Surviving the First Six Weeks of School, Part 2: Classroom Organization
- Grades: PreK–K
I can't reach the puzzles! Where's the glue? That's my pencil! Does any of this sound familiar? Well, if you're a teacher you have probably heard these lines before. Because of the incredible amount of material that accumulates, our classrooms can quickly become unmanageable. Having an organized classroom helps students to meet many goals throughout the day independently. It will also help you as the teacher feel confident and in control from the moment the first child enters your door. Here are a few tips to help you with classroom organization.
Don't let crayons, glue, and pencils take over your classroom. You need to control the supply situation rather than having it control you and I find community supplies help manage this task. At the beginning of the school year I ask parents to not label supplies with their child's name. Instead of requiring each student to bring individual materials, they contribute to our community collection. By doing this you eliminate the task of finding out which item belongs to which student. Later, I place frequently used items in shower caddies at each table for students to share. Having these items at the table helps stop students from constantly asking you for supplies and at the same time teaches them how to share and cooperate.
At the beginning of the school year invest in baskets, tubs, and small storage boxes. I've seen a lot of teachers get creative and use empty coffee cans, jugs, and baby wipe containers. Any of these will work great for storing manipulatives. Those items that will be used frequently by students should be clearly labeled with words and pictures, and easy to access. Seldom used materials can be stored out of the way, and pulled out when necessary. Try out kellyskindergarten to download these free printable labels.
Storing Lessons and Activities
In the past I've used file folders to store lessons and activities. This year I'm trying out binders. I have ten binders that will be used for various monthly themes and topics. Inside the binders I'm also storing large envelopes to hold craft samples. If your samples are too large, try using unit boxes. These are plastic shoebox size boxes that can be purchased at any local dollar store. This will take some extra effort at the beginning but next year you'll be ready to go with minimal work.
Organizing Weekly Materials
Searching for materials is a big time waster for teachers. During the course of the week, teachers find it difficult to sort through classroom materials in order to find what will be needed each day in the classroom. Before the week begins, I set aside all materials that are needed for each day of the week. I have baskets labeled by day near my work area. All materials needed for each day are stored within the appropriate bin. At the end of the week, I clear out and re-file any remaining materials.
Before writing this post I surveyed teachers to find out which area of their classroom needed the most organization. The winner, by an overwhelming number of votes was the classroom library. To have a successful reading program, children's books need to be available with easy access. If the children's library is organized, students will spend less time digging through the books and more time reading. First, you need to decide how you want to organize your books. Many people sort by genres, topics, and levels. My classroom library is sorted by topics in labeled bins. Visit Beth Newingham's website to download free printable labels. Once you've organized your library you'll want students to keep it that way.
Here's a great tip keep your library organized! Put each child's name on a clothespin and keep all of them in a basket. When the child picks a book, they leave their pin on the basket. When they go to return their book, if they've forgotten what basket the book was in, they just look for the pin. A great alternative to using clothespins are sentence strips.
Tools to Help Your Classroom Organization
Every teacher wishes she had more time! The most inexpensive time saver is classroom organization. Classroom organization takes a lot of determination and dedication, but once things are put together your classroom will be up, ready, and running smoothly. The key is finding a method that works best for you. All you can do is try it! If you have some creative ideas to improve classroom organization, please share them here. Join me next week as I discuss planning for the first day of school and in the meantime, check out these great classroom organization tools from Scholastic!