New Teacher Orientation
Classroom Organization: Every Teacher's Challenge

PowerPoint Handouts - Getting Organized

PowerPoint Handouts - Unique Spaces

Ever wish you had more time? Wish you could save time? There is no better time saver than being organized.  Having a well managed and organized classroom is the key to a successful learning environment.  I hope that you are able to use some of the ideas listed in these pages. If you have suggestions for Getting Organized in the classroom that could benefit another teacher, please send me an email.  Not all suggestions will make it onto the website, but your time and thoughtfulness are appreciated.  Please be sure to put "Getting Organized" in the subject line.
Thank you,
Mrs. McDavid 


Organization Tips from Mrs. McDavid

I have had many teachers stop by my room to ask how I keep things so well organized.  I have had other teachers to ask if I would consider teaching a staff development course at our school to help teachers become better organized.  Truly it's the small details that make the biggest impact.  Organizing the classroom takes time, dedication, and determination but once things are put together the classroom will run smoothly.  Less time will be spent looking for instructional materials and more time will be spent teaching.  You will be able to provide your students with the quality time they deserve and you will become a much happier teacher.  


Materials You Will Need

File Folders (Manila and Colored) Magazine Boxes
Hanging Files (Economy and Colored) 2 Pocket Folders with Prongs
Hanging File Tabs 2 Pocket Folders without Prongs
Hanging File Boxes Baskets
File Folder Labels 3-Hole Punch
Address Labels Stapler and Staple Remover
Shipping Labels Pocket Charts
Index Cards Visa-V-Pens
Index Card Box Dry Erase Markers
Paper Trays Permanent Markers
3-Ring Binders Sandwich Bags (pint & gallon)
Tab Dividers Clear Shoe Boxes with Lids
Sheet Protectors Rubbermaid Storage Boxes

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Purge Unused Materials and Non Essential Items
As teachers we tend to hoard materials and supplies that we think might come in handy one day.  We save worksheets, sample units, websites, newsletters, memos, and the list goes on and on.  In order to decide which items are important enough to keep, ask yourself if you really need the item or if you have used the item in the last year or so.  If you're like me and cringe at the thought of throwing something away that may prove useful to someone else, simply place your unwanted items in a large box.  Place the box with a sign that says "Please Take" or "Free to Good Home" in the faculty lounge or Media Center.  Trust me, the items will disappear like magic.  

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Organizing the Teacher's Desk
The teacher's desk can become a dumping ground for paperwork, papers that need to be filed, correspondence from the main office, items that need to be read or evaluated, and papers that need to be held for future reference.  Paperwork can at times become overwhelming.  Organizing your desk is the simplest way to save time and energy as well as eliminate undue stress.  

The first thing you need to do in order to organize your desk is categorize the type of paperwork that crosses your desk:

  1. To Do (things you need to do immediately)

  2. To File (papers that need to be filed)

  3. To Read (items that require your full attention and evaluation)

  4. Pending (items that you need to hold for future reference) 

The next step is designating an area to file your paperwork.  Now that you know what the categories are, you must assign a place for your paperwork.  It is important that you not place a piece of loose paper on your desk.  How many times have you sat something down only to have misplaced it?  Always place the paper in its designated area.  There are many systems available and you must choose one that works best for you.  You can you use a hanging file caddy that is positioned on or near your desk, stackable paper trays, or an incline sorter.

Hanging File Caddy Stackable Letter Trays Incline Sorter

My personal favorite is the metal desktop sorter.  There is a section for file folders as well letter trays.

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Setting Up Your Files
Make a file for everything you need to keep.  Designate at least one file drawer for your personal files.  All other file drawers can be used for curriculum and student files.   Your files will become more user friendly if you use colored hanging files with corresponding colored file folders.  Listed below are some file categories to get you started:

Lesson Plans Staff Development
Lesson Ideas Personnel
Back to School Forms Substitute Contact Information
Disciplinary Forms Substitute Instructions
Accident Report Forms Meetings - Staff
Personal Leave Forms Meetings - Committee
Clinic Referral Forms Meetings - Grade Level
Correspondence - Office Class Roster
Correspondence - Media Center Newsletters
Correspondence - Counselor Return to the Office
Correspondence - Other To Be Copied

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Managing the "To File" Folder
Create two folders within this file.  One folder marked "Students" and the other folder marked "Teacher".  It is important that you manage the "To File" on a daily basis.  Do not let it back up on you.  One quick way to manage this file is to go through it twice a day and file what you can within a 10-minute segment.  

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Managing the "To Read" Folder
As a teacher, you will receive a lot of really good information but will not always have the time to sit down and read over it.  This is where the "To Read" folder comes in handy.  There are a lot of magazines, newsletters, and various other forms of correspondence that you will receive on a daily and weekly basis.  File these documents in the "To Read" folder and designate one day per week to read through the documents you have accumulated.  Don't let it back up on you because some of the information could be time sensitive.  After reading the information, decide what is important and file it immediately.  If the document isn't something you will need, discard it immediately.

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Managing the Teacher's Mailbox
Check your mailbox at the beginning of the day, on your lunch break, and again at the end of the day.  As soon as you check your mailbox, prioritize your mail.  Place items that require your immediate attention on top and items that do not require immediate attention on the bottom.  Throw away all junk mail before leaving your mailbox.  Do not allow these items in your classroom to take up space.  Keep sticky notes, stationary, and a pen in your mailbox.  If someone requests a written response from you, you will be able to reply immediately without having to return to your classroom to get pen and paper. As soon as you get to your classroom, record important events and dates on your calendar and then file the memo in the designated correspondence folder (see "Setting Up Your Files").   Any forms, evaluations, correspondence, or paperwork that need to go to the office should be placed in the "Return to Office" folder.  On your next trip to the office take along the Office folder and disperse correspondence accordingly.

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Managing Dates and Events
A teacher must keep track of events occurring at the school, parent conferences, birthdays, staff meetings, etc.  In order to keep track of these events, you need to invest in a calendar.  There are two primary calendars available that work well with teachers: the desk calendar and the portfolio calendar/appointment book.  

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Managing a To Do List
As a busy teacher you will need to keep a running To Do List.  The purpose of a To Do List is to manage all of the tasks that you need to carry out by consolidating them on one prioritized list.  To create a To Do List, write down all of the jobs that you have to do then assign each job a priority with "A" or "1" being the most important.  Refer to your list often.  You will find yourself tackling jobs and crossing them off of your list.  

I use two different To Do Lists.  At the beginning of the week I use a weekly To Do List that coincides with my lesson plans.  I review the materials that I need and then log them into the Weekly To Do List so that each day I know exactly which materials I will need to pull.  This way I am not left scrambling at the last minute and the precious time I have isn't wasted.  My Personal To Do List is a big time saver.  I use it to log events and tasks that I need to do.  I cross them off my list once they have been addressed.  

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Organizing Weekly Materials
Each week you will need to organize the materials, worksheets, books, and manipulatives that you will use throughout the course of your weekly lessons.  Create a daily folder for each day of the week.  Select five brightly colored folders and label them with each day of the week.  Laminate for durability.  If you want to jazz up your folders you can invest in scrapbook paper.  These folders are a great place to store your lesson plans, worksheets, tests, notes, and other materials needed for each day's lessons. In addition, Lakeshore has a wonderful all purpose teacher organizer.  This organizer is wide enough to store your day-of-the-week folder, literature, manipulatives, and much more.  It retails for only 34.95.  Click on the picture below to link you to the Lakeshore website for more information.

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Organizing Classroom Materials

If you are blessed with a closet or cabinets in your classroom, then you have the space to store a good deal of materials out of site from visitors.  Invest in clear shoe boxes.  These can be found at your local Wal-Mart for around $1.00.  Designate one cabinet for your teacher supplies (sticky notes, pencils, pens, permanent markers, erasers, etc.).  Combine like items and place them securely in a clear shoes box.  Adhere a shipping label to the shoe box and label the items for easy access.  By using the shoe box storage system your materials are quickly in reach and you don't have to worry about things falling out of your cabinet or not being able to locate what you're looking for.

Invest in baskets, tubs, and small storage boxes.  Organize a small area of the classroom for often-used supplies for students.  Students will frequently loose pencils, run out of glue, or misplace scissors.  These items are also great to use in centers or when completing small projects.  Most of the storage items can be found at your local Dollar Store.
Many times there aren't enough storage options in the classroom to house all of the materials needed for instruction.  Portable file cabinets can be purchased from retail stores such as K-Mart or Wal-Mart as well as office supply stores.  If you need to purchase an item of this nature, keep a watch in your local circular ads.  You will be sure to find what you are looking for as long as you are patient.  Once you have acquired your storage unit, label the drawers so that you and your students can easily find the materials you need.  File systems like the one seen here are a nice way to store student portfolios and writing journals.  Students have access to their materials but they are neatly stored out of the way until needed again.  

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Organizing Unit Files

As a teacher you will use various units throughout the school year.  Organizing your materials is a big time saver.  Invest in Rubber-Maid storage boxes.  Place all the items you will need for your unit in the storage box and then label accordingly.  To label the box you can print the title using your computer and then adhere the title to the outside of the storage box using clear laminate.  Example items you may include in the storage box may include but are not limited to books, sample art projects, science materials, manipulatives, student work samples, games, center materials, poems, etc.

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Organizing Student Supplies

At the beginning of the school year students bring in extra supplies ranging from glue sticks to filler paper.  Unfortunately students do not have a lot of extra space in their desk to store these items.  This leaves us as teachers with the dilemma of how to store student materials. Corrugated boxes are a wonderful storage solution and you can get them from FREE.  That's right, Free!  At the beginning of school check out your local Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and office supply stores.  Ask them if you can have their empty boxes.  The boxes shown here came from Wal-Mart.  The boxes used to sell notebooks and portfolios folders work best.  Once you have secured your boxes simply label each box with a student number and you have a very creative and inexpensive storage system.

Corrugated Storage
Boxes can be found
at your local retail stores.

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Organizing Student Work

Students will inevitably need to make corrections to the work they complete.  Students often times do not fully understand the directions or simply didn't understand the content.  Develop an individual work folder for each student using either a two-pocket folder or a manila folder.  When using a two-pocket folder, label the left pocket "To Do" and the right pocket "Completed Work".  Once students have corrected all the work contained in their Work Folder, they should place their work in a basket marked "Work to Grade".  By having a designated basket you will eliminate the student's need to track you down and personally hand in their work.  You are not only saving yourself time but the student as well. 

Order Chicken Rings at Crystal Springs Books.

Wire baskets work well.
Use chicken rings to label the
basket for clear identification. 


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Organizing Homework and Classwork

Organizing homework and classwork can really eat into a teacher's schedule.  Using storage units to organizing student work is one way to organize paperwork effectively.  Invest in 3-drawer storage units and label each drawer with each subject area.  The storage units seen here were purchased from Wal-Mart for around $4 each.  There is a drawer for Spelling, Reading, Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies. At the beginning of the year teach your students to place their homework in the designated drawer.  During class time, students can turn in their completed assignments to the designated drawer which saves you time in having to take up papers.  You can even have a student pull the work and organize the papers by student number. 
Another way to organize student work is to invest in deep baskets.  The basket seen here was purchased from a local Dollar Store.  When students have been assigned homework from a workbook they can easily place their work in the designated basket.  This save you time in having to manually pick up each workbook from the student or calling them to your desk.  Once the work has been checked, simply place the workbook in the student's mailbox.  

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Organizing Work to Grade
Managing work to grade can become overwhelming.  Invest in an accordion file or a pocket folder portfolio.  I personally like the pocket folder portfolio because each pocket can then be labeled with a particular subject area.  Keep an Easy-Grader and Pen in the front cover.  As work is taken up, sort the papers by student number, paperclip them, and then place them in the identified pocket by subject area.  Student work stays neat and protected.  Using an accordion file or pocket portfolio also keeps your desk clear and your briefcase uncluttered.  You know exactly where the work is and you won't spend your valuable time at the end of the day looking for papers to take home.

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Organizing Graded Papers
At the beginning of the school year, set up a mailbox for each student.  Using a small label, identify each mailbox with a student number (1-24).  Once your class roster has been determined,  alphabetize students by last name and then assign each student a number.  Students should record their student number at the top of every paper.  When returning papers to students place their work in their mailbox.  Do not wait until the end of the week to return graded papers to students or the task may become overwhelming.  Return graded papers on a daily basis.  

If you are concerned about sending home papers with low marks, then you will want to adapt this system slightly.  If you're like me and you want to bring attention to work that needs to be reviewed by both the student and parent, then hold these papers in a separate place.  I only send home papers with a letter grade of 80-100.  All other papers are filed for parent signature.  To store these papers use a numeric accordion file.  These can be purchased at your local office supply store.  File graded papers by student number.  You will need to decide on a day of the week that graded papers for parental review will go home.  Monday is a good day because it gives you the weekend to finalize your notes.  Always send home papers on the designated day.  Do not deviate.   You will also want to include a cover sheet that categorizes the papers and designates a signature line.  Allow parents a minimum of two-days to review these papers with students.  Once the graded papers with signature have been returned, file them in the student's file.  You may need them again should you have a parent-teacher or parent-teacher-student conference.

   Graded Papers Cover Sheet

The mailboxes shown here
were purchased from Sam's
for around $12 each.

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Organizing Student Materials

One great way to help students get organized is to use chair pockets or seat sacks. If you sew then making your own may be an easy task. For the domestically challenged, like myself, I have found that seat sacks from are terrific. They are reasonably priced and very durable. They come in a variety of colors and sizes. You're sure to love them.



Organizing Your Classroom Library

Corrugated boxes are a wonderful storage solution for storing books by theme or author and you can get them from FREE.  That's right, Free!  At the beginning of school check out your local Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and office supply stores.  Ask them if you can have their empty boxes.  The boxes shown here came from Wal-Mart.  The boxes used to sell notebooks work best.  Once you have secured your boxes simply label each box with the theme or author.  Labels can be made quite easily from your computer.  Simply print out the title you want and then use clear laminate to adhere it to the front of the box.  You have a very creative and inexpensive storage system for your classroom library.

In addition, you can visit your local Michael's or A.C. Moore Craft Store to purchase inexpensive baskets to hold books.  I like to pull books for a particular theme.  For example, in February I like to pull all of my books for Black History Month and place them in a basket for easy access.  

You can also use crates to store books.  Crates are very inexpensive.  Eledon now makes crates that connect for durability.  They are a little more expensive but may be worth the investment if you don't have a lot of bookshelves available in your classroom.  To purchase crates by Eledon check out your local office supply store.

Corrugated Storage
Boxes can be found
at your local retail stores.

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