Having an organized classroom makes your day flow more easily. You can find what you need when you need it. You aren’t constantly shuffling through papers looking for the one you need. But even if you think of yourself as organized, there’s usually more you can do to have an organized classroom.
And sometimes you’ve been well organized, but you got busy and things got out of place. Or things change and your organization system hasn’t caught up. Do yourself a favor and set aside a little time to get organized. It will save you so much time in the long run.
10 tips for an organized classroom
Organization is personal. We have different classroom sizes and set ups. We have different classes with different needs. And we all have our own preferences. So today, I’m sharing 10 organization tips that work for me. Give them a try and share your favorite tips for an organized classroom in the Top Notch Teaching group.
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1. Make sure everything has a home.
Start by taking inventory of the space you want to organize. Look at where you dump things. Do you need to create new habits around putting things away, or should your organization system take into account where you naturally put things?
Then as you sort out homes for all of your bits and bobs, keep like items together. So put reading books in one place and student workbooks in another.
2. Get rid of things you don’t love.
The planner that just didn’t work for you … the stapler that doesn’t work right … the water bottle that you never drink out of … say goodbye. Clearing stuff you don’t love leaves more space for the things you do. And decluttering helps lower overwhelm. What can you get rid of today?
3. Place things logically.
Put the things you need every day at arms reach. Put things you use rarely in a cupboard or on a shelf. You don’t want to go to the cupboard every time you need a pencil or dry erase marker, but you don’t need easy access to holiday books every day.
Clear the area completely and only put back things you use all the time.
4. Have storage that makes sense.
Having the right storage set up for all my bits and bobs makes such a difference. I love this organizer with different size drawers and this organizer with only smaller drawers. These are great for letters, markers, counters, game pieces, dice … all kinds of small items that you need easy access to.
5. Have an inbox for incoming papers.
Have an inbox. It could be a tray or a basket. I like a box with a lid. It’s quite shallow, which is a plus. You don’t want anything too big. Put your new paper inbox/basket/tray some place where you deal with papers, like your desk or a counter near the door.
When papers come in, first recycle any that you don’t need right away. Put the rest in your inbox. Then set up a time to deal with your inbox.
6. Have an action system for papers.
An inbox is no good if you never look at the papers. That’s why you picked a time to go through your inbox regularly. When it’s time to go through your box, take out all the papers and move them to an action station. This is a good place for tiered, vertical files (you can also get tiered, vertical files combined with an inbox, if that suits you.)
Set up file folders for actions you take again and again:
- To pay: this is pretty straight-forward, bills to pay etc.
- To respond: this could be phone calls to make, letters to write, invitations to respond to
- To read: this could be notices from your administration or notes from parents/students
- To file: paper that you just need to file for future reference.
Set up categories that work for you and the papers you deal with regularly.
Schedule time in your planner for when you will empty each of your files.
7. Have a paper storage system.
Yes, I’m talking a lot about paper—because there is just so much of it! Once you deal with papers in your action steps, some you can get rid of, but others you will need to keep for reference. Differentiate between papers you need to reference frequently and those you need to keep, but rarely need to see.
I like a magazine holder for papers I need quick reference to. I use lever arch files or binders for papers I refer to occasionally and a larger storage box (similar to my inbox) for infrequently accessed papers.
8. Have an outbox.
Just as we need to deal with stuff that comes into the classroom, we need to deal with stuff that is going out. This could be papers going to somebody else, books to return to the library, dishes going back to the lunch room … whatever. If it’s going out, keep it in one place.
9. Label things.
It’s great to get things into drawers or binders or boxes. But if you are constantly opening the box to see what is in it or opening all the drawers to find what you need, you’re wasting time. I couldn’t live without my label maker. You can use one to label your paper files, your organizer drawers … or anything else in your classroom!
10. Put things away daily.
Once everything has a home, take time to put things back in their homes when you are done. Then take a few minutes at the end of the day to put back anything that didn’t get put away during the course of the day.
You can have a more organized classroom. Pick one area to work on and just get started!
What’s your favorite organizational tip or tool for an organized classroom?