It’s amazing how much we accumulate, isn’t it? Around this time of year, I am overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that engulfs my storage bins at home, and remember that my classroom is also an extension of my living space. The area under student desks looks similar to a middle school bedroom, and the number of papers that overflows binders is crushing in its intensity. It also occurred to me that a cluttered room equals a cluttered mind, so I decided now would be the perfect time to practice some feng shui across both spaces.
Even though most school districts are gearing up for the home stretch, it is never too late to reorganize your classroom. In addition to making learning more enjoyable, eliminating clutter allows you to see what you need to purchase for next year. Spring cleaning can also be a great opportunity to “recycle” your neighbor’s castoffs as you invoke the mantra of “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
Here are some great ways to freshen up some old standbys along with some ways to give new meaning to the word refurbish.
At the beginning of the year, I always try to find ways to make the most of my space. This might mean putting my creativity to the test. In September I utilized a recently purchased Scholastic READ 180 kit. I decided to shelve the books by Lexile level along with my other books and use the box for storage. This month I invoked a similar tactic by creating a box for student journals and putting it adjacent to our writer’s workshop folders.
In addition, I spiffed up our typical writing format by creating some unique journal templates that contained thought-provoking quotes or questions that would really challenge my students on both a personal and academic level. I also ditched the traditional pen and pencil format and encouraged them to use Sharpie markers to really bring their words to life. In addition, those with extra time now had opportunities to free draw or doodle on the empty spaces. This simple trick kept those with limited attention spans from diverging too much from the lesson. Take a look around your room. Do you have any storage bins that could pull double duty? Take out a fun roll of stickers or let students graffiti the box if they need freshening up!
Our school library is always full of great finds. When I saw that these old library stands were about to meet a sad fate, my mind started racing, searching for ways that I could use them in my room. I decided that they would make the perfect display for new books. Now students can find the latest reads easily since they are prominently displayed. This provides a great home for multiple copy books and challenging texts that students otherwise might not gravitate to. I find that students are more willing to check out novels that have appealing book jackets without first checking the reading level. Book carousels are a simple way to rotate every genre, from old to new classics!
Wasting paper is a major pet peeve of mine. At first I was waiting until the end of each quarter for students to empty out their binders. When I realized that students weren’t able to easily access pertinent information, I implemented a quick binder check on Fridays during the last few minutes of class. This coincided perfectly with our district-wide recycling program in which designated students pick up classroom recycling boxes at the end of the week. Now all of my students are more aware of wasting paper. Instead of throwing everything in the garbage, they make a beeline to the recycling bin. Since the box is not tossed until the end of the week, students have plenty of opportunities to “rescue” papers that they may have inadvertently thrown out. We also take advantage of the extra paper lying around for brainstorming or quick quizzes.
Now that you have made some minor changes, take a look at your new space. My new and improved classroom provided me with the inspiration I needed to rearrange my home. Since my district is beginning our two-week spring break, there will be plenty of time to practice what I preach!
For more information on how to organize your space, visit the Avery Web site for free tips and templates.