50 Organization Tricks for Teachers

Creative ways to keep your classroom in tip-top shape until the last bell rings.

  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

Meet the Teachers Visit our contributors’ blogs for more awesome organization ideas.

Aimee Salazar, Primarily Speaking

Amanda Madden, Teaching Maddeness

Amanda Nickerson, One Extra Degree

April McNair, A Modern Teacher

Becca Ruth Witherow, That Little Art Teacher

Christina DeCarbo, Miss DeCarbo at Sugar and Spice

Danielle Cadieux, One and Wonder

Eryn Springer, Elementary Organization

Greg Smedley-Warren, The Kindergarten Smorgasboard

Heather Byers, The Busy Busy Hive

Jamie White, Play to Learn Preschool

Jennifer White, First Grade Blue Skies

Joanne Miller, Head Over Heels for Teaching

Karen Nelson, Technology in Early Childhood

KaSandra Elvir, Memories Made in First

Katie Knight, Teacher to the Core

Katie Turner, Preschool Inspirations

Kristen Walker, Easy Teaching Tools

Kristi M. DeRoche, Keep Calm & Teach On

Leah Sprague, Kindergarten Fever

Lisa Mattes, Growing Firsties

Mary Amoson, Sharing Kindergarten

Mary Montero, Teaching With a Mountain View

Melissa Taylor, Imagination Soup

Monica Schroeder, The Schroeder Page

Nicole Alderson, Rowdy in Room 300

Palma Lindsay, KFUNdamentals

Rachelle Smith, What the Teacher Wants

Stephanie Van Horn, 3rd Grade Thoughts

Susanna Westby, Whimsy Workshop Teaching

Valerie Young, All Students Can Shine

Color-coded materials, creative nameplates, recycled storage containers. Great classroom organization doesn’t happen by magic. And as paperwork and projects build up throughout the year, it takes hard work to keep everything neat.

We reached out to teachers across grade levels and subject areas to share their tricks and tips for organizing the classroom. Each one we spoke with offered the kind of smart and simple ideas that save time, money, and sanity. Here are some of our favorites.

Rinse & Reuse

1. Stack It Up
Use stacked-up chairs as drying racks. “Just slip one wet painting into each space.” —Susanna Westby, grades 1–2 split, Maple Ridge, British Columbia

2. Color Scheme
Use ice-pop molds to organize crayons by color and to promote sorting skills. Add leftover handles to estimation jars. —Palma Lindsay, kindergarten, Newhall, California

3. Stand-Up Project
Hot-glue toiletpaper rolls inside shoeboxes or caddies to keep pencils and scissors upright. —KaSandra Elvir, grade 1, Humble, Texas

4. Juice It
Store larger items in frozen juice containers. —KaSandra Elvir

5. Breakfast Bonus
Cut cereal boxes at an angle to make file boxes for notebooks or magazines. —Jessie Ostendorf, grade 6 science, Henderson, Colorado

6. Hula Time 
Create a giant clock by hanging a hula-hoop on your whiteboard with yarn and magnetic clips. Draw the face, call out times, and ask kids to draw the hands in the correct position. —Amanda Nickerson, grades 3–4, Canton, Ohio

7. Kitchen Aids
Dish racks can store everything from iPads to personal slates. The utensil cup holds markers or styluses. —Danielle Cadieux, grade 3, London, Ontario

8. Signpost
Create a chart stand by decorating an old clipboard and gluing a clothespin to its base. —April McNair, grades 2–3, Round Rock, Texas

9. Under Cover
Adhere a shower curtain wallpaper-style to the wall nearest your easels to prevent staining. —Jamie White, PreK, Leesburg, Virginia

10. Easy Easels
Use plastic tablecloths to protect easels from splatters. They’re easy to wash. —Palma Lindsay

11. Spice and Dice
To keep dice from disappearing, store in magnetic spice containers. “Students just shake the containers to roll.” —Amanda Madden, grade 2, Simpsonville, South Carolina

12. Re-Markable
To revive dried-out markers, wet the tip, secure with plastic wrap, put the cap on, and wait a few hours. —Katie Turner, PreK, Colorado Springs

Save Your Supplies

13. Cap It Off
Create a “cap basket” to store the caps of discarded markers. If kids misplace the cap of a working marker, they can grab a new one. —Bea Gilmore, art, Graham, North Carolina

14. Soak It Up
Save paint by placing wet sponges over cups and brushes. “Cut a hole in the center of each sponge, then slide them over the brush handles to keep paints from drying out.” —Palma Lindsay

15. Copy Room
Yellow highlighter doesn’t show up on photocopies, so write master copy in yellow highlighter on the appropriate page before making copies. —Heather Byers, grade 1, Louisville, Kentucky

16. Cap Is Key
To make sure dryerase markers are reunited with their caps, tape lids to a cardboard strip and secure it in your supply basket. “It’s very easy to see if one is missing.” —Susanna Westby

17. Card Count
Keep card packs intact by storing sets in plastic soap containers and color-coding each card in a deck to match the container. —Amanda Madden

18. Spongy Solution
Create “glue sponges” by covering them with glue and storing in plastic containers. Keep them moist by spritzing with Listerine and water weekly. —Greg Smedley-Warren, kindergarten, Nashville

19. Super Soak
Soak glue caps in vegetable oil to prevent clogging. Just soak, rinse, and replace. —Rachelle Smith, grade 1, Herriman, Utah

20. Top It Off
Prevent clogs by creating bottle caps from Model Magic. “It saves on paper clips.”
—Becca Ruth Witherow, art, Columbia, Tennessee

21. Color Saturation
If markers are beyond repair, soak them in distilled water overnight to create watercolor paint. “The longer the markers soak, the deeper and richer the color.” —Bea Gilmore

Storage Solutions

22.  On the Hook
Use Command hooks to hang plastic baskets on classroom walls to hold worksheets. —Greg Smedley-Warren

23. Clear Vision
Replace folders in file boxes with sheet protectors. —Katie Knight, grade 1, Corona, California

Use Google Drive to access files from anywhere. —Mariesa Ubowski, kindergarten, Littleton, Colorado

25. Anchor Display!
Adhere magnetic curtain rods to whiteboards to keep charts on display. —Christina DeCarbo, grade 1, Uniontown, Ohio

26. Anchor's Away
Roll up anchor charts and adhere a label to the top of each one—the label won’t be visible when unrolled. —Mary Montero, upper elementary, Monument, Colorado

27. Photo Op
Snap a photo of each chart nd place in a binder organized by subject and date. —Nancy Flynn, grades 4–5 literacy, Aberdeen, New Jersey

28. Rack 'Em Up
Hang sentence-strip holders on rings from clothes racks for word walls, math facts, etc. “They can be moved to create an area for ‘me’ or ‘think’ time.” —Debra Gann, grades 5–8 special education, Nashville

29. Play with Pegboard
For extra storage, weave coat hooks through the holes of pegboard-backed furniture. —Jennifer White, grade 1, Oneonta, Alabama

30. Smock Talk
Binder rings make smocks easy to hang. “Just attach a ring to each smock and you’ll find far fewer on the floor.” —Jamie White

Keep It Clean

31. Cup Saver
Put sandwich bags in paint cups, then just toss the bags afterward. —Mary Amoson, kindergarten, Newnan, Georgia

32. Crayon Cobbler
Safely remove crayon marks with either shoe-scuff remover or dry-cleaning solvent. —Palma Lindsay

33. Write On
To remove permanent marker from a whiteboard, draw over the stain with a dry-erase marker, then erase. —Melissa Taylor, former teacher and education writer, Denver

34. Scrub-A-Dub
Kids can use microfiber facial scrubbers on dryerase markings. —Joanne Miller, grade 4, Deltona, Florida

35. Tidy Tubs
Place a “tidy tub” at each table; post-crafting, have one student dump the tub into a big trash can. —Nicole Alderson, kindergarten, Lubbock, Texas

36. Close Shave
Remove sticky residue from desks with shaving cream. Just let the shaving cream sit for 15 minutes, then slide it off with a paint scraper. —Jennifer White

37. Blast Off
Use canned air to dust fabric-covered bulletin boards. “This way you keep the board intact. —Aimee Salazar, grade 2, Las Vegas

38. Magnetic Attraction
Floor covered in staples? Pick them up with a magnet. —Aimee Salazar

39. Flannel Fix
“A barely damp piece of flannel returns [iPad] screens to their original glory.” —Karen Nelson, PreK, Tacoma, Washington

40. Pass It On
To keep your classroom germ-free, turn bottles of hand sanitizer into bathroom passes and ask kids to use the sanitizer when they bring the bottles back. —Stephanie Van Horn, grade 3, Boulder, Colorado

Prep for Perfection

41. New-Kid Packs
“As I get things ready for my kiddos at the beginning of the year, I place extra [materials] in ziplock bags for any new students.” —Julie Starr, grade 1, Carl Junction, Missouri

42. Copy Clips
To avoid going through piles of Post-its, write photocopying instructions on reusable clothespins. “I just clip them to the papers that need to be copied.” —Kristen Walker, grade 2, San Diego

43. Make It a Masterpiece
For an easy-to-update display, decorate a wall with framed photos of students and attach clothespins to the bottom of each frame to hold kids’ art. —Amanda Madden

44. Standing Firm
“I place the desks exactly where I want them. Then I use tape to make guidelines on the floor.” —Valerie Young, grade 1, Mascouche, Quebec

45. Binding Ties
Secure desk legs with zip ties to keep groups together. —Monica Schroeder, grade 1, Charlotte, North Carolina

46. Stay With Me
Print a copy of your class list on a label and stick it to the back of your ID badge so you’ll have it handy during fire drills and on-the-go roll calls. —Leah Sprague, kindergarten, Mansfield, Ohio

47. Clean Slate
Make personal slates for students by adding plastic sheet protectors to pronged folders and filling with copy paper. —Monica Schroeder

48. Velcro Rules
Laminate nameplates and Velcro them to desks. They can be moved easily and are durable enough to last all year. —Eryn Springer, PreK, Dallas

49. Homework Happiness
Use numbered clothespins to spot missing homework. Students attach to their work and place in numerical order. —Kristi M. DeRoche, grade 5 math, Thibodaux, Louisiana

50. Spill-Free Days
No drinking fountain in your classroom? Attach water-bottle racks to chairs to prevent kids from knocking their bottles over. —Lisa Mattes, grade 1, Brookfield, Wisconsin

Photos: Adam Chinitz; Stylists: Jessica Zindren and Jane Cebotari; Hair and Makeup: Agata Helena


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