Classroom Organization: Getting Started

Okay it may seem like kind of a weird time to be talking about classroom organization (being that it’s the end of the school year and all) but the end of the school year is actually my favorite time to reflect on what systems and things worked well in my classroom environment for the current year, and what changes I’d like to make or ideas I have for the following year. I love brainstorming and coming up with a game plan for the following year, so when I come back in August I can hit the ground running!

One thing I’d like to say before we keep going is that you do not need a super organized classroom to be an effective teacher. For me, having a functional and organized space helps me have systems in place that save me time, help me stay on top of things, and overall just keep me a little happier. Also, you don’t need to go out and buy a bunch of stuff to have an organized classroom, I’m all about using what you have! This method (if you will) is more about being super intentional with the areas in your classroom and coming up with a game plan before you even start your set-up! As well as taking inventory of what you need to organize, how you’re going to do it, and how you’re going to keep it that way!

I also want to say that a lot of this is the brainstorming phase of classroom organization. You don’t necessarily have to be in your classroom or have these things ready to set up! I actually do a lot of this planning in May (at the end of the school year) before the following school year. This way I have my game plan and ideas ready before summer and am ready to roll when I return to my classroom!

So if you’re ready to start brainstorming and coming up with a game plan for your classroom organization download this little handbook I created and let’s get started – or pin this and come back to it later when you’re ready to start thinking about it 🙂 Here we go with step one, which is thinking about the different areas in your classroom…

The first thing I do when thinking about organization is I make a list of the areas I’d like to have organized in my classroom. Even though I pretty much do the same thing every year with a few tweaks in terms of my organization, I still like sitting down and listing out my areas along with the other steps of this brainstorming process because it helps me with my to-do list and set up when it comes to that time (and that way I don’t forget where I put everything in my classroom over summer)!

Here are some questions I ask myself while I’m brainstorming:

Here is a run down of my classroom areas followed by the stations within these areas, and the order that I set them up(urgency). I like to think about urgency when I’m coming up with my game plan because then I know the time frame for when I’d like to have that area up and running, and how I need to structure my to-do list when it comes to the actual set-up part!

  1. teacher area: stations for daily resources, technology, papers and data, small group materials, office supplies, and essentials
  2. student area: stations for student bins, turn-in area, supplies, and technology
  3. cleaning/health supplies area: health supplies (bandaids, nurse notes, kleenex), sanitizing supplies (hand sanitizer, wipes, table spray and towels), and miscellaneous cleaning/extra supplies
  4. learning materials area: station for math supplies and manipulatives, center materials, and a station for science supplies and investigation materials
  5. extra supplies area: stations for extra office supplies, arts and crafts supplies, and basic supplies like ziploc bags, etc

Some other areas that you might have in your classroom are things like a classroom library, writing center, or a technology station. It really varies depending on what you need in your classroom, but thinking about these areas and stations is how I get started on my game plan.

download this handbook so you can get started on your classroom organization game plan!
use this template to list out your areas and stations!

Okay now let’s move on to the next step…once I think about the general areas in my classroom I get a little more detailed by thinking about what goes in these areas.

When thinking about what goes in these areas I try to think of EVERYTHING, and I like to categorize it into two buckets: the papers and the supplies. When brainstorming about this step, here are a few questions I ask myself:

I’ll give you an example using my teacher area:

>Papers that go in this area: papers I’m going to copy/grade/file/save/etc, student data, print outs that I’m going to use in small groups, daily materials for the week, essential papers like calendars and schedules

>Supplies/materials that go in this area: tech supplies like my board remote and pens, whiteboard things, math manipulatives for small group instruction, and tons of different supplies: markers, pens, scissors, tape, stapler, office supplies, cardstock, laminator, etc

download this handbook so you can get started on your classroom organization game plan!

Now were on to the next part, which is personally my favorite! Thinking about the HOW…

Now that you know what areas you have to organize and have thought about what goes in these areas, you can start to brainstorm HOW you will organize these things. Some questions I think about are…

This step is where Pinterest and the teachergram really help out! One guiding principle I have when organizing is that EVERYTHING needs to have a place! I literally try to think of every little thing and give it a place to live. If something comes up in the future that I don’t have a place for, I make a place for it! So brainstorm, search for ideas, and jot it all down! Do an inventory of what you already have to use for organization and you can also make a list of some things on your wishlist to use for classroom organization. I love using the template shown below in my handbook so I have a detailed list of each thing that I need to organize (paper vs. supplies), what I plan on using to organize it with, and if I already have it/need it/want it. (I have a blog coming about some of my favorite things to use for classroom organization, so be on the lookout for that if you’re interested!)

And let’s talk about purchasing things for your classroom a bit because this can be quite the hot topic. All of the stuff I have in my classroom for classroom organization has taken me YEARS to collect, I didn’t get everything at once. Some of the things I requested to purchase with my classroom funds, but there are also a lot of things I have purchased myself. I check out places like the Dollar Tree for super cheap bins and baskets. I also look for sales for some of my bigger purchases, and I always set a budget for myself each summer if I plan on purchasing things for my classroom. So I guess what I’m trying to say in a nutshell is: if you feel like spending money on your classroom and you have the means to do so, do you and go for it! If you don’t: get creative, use what you have, see if your school will purchase it for you, or use Donors Choose. And lastly, you don’t have to get everything at once! Get a few things each year and get things in colors you won’t get sick of. I’m all about the neutrals when it comes to getting things to organize my classroom!

download this handbook so you can get started on your classroom organization game plan!

Okay the LAST thing I think about, and maybe most important thing is what habits or routines I can have in place to keep this area functional and organized all year long!

When it comes to these habits and routines it can differ a bit based on who this area serves: mostly students vs. mostly me (the teacher). So here are a few questions I ask myself when brainstorming:

My next blog on classroom organization will be completely devoted to this topic but let me give you a few examples:

In terms of my teacher area, some habits and routines I have in place are:

>an end of day and end of week checklist: I have a list of things that I do everyday and at the end of every week (this list is included in the classroom organization handbook) to help me stay on top of things and keep things organized and tidy!

>I don’t let piles build up in my classroom. I know, I know, this one is hard! In order to stay on top of this I always try to put things back in their place after I use them. I also use the end of the day to tidy up any small piles that have accumulated throughout the day.

For my student areas some habits and routines that I have in place are:

>At the beginning of the school year I specifically teach my students how I want their supply areas to look, and I reinforce this consistently.

>I have students clean out their supply bins every week!

>I have a classroom job that checks things like student bins and supply areas, and they make sure that things are organized and tidy throughout the week.

classroom organization handbook

Well that’s it! Now you’re ready to go when it’s time to set up your classroom organization, and hopefully you have some tips and tricks to keep it organized all year long! I know this process is super Type A but it has truly helped me so much over the years. I love getting all of this finished before I leave for the summer, and having it ready for me once I return to my classroom!

My hope is that the information I shared (and the handbook!) gave you a few tips for getting started and coming up with your game plan! If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me, I absolutely LOVE talking classroom organization! And make sure to check back here because I’ll be posting more blogs on classroom organization!

Happy organizing friends!

don’t forget to download this handbook to help you get started on your classroom organization game-plan!