The time it takes to think of classroom organization ideas can be daunting. I know in many schools I worked at I had a few days to get things packed up for the end of the year. No matter when a teacher gets to pack up their room, it can be an overwhelming and exhausting task. So I thought I’d write a post with some handy tips and tricks. Hopefully, these will help the process go more smoothly and you’ll be more efficient with your time. And get to summer as fast as possible!
Give, Donate, Sell Bin.
Grab three bins and label them with “Give”, “Donate” and “Sell”. As you find items you want to get rid of, place them in the appropriate bin. This will help to keep these items out of the way but still organized for later. Then if you or a friend has a yard sale in the summer, use it to make some money that you can choose to put back into your classroom. OR take the items to a local charity to use and get a tax write-off! And yes, I’m recommending that you purge a bit. I always wanted to add some new ideas the next year. Which meant a new station or set of materials that I was also going to be adding.
Classroom Organization Ideas: Pack Up Your Classroom in Zones
If you’re anything like me, you will start in one area of your class, and then get distracted and move to a different area. Then you’ll remember the original task and go back to that. Pretty soon, you will have piles everywhere. I know that I have a tendency to do this and it can get very overwhelming. So I’ve decided that I would pack up by zone. I find working from the hidden places to the visible places to be most effective. This has really been one of my most effective classroom organization ideas.
First I organize and clean out the storage areas, like closets or hidden shelving units. I call these the hidden places because once the closet doors are closed, you can’t see inside. I’m never afraid to just throw things on the ground because I’ll clean that stuff up later. When I’m satisfied with the organizing and cleaning that I’ve done in the hidden places, I’ll close those doors and I will not return to those areas unless I find something that needs to go there. Then I’ll move to the visible areas, like the class library, the Guided Reading area, my desk, and the student workstations.
Use Existing Furniture for Summer Storage
I liked to use anything that was permanently staying in my classroom over the summer for classroom organization ideas so that I didn’t have to bring them home. My classroom would get cleaned and we were asked to not have a lot of loose items hanging around. So, I used things like built-in cabinets, shelves, and even extra space in filing cabinets to store things. I didn’t normally store these things here during the school year, but for the summer it was helpful to have that extra space. I did of course label or take pictures of where everything was so I could remember where I put it.
Classroom Organization Ideas: Keep it Clean
I always have a package of Lysol wipes handy and I’ll wipe things down before I store them away. As we know kids touch everything in our classroom and it makes sense to give everything a fresh start. This just means that I don’t have to clean things as much in September.
If you are particularly fond of the way a bulletin board looks or the way an area of your class is set up, take a picture so you can remember for next year. This will help you when it comes time to set up your room again. Also, taking pictures of the inside of bins as you pack them so you know what’s inside can also be super helpful! I would typically keep these in a box that I always labeled “Open Me First!” for when I came back from summer break. This way I remembered I had the pictures and they were in a place that was easy to get to.
Ziplock Bags are your Friends.
I cannot tell you how much I appreciate a good bag for storing things. Mostly, I found that the sandwich and gallon-sized bags were the most useful. I would put bulletin board pieces together in zip-lock bags and label the bag. Then I would put small calendar pieces in a ziplock bag marked “Calendar Pieces”. I’d even put the class schedule magnets in a bag labeled “Class schedule”. Then put all of these ziplock bags into the same container. This will help you know where your small pieces are located. I do this with many of my smaller visual materials that I have hanging for supporting students in the classroom. Things like AAC boards, choice boards, visual schedules, etc.
Go Label Crazy
Another tried and true classroom organization ideas is to label everything. Not only does it help me with knowing where things go but my paraprofessionals and students can follow them too. I learned the hard way one year that even if I nicely put something in one part of my room that it may not be there when I came back to set things up. Don’t count on everything being in the exact same spot as you left it. When September rolls around, you will be thankful that you labeled things.
**One extra tip is to draw a map of how you want your classroom to look after it’s been cleaned. This means where you want the desks, tables, shelves, etc. to go. I always treated my maintenance staff like gold all year long just because I valued their help doing this so much in the summer. I am pretty sure that I brought in baked goods at least once a month thanking them for what they did to help my classroom.
Get Students to Help
A couple of weeks before the end of school, I like to make a list of things that students can help with. You will not need all of your supplies during the last days of school. Some things that I get students to help with are as follows:
- Organizing classroom toys to make sure all the toys are in the correct bins
- Making the puzzles to make sure all the pieces are in the right boxes
- Dusting the shelves
- Going through the classroom school supplies, like markers, glue, scissors, etc. Getting rid of the gross things and cleaning the ones that are good enough for next year
- Pulling labels off the walls, desks, and chairs. Then scrub off the sticky residue. For some reason, my students LOVE this task.
- Organizing classroom books into boxes for each level. Even if the students do not do this perfectly, that’s OK. When September comes, finding a few books in the wrong box isn’t that big of a deal
Classroom Organization Ideas: Photocopy Ahead of Time
Think about things that you might need during your first week of school, like Welcome letters or Notebook covers, data binder labels, desk numbers. Photocopy these things at the end of the school year. This will help to make September less stressful. I even have some friends who will photocopy their worksheets for the first few days of school. These are just a few great classroom organization ideas. They say that this helps to ease anxiety over the summer because they know that their first few days are planned.
First Day or Week Tub
This brings me to the final tip. Pack everything you need for the first day of school in a well-labeled Tupperware bin. If something happens and you are not able to set everything up before your first day, this tub will be a lifesaver. It will become the “grab and go” tub with everything you might need like photocopies, writing implements, whiteboard markers, hall passes, and welcome games.
Maybe you’re reading this list and thinking “In a dream world, this is a great plan.” I know many of us have to literally dump things into bins this year, but for those of you who have time to sort and pack, hopefully, this list will become a nice guide. For the rest of us, we can bookmark this list for next year.