Just as your house needs a little dusting and sprucing up when the warm weather hits, so does your classroom. Sure, I wipe things down and dust when it becomes noticeable, but the big, deep, classroom cleaning usually happens for me in the spring. Once spring break comes and goes, there isn’t much time until summer vacation. I’m one of those people who likes to draw out my summer vacation for as long as possible and don't want to spend any of it in my classroom. So, that means that I start preparing for the next school year in the spring, and what better way to do that than to Spring Clean. Here are my five favorite tips for spring cleaning the classroom.
Little kids love to help. Give them a few baby wipes to wipe down shelves and watch that dust disappear. A feather duster does wonders for the computer area, especially the keyboard. Don’t forget the little brooms and dustpans; these are great for kids to use around the classroom. My students make it a competition to see who can sweep up the most dirt. Our classroom also has a small vacuum, and the kids all want a turn to use it. If only their desire to vacuum carried over to their teenage years. . . .
Use shaving cream to clean the tabletops and have some fun at the same time. Just squirt a bit onto each table and let the kids smear it around, then have them practice writing letters, numbers, or sight words in it with their fingers. When most of it has dissolved, let the kids wash up while you use some paper towels to wipe off the remaining residue.
It doesn’t take long to sift through your teacher resource materials and purge what you haven’t used in years or has become outdated. If your cupboard shelves aren’t already organized by subject matter, now is the time. To do this, grab a few empty plastic bins and start sorting your resource books by subject matter: math, writing, reading comprehension, and so forth. I have made labels in my cupboards to define the areas the books are in. This is helpful for when colleagues want to borrow a book; they can look in the correct area and find it quickly. Take those leftover, unwanted materials to the freebie table at your school, offer them to student teachers, or drop them off at the local thrift shop. If you are keeping a book because you really like the three pages in the middle, make a copy of those pages and dump the book.
I took organizing my teacher read-aloud collection in a different direction. I have these books organized by the months of the year. In September I read a large number of books that have school as the main theme. For some months I have quite a few books for a particular category; I have placed these books inside a magazine file box.
I remember the days when my file cabinets were beautifully organized — they were even color-coded. As time went on and I moved grade levels a few times, my files seemed to get the best of me.
Clean out those files, reorganize, and downsize. Go through your files and purge what is outdated and irrelevant. Consider sprucing up your file cabinet with some colored files to designate specific subject areas. If you don’t think you have enough time during the school day to rummage through the file drawers, grab an empty paper box. They are the perfect size to hold files and take your files home. You can sift and sort at home while you are catching up on the latest television re-runs or while you’re at your kid's little league practice.
If you really feel as though your files need a change, you might consider the system I am currently using. I never seemed to have time to re-file all of my paper and had a terrible time sifting through the file drawers. I now store the majority of my most used masters in three-ring binders with sheet protectors. Now when I need to photocopy something, I take the entire binder with me to the copy room. I make my copies and put the binder back on the shelf. No more baskets of files waiting to be put away.
Drawers tend to be the catchall for unwanted items that were once strewn across a counter. My classroom is limited on drawer space. I have to make the most of what little space I have. In my drawers you will find a vast amount of diverse items, from rubber bands and paper clips to ballpoint pens, stickers, and hole punches. To help keep everything neat, tidy, and in its designated space, I use small plastic baskets. Although it took a few attempts, I managed to get all the baskets into the drawers with very little wiggle room. When I first started this task, I emptied out all of my drawers and put like things together. I found that I had multiples of the same item. How many staple removers does a person really need? I had six.
Have you ever wondered just how many germs there might be on that computer mouse, water fountain, or door handle? Now that cold and flu season is behind us, it’s time to get rid of those germs once and for all. Using disinfectant wipes, swipe across the areas in your classroom that are touched by multiple people multiple times per day. Let’s face it: kindergartners and kids in general don’t have fabulous hygiene habits. Who knows where those little fingers have been?
With some help from the kids and some quick reorganizing, your classroom will sparkle through the remainder of the school year.