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August 12, 2010 Setting Up and Organizing Your Classroom, Part Two By Nancy Jang
Grades 1–2


    Join me as I organize my teacher's desk, library, and subject area materials. I'll also share some quick tips for organizing Very Important Parent-volunteers and making your lunch count quick and painless. Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win BLOG CANDY!

    The Teacher's Desk

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    Before, during, and after pictures of my desk. I used a small laundry basket to hold everything while I sorted and purged. And this is just the top drawer! Look at this and then imagine it times three, since I had two other drawers to clean out.

    When I started this project, my desk hadn't been cleaned in a long, long time. My teacher's desk has a tendency to become a dumping ground for odds and ends since it is the first place I go when I enter the room with my arms full. I have photocopies and mail to put down, and kids are trying to put notes in my basket â€” and inevitably, it all lands there. I kept thinking to myself, I will get around to organizing it later, but "out of sight, out of mind."

    Some teachers consider the teacher's desk an essential piece of furniture, but many of my coworkers have actually had their desks hauled out of the room to create more space. After all, how many of you actually sit at your desk during the day for any amount of time? I will admit that I rarely sit at my desk, and if it wasn't doing double duty as a projector and document camera table, I would probably get rid of it, too. 

    The Library  Library

    Last year, I had three areas for books. Two low bookshelves for chapter books, three front facing shelves for picture books, and a separate area near my desk for my Accelerated Reader Library. The front facing bookshelves were purchased from a store that was going out of business when I was just starting to teach. I fell in love with the idea that my library would look like a bookstore with the covers face out, inviting kids to browse and read. The $100 I paid almost made me cry as a cash poor first year teacher. Even though I continued to love these shelves for years, the kids had a hard time finding a book they liked, and it was always a mess.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   


    This year, I wanted to focus on making the books more accessible and easier to organize. I want kids to be able to focus on finding the right genre and the right level of book for themselves, and avoid having them spend hours browsing and not finding what they want to read.

    This year, I'm moving all of my classroom library books, including the AR books, to the new low shelves along the walls.

    I purchased the red and blue baskets from IKEA and the black baskets from the Dollar Tree.The green baskets came from Target. The red baskets will be for fictional picture books. The blue baskets will hold chapter books in a series and the black baskets will hold other chapter books. The light green baskets will house all of the nonfiction books. I am also labeling each book with the genre using category labels that I downloaded from Beth Newingham's Web site.


    Subject Area OrganizationScholastic2 005

    I am planning to separate materials that belong to the math, science, social studies, and language arts programs. Items such as extra textbooks, student workbooks, teacher's manuals, and resource packets will be on a shelf together. I will also house my supplemental materials, professional development books, and any games or manipulatives that go with those subjects on these shelves. Science and math both have several huge boxes of materials, so I may have to dedicate a cabinet to these two subject areas.

    On the left shelf is our math program. This year we have a new math adoption. There are 20 topics in second grade with black line masters and transparencies that go with each topic. I purchased some very cute magazine files from IKEA to house the materials for each topic. To the right are my extra textbooks and supplemental language arts materials.

    Quick Tips

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    Lunch Count 

    Last year, when I took the lunch count, it sounded something like this: "Okay, everyone, raise your hand if you are buying lunch. Okay, now who is buying hot lunch? Who is buying cold lunch? Who brought their lunch?" It took more time than I wanted to spend, it was a bit disruptive, and inevitably someone would tire of raising their hand or forget to raise their hand because they were busy talking to their friends and then the whole production would have to begin again.

    Now, when the students come into class, they stop by this board and move a magnetic star to their choice for lunch. The cafeteria doesn't require a specific name for each lunch, just a number for each area. I used to write student numbers on the stars, but it took forever for them to find their numbered star. This way it's so much faster! Then the students sit down and begin their day quietly while I take roll and enter the lunch count on the computer.


    Tooth Jar

    Old film jars make great tooth holders. Just decorate them with stickers, and they are ready to go. The cap stays on, and the jars are easy to find in a backpack. The containers from our office are cute, but the lids always pop open. I can tell you that we spent a lot of time looking for teeth "somewhere on the playground" and writing the tooth fairy letters about what happened. I also like to use them to hold paint and starch. I get the canisters from Costco film developing.

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    Getting Ready for the Week

    This cool idea came from the Clutter Free Classroom. The author of the blog is an organizational guru and a teacher. I bought these magazine files from IKEA and labeled them with the days of the week. All of my photocopies are neatly deposited into the files and ready for the week. I usually have a VIP (Very Important Parent-volunteer) do all of the photocopying the week before I need it. If I don't get to something, I just move it to the next day.

    Parent Volunteer Station

    I set up an adult-sized table and chair and label it VIP (Very Important Parent-volunteer). This station has a caddy with pencils, pens, scissors, glue, tape, and a stapler. On the table is a bin that contains three folders, a spiral notebook "To Do List," and all the materials for each project on the list. The folders are labeled "Photocopy," "Check In/File," and "Prep." In the spiral, I write down what needs to be done. For example, "Photocopy 30 of each master in the folder on colored paper." Parents just walk in, sit down, and get to work. They cross out whichever activity they completed and move on to the next task without interrupting my class! I will usually pop over to check on them, answer any questions they have, or clarify things, but most of the time the VIP is already working on something else in the bin while they are waiting for me.

    Next week, I am taking a break from organizing to focus on some first day of school activities and my September Read Aloud Booklist. Then, we will take a grand tour of my class and I will reveal my theme for this year.

    What Is Your Favorite First Day of School Ice Breaker?

    Leave a comment with your answer and you could win some blog candy! I am giving away a set of 20 new Judy Clocks (without the gears)! I will announce the winner at the end of my next post. One entry per person, and you must answer the question to win. Good luck.

    Happy organizing!

    Nancy Jang

    Scholastic grades 1–2 advisor

    2nd grade teacher

    Woodland Elementary School

    Newport-Mesa Unified School District


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