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January 8, 2015

7 Steps for Organizing Your Classroom

Start the year off right by taking time now to organize and optimize your classroom. Organizing physical space isn’t just about sorting and labeling. It’s also about time management and peace of mind.

Here are seven steps for conquering clutter and creating a welcoming and orderly classroom.

1. Take time to reflect

Reflect on last year in your journal or on some scratch paper. Which systems of organization worked? Which didn’t? What materials did you frequently use, and what was left gathering dust? Were students able to move freely without distracting others to get a hall pass, turn in homework, or grab materials?

2. Get everything out in the open

Now, it’s time to make a mess. That’s right; to get your classroom ready for the school year, you first have to go through total disorder. Remove everything in your desk, closets, bookshelves, and bins. Place every item out in the open. It’s important that all your items are visible so that nothing is hidden, or you might be tempted to skip over a section.

3. Make decisions, item by item

Next, examine each piece individually. Ask yourself: Did this item contribute to my instruction and bring value to my classroom last year? If the answer is no, place it in one of three piles: toss, recycle, or donate.

This approach is very similar to the “KonMari Method” described in The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up , in which readers are instructed to hold each item and remove anything that is not essential or doesn’t bring joy.

4. Get rid of it

Now it’s time to enjoy the cathartic task of clearing out all those items you sorted. Not sure where to go with your recyclables? Use Earth911 to search for a local recycling center.

This is also a time when you can help others by donating new and gently used classroom items. There are many options for school supply donations:

  • Develop Africa provides books and school supplies to schools in need in Africa
  • Kids in Need Foundation accepts donations to support underprivileged students
  • Freecycle connects you with people in your area who need specific supplies

5. Sort and organize

At this stage, your classroom will look pretty messy. Accept the temporary chaos; it’s necessary for a fresh start. Use these two guiding principles when organizing:

  • Similar materials should live together (think pencils, pens, and erasers in one place)
  • Organization of materials must support your classroom systems, procedures, and instruction.

6. Consider your special populations

Students with special needs may require additional organization and design considerations.

  • Students with physical disabilities require clear pathways in, out, and around the classroom.
  • ELLs will gain confidence if they can independently access their supplies, manipulatives, and books.
  • Students with ADD or ADHD will maintain greater focus by facing away from windows and doors towards a front wall free of distractions.

For inspiration check out this tour of a structured one-on-one work area created for a student with autism.

7. Add personal touches

So much of your year is spent in your classroom. Make this time enjoyable with touches that reflect your personality and create a welcoming environment. Sites like Pinterest offer endless inspiration, and this Book Nook idea is a great place to start.

Following these steps gets your classroom ready to welcome students and prepares you to embrace the coming school year feeling organized and rejuvenated.


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