Organizing a classroom is no easy task. Whether you’re looking for a few new tips or a complete strategy to get your room in order, this article from Sunshine and Lollipops is just what you need. Take it away S&L!
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Flash back….it’s August 28th and I’ve just found out I will be teaching first grade. That was the BEST and the worst news. School was starting in a few days and new teachers had 3 days of orientation. I had a classroom that looked pretty much like this:

 

My first thought: “How am I ever going to turn this into the classroom of my dreams?” Then off I went to my first new teacher orientation.

I returned to my bare classroom and a handwritten note on my desk which read, “From confusion comes wisdom!” ~ Confucius. But Confucius was never a first grade teacher. What does he know?

Turns out, he was on to something. From my confusion and lack of time to organize, I learned a ton and I was never, ever disorganized again during my entire teaching career. Wisdom.

Here are a few important organizational lessons from my first year that stuck with me my entire career…with a few tweaks here and there.

 

  1. Always make a list of what you want to do or change, what worked, what didn’t work and what you need to get together before school starts

     

    My first year I was not able to do this and I felt like I was playing catch up the entire year.

  • It really doesn’t matter if you change things up a bit during the school year. If you find that something is not working for your class, change it. That is OK!
  • Remember each class is different and as teachers we have to adapt to the needs of our students. One year I changed my desk location about 6 times before the first trimester ended. The kids had so much fun trying to guess where my desk was going to show up the next time they walked through the classroom doors. It was like a scavenger hunt!

 

  1. Make sure your classroom supplies are organized before your kiddos come bouncing through the door that first day

  • I am not saying that everything has to be in an obsessive order nor does your room have to look like a Pinterest promotion., but make sure that it does not look chaotic and cluttered.
  • Leave some things for you and your class to do together so they feel welcome and take ownership of the classroom. Where do the pencils, erasers, paperclips and markers go? These need to be ready and available without rooting around and wasting learning time.

I always label EVERYTHING! I put like items in shoeboxes or baskets with labels and categorized accordingly.

There is a space or place for everything: games, supplies of all shapes and sizes, Guided Reading materials…you get the idea. I add a label with a picture and word, which is two-fold; first, you can easily see where the supply is located and second, and the room is labeled for emergent readers to read the room.

Classroom Supply Labels

  1. Address the closets, shelves with math supplies, Phonics’ games and all the things you need to get to quickly for a lesson.

    These need to be ready and available without rooting through piles of stuff in various places or thinking, “I just saw that somewhere…now where was it?”

 
Organize the games according to categories on shelves or in a closet.

 

 
These are math baskets before the labels were added.

Then cover the shelves with these colorful tablecloths. The tablecloths are simply hung from a tension rod and tacked so you can lift them up and grab what you need.

  1. Organize your reading nook.

Over the years, I have used different spaces for a reading area, but there is one common thread. All of the books are in bins or baskets and organized into specific categories that meet the needs of MY STUDENTS. The way you categorize your books can be completed in many different ways or you can use a few different ideas, but it is important that it works for your class.

Here are few ideas that I have used over the years:

Kids love to read and work in this inviting reading space.

To the left and right of the tables on the white shelves were the classroom library books, which were arranged and labeled: ABC’s, numbers, colors, easy readers, chapter books, specific popular authors, general nonfiction, animals, space, biographies, Dr. Seuss, insects, weather, seasons as well as popular book characters like Arthur, Clifford and other popular book characters.

This worked best for my first graders because they had favorite topics and authors they enjoyed reading over and over again.

FYI: The designated Classroom Helpers cleaned this area up at the end of the day and this is a product of their great independent organizational skills.

The shelves behind the table under our “reading buddies,” housed our Nightly Reading Books that the students took home each night to read.

  1. Room organization is essential, but planning how you will be communicating with parents is just as important. You need to have an organized process ready to use the first day of school.

If a problem arises, who wants to be shuffling through papers and looking for parent contact information? Be proactive and ready!

It is also important to think about how to keep an open positive line of communication between home and school. There are plenty of apps out there created for parent communication, but not all schools are ready to use apps. There are other options, though.

  • Create a Parent Communication Log to house all-important information about each child and their caretakers. This one binder can be a lifesaver as you talk and chat with parents. You can print out e-mails, 3 hole punch them and keep all of these for reference. It can also be a place to jot down notes and reminders about conversations and dates these took place.
  • Newsletters are also a way to stay organized and keep the lines of communication open. These weekly or monthly newsletters will keep you organized as you think back on the week or next steps in your lesson planning. Parents LOVE hearing about what is happening or going to happen in their child’s classroom. These can be completed in a digital or written format.

Getting these ideas organized at the beginning of the school year will help you stay focused and be present in your daily teaching life.

Here are three resources that support parent communication and will keep you calm and ready to go:

  1. September Back to School Teacher Organizational Tidbits – If this doesn’t help you get organized for the Back to School Frenzy, I don’t know what will.
  2. Parent Communication Organizational Checklists – Easy to use and ready to go!
  3. Editable Newsletters to Make Parent Communication Easy – These will make your life so much easier and organized!

As long as you have these 5 ideas and organizational strategies in place, you will be less stressed and have the best school year yet.

Have a great year and don’t forget to ORGANIZE!!!

 

 

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