From a Wanna Be Organizer

Okay, I admit it. . . I'm a wanna-be organizer. I'm envious of those classrooms (and homes!) that never have piles. (I'm mystified: where is their STUFF?!)  I have every good intention of being tidy and organized. I even read Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up for my book club...
My days start off like this:

But somehow by the end of the day, I can barely see my table! I'm embarrassed to have even shared this picture but unfortunately it's a daily occurrence. . . (and that's not even the worst of it!)
A couple of years ago, I got rid of my traditional teacher desk. It was just another piece of furniture in my room that took up space (and became a place for piles).  A round table took its place, perfect for small groups and student conferences. However, where to keep all the office supplies? In came this teacher toolbox; the cute labels are from La Senorita Creativa. Now all my supplies are easy to find!
I do love labeling things! (Even at home, which is why I'm bewildered when my family does not put things away in the right places; sorry. . . I digress) Because my student desks are turned toward the inside (so students do not have access to the insides to put all their junk, but they do make GREAT storage for unused or extra textbooks),  they needed containers to keep their composition books and folders. I bought the perfect size cardboard Ikea Flyt magazine file boxes. With typically 30-35 students, these file boxes do not take up too much space; I have them stored in various small bookcases (like the ones below) around the classroom so there is not a student stampede to get materials. The file boxes are labeled with student numbers. The middle shelf is purposely tilted to store clipboards; this way they slant downward so clipboards are not falling out and onto the floor.  The binders on the bottom shelf are student portfolios.

I used to have a tall bookcase with cubby holes as student mailboxes, but after many years it became a bit tattered and worn. One year I had 35 students and I hated the mad rush to the mailboxes. Now I have two file boxes with hanging folders, each in separate areas so again there is not a student stampede to get their homework or flyers to go home.
Colored pencils and crayon boxes are communal materials and each have their own labeled baskets. The kids are usually pretty good at putting the boxes away now. 
My favorite new organization hack this year is this wall stapler. My husband drilled a hole in the bottom of the stapler and mounted it onto a piece of wood, then drilled and bolted it directly into my wall. No more missing stapler or sliding off the shelf onto the floor.  Kids have easy access and they can lean into it (no more pounding or slamming down the stapler); their body weight easily pushes the stapler! (However, the scrap bit of wood was a little ugly so I painted it and added "stapler", you know; in case someone didn't know what it was! LOL)
 About 25 years ago, a wonderful dad in my class built two long shelves WITH WHEELS! At the time, I kept Rubbermaid washtubs with differentiated tasks on these shelves. Parents would volunteer, rolling the shelves outside my classroom to supervise kids working in their tubs. Although I don't use the tubs anymore, these shelves have traveled with me from school to school, housing all my math manipulatives and other supplies (all in labeled boxes, of course!)
A new teacher was throwing out her extra bookcases (?!) before school started so I was able to score two new ones! Finally I could add more of my library books that had been stored in boxes due to lack of space.
Last year I labeled my library bins mostly by guided reading levels. I gave this system a try but did not like that it felt elitist (for those "higher level" readers) and when we studied various genres, it was more difficult to find specific books. So this year I went back to labeling baskets by genre; individual books have a genre label in the upper right corner of the cover (to make it easier for students to return books) and the GRL (if known) is listed on the top. There are also a few baskets of favorite series: American Girl, Magic Treehouse, A to Z Mysteries, Hank Zipzer, as well as favorite authors: Andrew Clements, Judy Blume. There are separate sections for fiction and non-fiction, as well as magazine file boxes for magazines: Sports Illustrated for Kids, National Geographic for Kids.
Students decorated plain cotton bags to represent themselves as readers and I painted their student number on them.  Book bags hang on two different coat racks at opposite ends of the room (again, to avoid student stampede). Kids keep their reading notebook, reading folder, post-its, leveled book in specific genre, and a book of choice in their bags. During Reader's Workshop, they grab their book bag and pencil pouch before going to their reading spot.
There are various student groupings; most tables fit four students. There are round tables, regular desks (turned inside), as well as rectangular tables (old computer tables). Some of the desks are lowered and students use crate seats (GREAT for more storage of STUFF). Other seating options include wobble stools (high and low) and the one standing table is often a favorite spot. Students may also take a clipboard and work on the rug.
For more hilarious (yet helpful) organization tips, tune into We Teach So Hard episode 7: Organization Intervention!
Be sure to visit the blogs below for more great ideas!


  1. You're room looks beautiful. Teaching all day, it's difficult to keep everything in order. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank you for all of these great tips. Your classroom looks fabulous! Love that stapler!

    1. Thanks, Margo! I know. . . that stapler has made all the difference!! :)

  3. Amazing tips! Love your labels. And what a fantastic stapler! It ALL looks wonderful - from a Wannabe Organized Kindred Spirit