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The holidays have come and gone and winter break is over. Hopefully you are recharged and refocused. I know I am. By now I know my students and how they learn. I have a much clearer picture of what they need to work on. When those sweet kiddos return to school things need to be organized, efficient and prepared.
But before you dive into the classroom and start your grand plan for organization, you need a plan. Ask yourself these questions:
What worked and what didn’t work last semester?
If you could change something in your classroom, what would you change and why?
Is there a part of the day that you struggle with? Why? How can you make it better?
Are your students struggling with the layout of the room? The schedule of the day? A particular concept?
In my own reflections I realized that my classroom was far too open. Station areas were spread out and students did not have a clear sense of where to go. Students distracted each other because the stations were so close together and ill-defined.
Organize layout. Check.
I was short on plugs, so half of my stuff wasn’t plugged in and the other half I kept rolling over with my chair or AV cart.
Organize cords/tech. Check.
Papers. All of the papers. They accumulate on my desk throughout the day….the week…the month.
Organize papers. Check.
Once you have your goals and plan in place, it’s time to dig in and start working on your classroom. Check out my FREE classroom organization freebie on my Teachers Pay Teachers store!
First, you need to figure out a plan. Organizing your classroom sometimes requires you to rethink what worked last year, or what you set up at the beginning of this year. Sometimes you may have to rearrange your stations, furniture and technology to maximize student learning. This has to be the starting point. Before you begin I strongly recommended a software to plan out your room. Scholastic has a FREE amazing software that I used.
Next, once the furniture is placed, it’s time to face the walls. Plug in that glue gun. It’s about to get real. Move around posters, take down anything irrelevant and remount what has fallen down. Take down any curtains and shake them out. Also, take that broom and clear away the cobwebs.
The walls in a classroom cannot look cluttered and too busy. Students cannot concentrate in a room that has hundreds of 8.5 x 11 posters everywhere. A few pieces of wall art should stay up all year. Other posters and such should be accessible enough to change out when needed. Organization needs to encompass the cement walls just like any other part of the classroom.
Stuffed Friends and Pillows
Next, shake out and/or vacuum those pillows and stuffed animals. Sidenote: It may be fun to change up their placement. Shake things up a bit. Organization is not only about cleanliness, but also about refreshing yourself and your space.
Now it’s time to check the books. Are some of them torn? Stained? It may be time to replace them. If you have a classroom library system, make sure the books are in the right bins. Stay tuned for a post about organizing your classroom library!
I don’t know why, but this is my least favorite part. Plugging everything in, getting all the passwords reentered – ugh. Use surge protectors to keep tech safe as well as up to code. Make sure you plan where you can plug things in. Don’t ever ever plug in an extension cord to another extension cord. It is against fire code and unsafe.
I like to use cable ties to make sure my cords are organized and secure. They come in a variety of sizes which is perfect for organizing. Tie up cords so that they stay in a straight line rather than a tangled mass. I have found this to be the simplest way to avoid the dreaded cord knot and it’s dust bunny friends. If there are cords hanging from the ceiling (that’s normal, right?) use command hooks/clips to get them securely on the wall as well.
Sigh. I don’t know how they do it, but the inside of my students’ desks can be pristine one minute and then fall to chaos the next. When students return, have them clean out the papers and sort out the mess. Wipe everything down. Including the chairs. Stick those name tags on, and get them ready for students to organize their desks when they arrive.
Dice. Dominos. Flash cards. Letter tiles. Every teacher has their arsenal of manipulatives to add interest to centers. (I will be posting a list of the best math manipulatives so stay tuned). Chances are those objects were haphazardly returned. Make sure all those manipulatives are back where they belong.
If your manipulatives lack a home I strongly recommend these Sterilite containers. It is SO EASY to sort and organize those manipulatives. Just dump them in there, stick a label on them (I got mine here and here) and I guarantee cleanup will be that much easier. Check out my post on math material storage here.
Next we have another one of my favorites (just kidding). It’s so easy to end each day drowning in all the papers on my desk. After a break is no exception. Many times I throw things on my desk and say, I’ll get back to that. But then I get to school the day before students arrive and become overwhelmed by the enormous pile of papers.
I decided I had enough. After reading this article I decided to use three drawer containers to sort and organize my papers throughout the day. Instead of accumulating piles, I could sort my papers in the containers. When I had a free moment, instead of digging through everything, I could tackle one drawer at a time.
A great way to start off the new year is to get everything off that desk. Get those office supplies sorted and put back (my teacher toolbox is perfect for this). Grade those papers, (or, ahem, throw them in the trash). File those documents. Get it done so you can start this next semester fresh. In other words, don’t cram everything away first thing. Begin with a blank slate and get a jump start organizing.
Then its time to focus on more paper work (yay). Whether you use the file folder or the binder method (or something else) to store resources and materials, chances are every original wasn’t returned where it belongs. It’s not a fun job, but get everything put away now. Don’t wait until May. By the end of the year you’re needing an escape, not piles of paperwork to file.
Again this is where the three drawer organizers will help. Put those originals to be filed in a drawer instead of having them floating around the room. Start the new year fresh and set aside times in the school day to sort and refile all those awesome resources you have! Don’t get behind, stay ahead of the paperwork.
After all the papers are sorted, wipe those boards down. Throw out those dried up markers and ruined erasers. If you are needing to deep clean an old/marked-up board, Germ-X is perfect. I’m not sure if it’s the alcohol or what, but a squirt on a paper towel will make those boards shine like new. Once they are fully dry you are ready to write again! Deep cleaning your boards every once in a while makes markers and erasers last longer and appear sharper.
Again, more than likely you dusted and swept as you went along. But once the entire room is completed, make sure to sweep/vacuum the floor one last time to get it sparkling and rid of any hidden objects…
Finally, your room is organized and hopefully you are energized and reinvigorated. It’s time to prepare for your students return. Print those lesson materials and have everything laid out (use those fancy new organizers to sort those documents).
When students arrive, get ready to review rules and procedures. Your students have had a long break and will be tired, emotional and out of routine. Give your kiddos a tour of your brand new space, show them all of the wonderful learning that will take place this semester. I hope you are inspired to organize your classroom and start this new year off with a bang! Please share your before and after photos on facebook or tag me on instagram. Don’t forget to check out the FREE packet that includes resources to help you revamp your room!
It’s so important to stay energized and eager as a classroom teacher. Making sure our rooms are organized is the perfect way to keep us excited and help us focus on what truly matters: our students.