Classroom Organization: Setting Up Systems That Work

If you read this blog post about getting started on classroom organization and designing a game plan, you know that one of the steps is brainstorming about habits and routines that you can put in place to help your classroom stay organized all year long! I think this is SO important that I decided to devote a whole blog post about it. I’m going to start with the “why” and then go a little into the “how”, with a few ideas about some habits and routines that you can have in your own classroom! So here we go!

Have you ever started the school year with your classroom organization on point and had every intention of keeping your classroom organized and tidy, only to find that after about a month(or week lol) you already have piles everywhere, a messy desk, and a million things to put away? We’ve all been there! Some of us are naturally more Type A but some of us struggle a bit more with keeping things tidy and organized. We spend hours at the beginning of the year setting up our classroom, and setting up systems to make it functional and organized. So if we’re putting in all of this effort, why not have some systems in place to keep it that way? This is where habits and routines come into place!

I’m a firm believer in having little things that we do consistently throughout the day, or regularly scheduled routines that we stick to each week to keep our classroom organization running smoothly all year long!

Okay the “how” kind of depends on your classroom and what you need, but I’m going to share some of the things I think about when setting up habits and routines and some actual habits/routines I have in place in my classroom!

Let’s start with habits…when I think about habits I define them as little things I do consistently (or have my students do consistently) throughout the day. The “good” habits I have in place are usually things that are put into place to help me combat “bad” habits. These habits definitely take a little self-control but I try to make them as sustainable and easy as possible. Having good systems in place make sticking to these habits super quick and easy! If you’d like to read more about how I actually get started on setting up these systems and coming up with a game plan check out this blog post!

>The biggest habit I try to stick to is I always put things away when I’m finished using them! This habit is put into place to combat all the papers and things from piling up! This one can be kind of tricky and definitely takes some self-control, but here are some sytems I have in place to make this habit super easy:

  • I have a place for absolutely EVERYTHING! That way when it’s time to put it away I have a place to put it!
  • I have a place for all of the potential papers that could pile up. I use a 10-drawer cart for all of my papers, and I make sure to put papers in the drawers that they belong in right away!
  • I have a “put back” bin. It’s literally a bin labeled “put back”. If I’m in a hurry and don’t have time to put something back in my closet right away, I throw it in the “put back” bin! Then at the end of the day/week I put everything away where it is supposed to go!

I also try to reinforce certain habits with my students! I don’t necessarily teach these habits explicitly, but I consistently reinforce them so eventually they do these things on their own. When it comes to my students’ papers and supplies I make sure that they know where these things go. I have organization systems in place like a student binder for their papers and a pencil pouch for their supplies. In our classroom we know that everything has its place! Use a pencil? Put it back in your pencil pouch! Finished using your multiplication chart? Put it back in your binder under the correct tab. This way things don’t become a complete mess, and they can always find what they need!

Okay now let’s talk about routines…when I think about routines and how they differ from habits, routines are a set of different tasks that I do regularly at a specific time each day or on a specific day each week. When it comes to routines for my students, I spend a little more time explicitly teaching these to them. So here are some routines I have in place in my classroom to keep things organized and tidy:

>end of day checklist: I have a set of things that I do at the end of EVERY DAY! One thing that I do at the end of the day is I have a 2-minute tidy up! For two minutes I tidy up what needs tidying. I put papers away where they belong and supplies in their places. Also, I set up my space for the next day and make sure that anything I need for the next morning is out and ready to go, this includes updating my schedule and calendars. I also do some things to just keep it tidy and clean like wipe down my table and tech stuff and empty my trash can.

>end of week checklist: this is a list of things that I do at the end of each week! At the end of every week I do a 10-minute tidy up. I spend a little more time (than the usual two minutes) putting papers and things away. I tackle my “file” drawer…this is drawer in my 10-drawer cart that I have for papers that need to be filed, and at the end of the week I take care of it. Also, I empty my “put back” bin. I put away everything that has accumulated in this bin throughout the week. (Sidenote: I also focus on one area each month, and use part of my 10-minute tidy up at the end of each week to make sure this area is still organized and clean!)

>have students clean out their bins each week: I have my students clean out their bins EVERY WEEK on the same day! I teach them how to complete this and I have a checklist that I present while they are doing it. They recycle papers in their binders that they no longer need. They make sure all of their supplies are where they need to go. They also empty their entire bin and wipe it out so it’s nice and clean. I have a classroom job, the “bin checker”, that is in charge of checking students’ bins once they are finished tidying them.

I’m serious when I say that having some of these habits and routines in place over the years has helped me so much! I’m at my best when I have an organized and tidy space to teach in, I know it’s not everything but it’s important to me. And I’m not trying to toot my own horn here, but I’m packing up my classroom right now for the summer and it’s seriously been so easy! I don’t have any major messes or things to clean because I have consistently kept it organized and tidy throughout the year, and these habits and routines are truly what helps me do that! A great place to start is having an end of day checklist, GAME CHANGER! If you’d like to check out my end of day checklist or use my template to create your own, check out my classroom organization handbook!

Welp, that’s it! Happy organizing friends!

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