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September 13, 2017

Good Clean Fun: A Tidy Classroom

By Nancy Jang
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    Some days in my classroom, I swear there are more crayons and pencils on the floor than in student pencil boxes, and every time I turn around, they multiple exponentially. My students have individual desks and their insides range from cascading falls of torn paper and partially eaten snacks to Martha Stewart on steroids. In the beginning of the year, I teach the kids what cleaning their desks entail and we practice, practice, practice. However, when the school year is in full swing and the week is packed with curriculum, sometimes the maintenance of a clean desk falls by the wayside.

    This year, I am going to try a two-pronged organizational plan for keeping students’ desks clean. First, I am going to make time every week to clean desks — with students helping each other. Second, we will have a little fun maintaining clean desks and classroom.

    Clean Desk Visitors

    Introducing Clifford the Desk Doggie and his friend Love Monster! Some teachers have a similar idea called the Desk Fairy, but I wanted something a little more gender neutral and I wanted to add a dash of fun too. Our Desk Doggie Clifford and his friend Love Monster love to visit clean desks. The way it works is, I hide Clifford inside a clean student desk. That student gets to keep Clifford on their desk as a reward until the next break period. Then that student hides Clifford in the next clean desk.

    A colleague of mine has several small stuffed animals rotating around her classroom and it works like a charm to remind students to pick up messes and keep their desks organized during the day. Some days, Clifford will bring a small note, treat, or special pencil, but most days, having Clifford visit for a period is reward enough.

    If you have tables and no desks, you can still reward the table that is the neatest and most organized throughout the day. If a student is really struggling with keeping a clean desk and never gets to host Clifford or Love Monster, then put the stuffed creature on top of the desk instead of inside with a laminated note that says “If you want me to stay for a visit, please ask a friend to help you clean your desk! See you soon.” And that student passes the stuffed animal to the next clean desk immediately.

    Click here or on the notes above to download and print out your own clean desk reminder notes.

    Treasure Trash

    At the end of the day, when students are packed up and lined up, if we have a minute or two, we play a game called Treasure Trash. Before the game begins, I pick a piece of trash in my mind. Then when I say begin, students have one minute to pick up trash and return other items on the floor to their correct spots: pencils go in the pencil bin, crayons get dumped in the lost and found crayon area, and books get returned to their numbered bins. Students are quietly walking and picking up items around the room as I watch carefully. At the end of a minute, I ring a bell and the students put away the last item and line up. I announce the prize for that day and reveal the Treasured Piece of Trash. The student who picked it up steps forward for a small reward. We play this game once or twice a week to help keep our room looking tidy.

    How do you keep your class looking neat and tidy?

    Some days in my classroom, I swear there are more crayons and pencils on the floor than in student pencil boxes, and every time I turn around, they multiple exponentially. My students have individual desks and their insides range from cascading falls of torn paper and partially eaten snacks to Martha Stewart on steroids. In the beginning of the year, I teach the kids what cleaning their desks entail and we practice, practice, practice. However, when the school year is in full swing and the week is packed with curriculum, sometimes the maintenance of a clean desk falls by the wayside.

    This year, I am going to try a two-pronged organizational plan for keeping students’ desks clean. First, I am going to make time every week to clean desks — with students helping each other. Second, we will have a little fun maintaining clean desks and classroom.

    Clean Desk Visitors

    Introducing Clifford the Desk Doggie and his friend Love Monster! Some teachers have a similar idea called the Desk Fairy, but I wanted something a little more gender neutral and I wanted to add a dash of fun too. Our Desk Doggie Clifford and his friend Love Monster love to visit clean desks. The way it works is, I hide Clifford inside a clean student desk. That student gets to keep Clifford on their desk as a reward until the next break period. Then that student hides Clifford in the next clean desk.

    A colleague of mine has several small stuffed animals rotating around her classroom and it works like a charm to remind students to pick up messes and keep their desks organized during the day. Some days, Clifford will bring a small note, treat, or special pencil, but most days, having Clifford visit for a period is reward enough.

    If you have tables and no desks, you can still reward the table that is the neatest and most organized throughout the day. If a student is really struggling with keeping a clean desk and never gets to host Clifford or Love Monster, then put the stuffed creature on top of the desk instead of inside with a laminated note that says “If you want me to stay for a visit, please ask a friend to help you clean your desk! See you soon.” And that student passes the stuffed animal to the next clean desk immediately.

    Click here or on the notes above to download and print out your own clean desk reminder notes.

    Treasure Trash

    At the end of the day, when students are packed up and lined up, if we have a minute or two, we play a game called Treasure Trash. Before the game begins, I pick a piece of trash in my mind. Then when I say begin, students have one minute to pick up trash and return other items on the floor to their correct spots: pencils go in the pencil bin, crayons get dumped in the lost and found crayon area, and books get returned to their numbered bins. Students are quietly walking and picking up items around the room as I watch carefully. At the end of a minute, I ring a bell and the students put away the last item and line up. I announce the prize for that day and reveal the Treasured Piece of Trash. The student who picked it up steps forward for a small reward. We play this game once or twice a week to help keep our room looking tidy.

    How do you keep your class looking neat and tidy?

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