It’s safe to say that teachers have a lot of stuff. From teaching materials to books, to art supplies and more- there is a lot to keep track of! Do you have a system in place to stay organized? If you’re looking to level up your classroom organization, you’re in the right place! Today I’m sharing my own secrets for staying organized in the primary classroom.
First, Take Stock Of What You’ve Got
Before you can overhaul your classroom organization, you’ll need to take some time weeding out the unnecessary items in your classroom. Depending on how long you’ve been teaching, this can be quite the task! Here are some tips for avoiding overwhelm as you declutter:
- Group like items together. Your supplies are likely already organized in this way, but just in case things are a little cluttered, take a few minutes to make sure all like-items are grouped together in one spot before you start decluttering.
- Have a box for donations and a bag for trash. Before you even start, make sure you have these items handy so you don’t end up debating too long on keeping an item.
- Start small. Rome wasn’t built in a day! Give yourself time to sort your supplies out and work in sections in your room.
- Think about what you use most! As teachers, it’s easy to end up with a ton of clutter because you’re keeping things you aren’t using. Try and pare it down to your most used items. Check out my list of must-haves if you need inspiration on what you should keep.
Once you’ve cleared out the things you don’t need and you’re ready to organize what you’re keeping, it’s time for the fun part! While it does take some work up front, setting up a system to stay organized will be a total game changer. Having a classroom that is well-organized means you can streamline your teaching and spend less time looking for things!
1. Start With Your Lesson Planning System
Teachers have a lot of resources, lessons, and materials to keep track of. If your school provides a curriculum and then you supplement it with your own materials, you might feel like you’re drowning in a sea of paper. My best tip to stay organized in lessons is to use binders!
I loved using labeled binders for all of my classroom materials. They can be used for just about everything, they’re inexpensive, and easy to make! Plus, they look pretty displayed on a shelf, so you don’t need to hide them away in a cabinet.
I like to use editable binder labels to organize student data, parent communication logs, report cards, standards, resources… you name it! I also used these same binder covers to create student binders each year. This is a great way to collect work samples and art throughout the year and have a place to keep them. If you’re diligent in collecting work (set a monthly reminder!), you’ll also end up with an “instant” memory book by the end of the year!
2. Use Book Bins To Stay Organized In The Classroom Library
I don’t know about you, but I had more than a few books in my own classroom library. Between yard sales, library sales, and Scholastic Book Orders, it wasn’t too difficult to continue to grow my library. I loved having a wide variety of book options available to my students, but it’s also a lot to keep track of!
If students aren’t given clear expectations of how to put books away, the library can turn into a HUGE mess pretty quickly. My solution was to use book bins. Rather than a shelf where books can get bent, squished, and put away incorrectly- book bins will calm the chaos.
I liked bins like these which I always found at the dollar store. They were large enough for books to sit face-up in them and students could easily flip through to find what they were looking for. If you’re using bins, you definitely need labels as well! My favorite way to organize books in first grade is by genre, but you can also sort them by reading level.
3. Use Center Signs To Help Students Stay Organized
Centers are a key component of the primary classroom, and with them come many materials.
Manipulatives, centerpieces, toys, and other materials can easily be mixed up if your students don’t have clear expectations of where everything “lives” in your classroom. To remedy this, I liked to use colorful center signs.
I liked to use signs that had pictures as a way to help prompt new readers. In addition to helping keep your materials more organized, center signs provide clear boundaries in the classroom.
This is a great classroom management tool to help remind students where they should be during center time.
4. Get Drawer Units To Organize Paperwork
When I was still in the classroom, I loved using drawer units.
They are just so handy! I loved them for storing our daily morning work, collecting homework, and keeping track of work students turned in. These Sterilite Drawer Units were always my favorite and held up well through the years.
I used editable labels for my drawer units to help prompt everyone on where things belonged. I always loved that when students came in for the day, they knew exactly where to turn in their work and grab their morning work. Plastic drawer units are a bit more appealing to the eye as well since all the messy papers are tucked away in a drawer!
5. Label Everything To Stay Organized
This final tip goes hand in hand with all the others I mentioned to stay organized in the primary classroom, but it’s worth mentioning once more- label everything! And I mean everything. I have found that when you’re working with younger students this is SO helpful in keeping your room in order. As an added bonus, your beautifully labeled room provides a print-rich environment, perfect for new readers!
Another benefit to labeling everything is that when you have a sub or unexpected visitor, you know they’ll be just fine navigating your room. I was always so happy to hear that things were easy to find and keep track of in my classroom.
I loved using colorful, editable labels for our materials and supplies. This is especially helpful at the beginning of the year when students are just learning where everything belongs in the classroom.
Finally, Set Reminders To Stay Organized
Once you’ve got your room beautifully organized and labeled, you’ll want to make sure you stay on top of it! Think of this as a gift to yourself.
Mark your calendar to do a quarterly “refresh” in your classroom to make sure things are returned to order.
When I did this, I would quickly toss unnecessary items, check to see if all my labels were still intact, and just spruce things up. This will help reduce having to do full classroom overhauls in the future and keep help you stay organized!
I think once you get your own organization system in place, you’ll be more than willing to keep it up. There is an immense feeling of calm that comes with an organized classroom!
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