Tips to Help You Organize Your Classroom
Start the school year off right with great organizational ideas for the classroom
By Rachel D
Teachers are getting ready for another year of grading papers, finding just the right spot to keep supplies, and dealing with a mountain of paperwork. This is the perfect time to get organized! Before the papers start piling up and the manipulatives get lost, take a look at these tips for organizing your classroom.
Reduce the Clutter and Streamline Your Room
You can create a classroom in which each item is placed in its own spot and has a purpose. Take some time to sort through all the books and supplies you have gathered in the past years. Divide items into a group of things you absolutely need and ones you could do without. Ask yourself some questions like: How many posters do I really need? Do those scissors or markers even work? When did I last use a particular item? If you cannot remember using it, then chances are you will not use it this year. Put everything in a box (or two) in the teachers’ lounge for your colleagues to sort through. Once you have given colleagues a chance to pick out what they want, you can donate the rest of the items to your local thrift store or an after-school program in your area. A clutter-free classroom will give you more space for teaching and learning.
Designate an Area for Different Materials
Either on a diagram, or just in your own mind, designate an area in your classroom for each set of materials. You want to avoid having magazines, rulers, or math tiles strewn in different areas throughout your room. In addition to having specific areas for your materials, figure out where you will conduct different types of lessons. For example, designate a teaching space for your interactive lessons and activities — this may be at the front of the room, leaving space for student desks, a rug, a projector, etc.
Another area you will want to have in your classroom is a library. A classroom library is a great place to keep books, magazines, and other reading materials all together. This might also be a good place to allow students to engage in quiet activities like puzzles. The file cabinets, printer, and other important materials that you use for planning and assessing can be placed near your desk, so they are easily accessible. During the first week of school, present your newly organized classroom to the students. Tell students the purpose of each area, and what materials belong in that area. By familiarizing students with their new space, it will be easier for them to help you keep things in order.
It's All in a Name
When designating areas for specific materials, or for a particular use, you might want to put up labels or signs. Placing labels on learning areas and on clear storage bins can help keep your classroom organized. This method will also ensure that organizational strategies are clear to everyone. By labeling and creating signs for each area, your students, parent helpers, substitutes, and even other teachers will easily be able to identify where materials and files belong, and thus will be able to put them in their appropriate place when they are not being used by students.
Keeping Student Supplies Organized
Students come to class with their own supplies. It's important to designate areas for backpacks, jackets, lunch boxes, and other supplies. If your classroom is not already equipped with hangers for backpacks, find out if your school has any in the supply room, or buy some inexpensive ones at your local hardware store. If putting up hangers is not an option for you, designate a space for students to put their backpacks, either inside or outside the classroom. Make sure that you have students remove only the items they need for class from their backpacks. They won't need their lunchbox or that special game until later on in the day. By designating a special space for backpacks, you will prevent students from tripping over the bulky items, you will not have to deal with toppled chairs, and you will not have to constantly tell children to put objects back in their backpacks.
Setting up Trays for Homework and Assignments
Find and label trays for each subject: math, language arts, science, and social studies. If you are a teacher who only teachers one subject, label your trays by class period. Creating a space for homework and classroom assignments will help save you time; you won't have to organize and sort papers later! These designated trays will also reduce the number of times students ask, “Where does it go when I’m done?” or hand you papers when you’re in the middle of helping another student, which often leads to misplaced work. You can take it one step further by placing a small white board, chalk board, or laminated piece of paper above each tray and writing down the assignments that are due throughout the week.