If you’re anything like me, you love to start the new year very organized! It may not always last as long as I plan, but I do take some measures to refresh, improve, and organize my systems for the remainder of the year.
When I started this list of classroom organization tips, I had no idea I would have so many. Talk about the mother lode of organization tips! I asked the teachers in my FaceBook group for their best tips as well and they came through with some gems! You’ll see them quoted throughout.
To make it a little less overwhelming and to save you time, I’ve organized them into categories. Make sure to grab your organization freebie before you go!
ORGANIZE YOUR TASKS: PRIORITIZE!
- Organize your to-do list! A comprehensive to-do list in one place is overwhelming and wastes time! Use the freebie below to organize and prioritize your tasks. Edit the headings to meet your needs, print and laminate, then use post-it notes in the boxes! Instead of making a whole new to-do list, you simply replace a post-it to revise your list for a category. BONUS: If you’re having a rough day, just lift your post-its for a little motivational message! Scroll down for two ways to get this freebie!
- Revise your To-Do List Daily: At the end of each day, revise your list before you leave. It will help you focus on exactly what you need to get done first thing the next day.
- Have a “5 extra minutes” To-Do List: I know 5 extra minutes sounds rare, but sometimes you have a few minutes left of your prep, but not enough time to start a big task. Having a list of small tasks to do will help you be efficient and make the most of every moment.
- Set goals: We all stay on task more when we have goals, am I right? Instead of setting too many to keep up, set just 1 or 2 goals you want to accomplish each week. Maybe it’s going through one file folder daily to clean it up, maybe it’s making those labels you’ve been wanting to make, incorporating morning tubs, or implementing something new. Or, maybe your goal is to leave by 3:30 every day! Whatever it is, stick to it and you’ll feel so glad you did, even if you didn’t get everything else on your to-do list done.
- Digital Organization: If you’re a digital person, use Trello! Have you heard of this awesome app? It’s like having a personal bulletin board to organize your life! You create boards, then lists within those boards, and can even add notes, checklists, and more. For an OCD person like me, it is just paradise! But, you can get carried away with your boards and have a million of them (like me), so be warned.
- Pick-up Basket: If you still have things out from before the winter break, go around with a basket. Pick up anything that’s out of place and put into the basket. After everything is picked up, sort the basket items, then put away where they belong. Doing it this way will save you time rather than putting one item away at a time!
- File Clean-up: If your file cabinet is a hot mess, it can be overwhelming to take on the task of decluttering them all at once. Instead, focus on one file daily. Go through each piece and ask yourself if you really need it. In this digital age, it’s much easier to let go of papers!
- Color-code all the things. My tables are labeled by color and I have turn-in bins that are also color-coded. This makes it so much easier for kids to find any unfinished work and for me to find a specific child’s work! I have file folders that are color-coded: Green has materials for activities and lessons coming up, Yellow for the current unit of study, and Red for the one just finished. I also color-code notebooks, folders, textbooks, center groups, and anything else I think of. Did I mention color-code everything?
- Purge: Now is a great time to go through your supply closet and purge! It seems daunting to clean up your entire closet at once, but here is how you can do it quickly:
- Place a trash can, a ‘Donate’ bin, and a ‘Maybe’ bin next to the closet. Clear student table surfaces.
- Take everything out of your closet, placing like things together onto student tables. Be sure to place unwanted things in the trash or donate bins. Items you are not sure you need can go into the Maybe bin for later consideration.
- When you’re done, merge similar piles if you have too many.
- When your closet is empty, plan where everything will go depending on which type of items you have lots of. This will save you from shuffling materials once you’ve placed them in the closet.
- Place items in baskets or bins, and LABEL each one.
- Put everything you are keeping back in the closet, in its labeled basket or space.
- Go through your Maybe bin. Do you really need it? Does it have a home in your closet? Hmmmm.
- Review Routines: If you are returning from a break, you may want to jump right in and get to work! However, take time to review routines. Kids may have forgotten them or may have a little trouble transitioning back to school, so a refresher can be very useful. A little time on this will save you a lot of time redirecting!
- Reflect on which routines are/ are not working and plan how you will make them better for the rest of the year. Ask other teachers, join FaceBook groups, search on Pinterest or Google for ideas. If you teach Kinder or 1st grade, join like-minded teachers in our group here: Tejeda’s Tots K-1 Teachers. It’s a great place to ask questions and collaborate!
- Tip from Kelly: “I like to switch the seating arrangement in my classroom in the New Year.” It’s the perfect time to reflect on your groupings and maybe try new partnerships!
- Use a storage cart to organize your teaching materials: Great storage is the foundation for great classroom organization! I use the rainbow cart below to store materials in drawers organized by subject. Having subject drawers also enables me to have extra materials for that subject area in case of extra time or a sub. Some like to organize their materials by day of the week, too. The beauty of this cart is that it is dry-erase so you can try different systems!
- Tip from Heather: “I have bins labeled Monday-Friday and put everything I need for that day inside: papers, books, anchor charts, notes, etc. Then I can move something to the next day if I need to do so? ”
- Tip from Amie-Jo: (Also has bins for Monday-Friday) “. . . with a color-coded file folder for each subject area. My organizer has a 6th bucket which I keep for Emergency Sub Plans.” Yess! Color-code all the things! ?
- Temporary File Folder Names: Not quite sure how you want to organize your files, or which colors to use for your subjects (see tip above)? Use post-it notes to temporarily name them, then mark the folder when you’ve decided!
- Store activity pieces in baggies or pencil pouches. This can include puzzle pieces, card sets, pocket chart pieces, retelling sets with books, etc.
- Border Storage: Store borders in a pocket chart! I recently saw a product like this in a school supply magazine but you can easily make your own if you have a big pocket chart! Just place each border in a pocket and secure with binder clips. Hang on a wall or roll up to store. If rolling up, use binder clips on the sides to make sure the borders don’t fall out.
A HOME FOR EVERYTHING
Having a place for everything is also instrumental in classroom organization! Here are some tips to ensure everything goes back in its place!
- Pieces Bin: Do your students come to you often to tell you they found something on the floor OR to let you know they can’t find a glue or marker cap? Well, label a bin PIECES and teach kids how to place anything they find that doesn’t have a home in there. This includes cubes, counters, caps, dice, ANYTHING. It’ll prevent interruptions. Likewise, if they need a cap or can’t find an eraser, they just visit the pieces bin to see if there is another available!
- Put-Away Bin: I don’t like to have clutter on my desk or around me, but it is time-consuming to put everything away as soon as I’m done with it. So, I keep a bin where I place anything I’m done with. Once a week, or whenever I have a few minutes, I go through it and file away.
- Label your table bins. Teach kids to place community supplies in the correct spots instead of throwing them into the bin! I learned this one from a fellow teacher last year and LOVED it! The bottom picture is to show you why reviewing routines is important! After a while in kindergarten, that’s what happens! 🙂
I recently saw these bins at Michael’s and they would be perfect for compartmentalizing everything! I used plastic cups inside my bins but they cracked after a while.
- Make a Lesson-Planning Schedule: It may be tough the first week or two to find the time, but you will LOVE this method after that. I took time every Monday to make my word study plans and word study center for the following week. Tuesday I worked on my reading plans and center, Wednesday I focused on writing, etc. It takes a few extra minutes each day, but it feels so great to end the week with a lot of your work already planned and prepped for the following week! Batching one subject at a time is also easier than bouncing back and forth between different ones.
- Get Set for the Next Day: Batch in advance, but make sure you have everything ready for the next day. It will free up your prep periods for things that come up!
- Make Sub Folders: As mentioned under ‘Storage,’ having subject drawers helps when you have a sub because your sub can easily pick something from each drawer to do with the kids! Prepare a sub folder with a letter explaining that they should pick something from each drawer, as well as your student list, dismissal procedures, and important information they’ll need. Keep this in a visible place, maybe on top of your cart.
- Evergreen Bulletin Boards: Plan bulletin boards that can stay up for a while so you don’t feel stressed about redoing them after a holiday. Snowmen are relevant from December to January, if necessary!
- Hire your Students: LOL. Kids love to help. . . at school! So funny how they may not love to do chores at home, but are always willing to be helpers at school! I just ask who wants to be hired for a job and their hands shoot up. Use this enthusiasm and allow them to help with any task they are able to. It’ll increase their confidence and improve behavior (they all want to be hired!) while saving you time.
- Tips from Catherine: “One thing I can’t live without: magnetic clips, which I use to hang up super important papers, work that needs to be finished, etc. I also have a Command clip on my doorframe that helps me remember things that are going to the office, copier, another teacher, etc.” Great tips!
The Most Important Tip: Don’t be too hard on yourself!
Don’t try to organize your entire room in one day. If it’s January, it took about 4 months (and I’m sure a lot of fun!) to get the way it is, so it will take a while to fully reorganize (are you ever fully organized, though?). So, give yourself grace and do what ya can!
GET YOUR FREEBIE!
The organization freebie is in my free resource library (you’ll get the password in your first email when you sign up).
Or, you can grab it from my Facebook Teacher group! If you teach kids on a kindergarten or first grade level, join us here: Tejeda’s Tots K-1 Teachers. You’ll find all of the exclusive freebies in the Files section.
Did you find any new tips? Have any more to add? Let me know yours or one of these you will try below!
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Michelle Hamby says
Really great ideas
Thanks, Michelle! 🙂