Why is classroom organization so hard for so many teachers?
Honestly, it kind of comes down to lessons we all learned as toddlers: Put you stuff away when you are done!
One of the hardest things for many teachers to do is to simply put things away even if they have a specific spot for them.
Of course this is critical for keeping your classroom organized. If you fall into this category don’t despair. Just follow my simple tips.
And any time you can…
Have your students help you out!
They’ll be happy to be the official “putters-away” of various classroom supplies. Between you and your classroom community, you’ve got this handled.
Asking a student to help you with a task as a personal favor is a great way to build relationships. My top five students with the biggest behavior issues were much more manageable when I allowed them to help with special tasks. They wanted to feel special in a positive way and relished the opportunity.
You might think I have my act together all the time and never leave a thing out of place. Wrong! I am quite skilled at hiding things from myself. I will have a lesson in hand and teach like crazy, then as students practice skills independently, I leave it lying it who-knows-where.
When students find things in odd places that belong to me, they put the items in a neat pile on my desk and are allowed to say, “Tsk, tsk!”
In general, there should be limited teacher materials to clean up if you practice putting things away at the end of each lesson. I allow my students to “turn and talk for two” while I put things away and grab the next lesson.
When I say, “put things away,” I mean really put them away, not pile them on your desk.
For example, after our morning math lesson, I put my teacher materials in the next day’s folder with the plan for that day so I can remind students what we have already covered.
Or I put the plan right back into my math binder where I keep all my lessons. I just leave a sticky note in the binder where the lesson belongs. If I made changes to the lesson that I want to edit and save electronically, I put it on my “to do after school” pile.
Important: I don’t leave until my pile is gone. If you do this every day, you will get more and more efficient at it.
Student project supplies and “stuff”
Ah, stuff… the flotsam and jetsam that accumulates by the end of the day in a busy classroom. All manner of things end up on the floor:
- paper clips
- dirt from recess
- supplies from science
- unclaimed student items
At the end of a lesson, setting a visual timer is a great way to get students to put things away quickly. More typically I politely ask students:
“Would you please put supplies away and get ready for (the next subject)?”
The first time I do this, my teacher-pleasers immediately get to work and I hand them a bonus point. As soon as the rest of the class sees this, it is all hands on deck and supplies are stowed neatly and students are motivated to show they are ready to learn.
Video tips: setting up an information and supply center
Five minutes before the final bell on Monday through Thursday, I tell students it is “sparkle time” and they zip around making sure all supplies – student and teacher – are stowed, the floor is clean and everything looks brand new. Books, too.
This takes about 90 seconds total because we keep the room tidy throughout the day. That leaves 3-1/2 minutes to pack up, chair up, line up. Easy peasy!
Mind you, this takes a little practice the first week of school, but it is automatic after that.
On Fridays, sparkle time begins twelve minutes before the final bell. Students know that if we are sparkly and they are packed and ready, they get to dance and sing to popular music for the last few minutes of the day. Again, very motivating.