer bags,” said Mindy, a 4th Grade Teacher, from Trivoli, IL. “I issue each student a bag, label it with his or her name, and instruct the students to use their bags to stash art supplies inside, including scissors, glue sticks, highlighters, crayons, colored pencils, markers, etc. Whenever we need to access our art supplies, my students just pull out their bags, unzip the contents, and we’re good to go.”


Baskets, Bins, and Binder Holders

If baskets are what makes you happy, you’re in good company. Martha from Roanoke, VA loves using baskets, bins, and binder holders to organize the supplies in her classroom! “I’m a fan of what I call the “Three B’s: bins, baskets, and binders.  I place them everywhere around the room, incorporate them into all my systems, and teach my students how to return papers and supplies to their proper “B’s.” In addition, I look for ways I can reuse ordinary containers in unusual ways as classroom storage units. For example, my favorite classroom storage container is a wine rack. I inserted cups into the spaces originally designed for wine bottles, and filled them with colored pencils. I also keep two large plastic laundry baskets stacked and ready. Everything that doesn’t have an immediate home goes in one of those until I can sort through them later. (Tip: I even have another “B” to share: every now and then, it helps to surprise your custodian with a small gesture of appreciation, such as a “breakfast bagel or bun.”)”


Organize Papers with Just Two Baskets

This idea from Tammy, a 2nd Grade Teacher, from Wellton, AZ makes paper organization a breeze! “My best classroom organizational tip is simple: I have two baskets,” she explained. “I use one basket for really important papers and the other for everything else. I sift through the “everything else” basket once a week and, if I haven’t used something in it, I file it or recycle it. I label students’ folders and tell them where to put their papers. I then offer students class time on Fridays to purge their folders. I put supplies and resources for each center into a basket labeled for that center. Center baskets have different leveled activities as well as a worksheet that tells students which activity to do on which specific days. I assign an Organizer each week to help keep the class neat and tidy.”


Use Your Filing Cabinets!

“Don’t wait until next school year to spend hours trying to become an organized teacher,” warned Michelle, a 5th Grade Teacher, from Nitro, WV. “With a bit of planning, you can close up your room in such a way that when you begin again next year, you’ll be ahead of the game! My biggest organizational tip is using file folders in file cabinets. I labeled my drawers with colorful address labels. I find they fit nicely in those little square openings on the fronts of the drawers. I have a tall, four-drawer cabinet, to which I assign math and reading their own drawers. Each of these drawers is organized with expanding folder pockets. I’ve found that the pockets are much better than hanging or flat folders. You can stuff these pockets full of papers and manipulatives. I assign all the remaining subject areas to the remaining drawers.”


Get Families in on the Act

Get organized with this idea by Julia, a Kdg-4th Grade Alternative Elementary Teacher, in Lamoni, Iowa. “I have my kids and their parents participate in an ongoing recycling project by bringing in reusable items from home and re-purposing them for use in our classroom.  We had many good responses with parents reporting that they and their kids salvaged household items that would normally have been thrown in the trash.

Here’s a peek at what my kids came up with as a result of our efforts:

• A small aluminum popcorn tin doubles as storage for our reward tickets

• A plastic beef jerky tub, reused and decorated, has become our scissor holder

• A supply of cardboard toilet paper rolls placed inside a plastic tote serves to sort and store different-colored markers

• We use TV dinner trays and plastic ice cube trays as paint pallets

• An old fishing tackle tray now houses craft and office supplies

• An empty potato chip can keeps our computer wires tamed and detangled

• A discarded cardboard box used to ship a new flat screen TV is now used to store our classroom posters

• We repurposed a used plastic tablecloth as a craft time drop cloth


Put Technology to Use to Get Organized

Get organized with this idea by Janine, a 2/3rd Grade Title I Teacher, in Pickerington, OH. “More and more I rely on technology to get organized in class and make my life as a teacher much easier. I have an interactive, hand-held tablet that I use to store assessments (checklists) along with writing lesson plans. I attach lesson plans to my calendar and send them to email when I need to print a hard copy. I can review my lessons at a glance and quickly add more notes when necessary. I even can check to see what I completed on the same date one year ago! Thanks to new technology, my assessments, assignments, and lesson plans are always accessible for evaluations, meetings, or conferences.”


Teacher’s Desktop Organization

“My best tip for organizing your teacher desk is to only keep on it what you use daily,” said Rachna, a 4th Grade Teacher, from Arlington, VA. “For me, that includes my room phone, tape, stapler, pen/pencil cup, 3-tiered paper tray organizer, and my computer. The 3-tiered paper tray organizer is a huge help. I use the top tray to neatly store “action items” (e.g., items I need to photocopy), the middle tray for less urgent items (e.g., education articles I want to read), and the bottom tray is for other miscellaneous items (e.g., labels). In my desk (that can be locked), I keep office supplies that I use regularly (but not daily), a file folder to organize confidential items (e.g., emergency contact information for my students), and a spot for my purse. I find that organizing my desk this way makes my space a neat, organized, functional, and purposeful place for my work.”


Teacher Tool Organization

“My favorite item on my desk is my spinning “kitchen utensil” caddy,” laughed 5th Grade Teacher Cindy from Glendora, CA. “It’s unusual, but I use it to stash my pens, pencils, markers, paper clips, and scissors. It will even hold a roll of masking tape. My caddy helps me keep a lot of items within easy grasp so I don’t have to waste valuable class time rummaging around in a drawer to find what I need.”


Organize Copies and Originals of Paperwork

Organize your copies and the originals with this clever idea by Stacey, a Kindergarten Teacher, from Portage, IN. “To keep original activity pages separate from copies,” she explained, “I use a yellow highlighter to place an X on the original versions.  The yellow does not show up on the copy machine and I always know if a paper is an extra or the original.”


Share your favorite classroom organization ideas with us in the comments below!



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