Blank walls and empty shelves can feel daunting at the start of the year, but it’s also a great opportunity to be intentional about the way you organise your classroom. Here are five tips to help you organise with purpose:
- Be brutal in determining what to keep and what to throw out. The famous last words of a teacher are “But I might need it one day!” Don’t hoard supplies you can’t think of any use for, or keep large items “just in case.” Clear out the clutter so you can more easily access your everyday items.
- Consider the function and placement of each item. You don’t have to use the exact same materials and displays from year to year, so resist the urge to set things up exactly as they were the year prior. A new year means a chance to try something different! Ask yourself: Will this item in this space support student learning? If something is irrelevant to your current unit of study or students’ needs, toss it out or pack it away. If you tend to over decorate or overfill your room with materials, consider taking down one thing each time you add a new item.
- Put materials that students will use in easily accessible locations, and store away the rest. The majority of the classroom should hold materials for the kids, so set apart a small area, perhaps in cabinets behind your desk, where you’ll store the items to be exclusively used by you. Consider the flow of the room and whether students will be able to get to their books, backpacks, etc. without creating “traffic jams” or interfering with other students’ learning. Be sure to place the items frequently used by kids in easily accessible low-traffic areas of the room, and store less frequently used materials in down low and up high places.
- Create a simple system for organising your papers. The key to staying organised is having a place for everything, so set up bins and containers for all the different types of papers you come across. Resist the urge to let things pile up in one generic stack: I like to have an inbox for papers I need to sort through and empty it each day before heading home. You might also want to have designated places for papers to grade (subdivided into subject area or class period), a “to do” file, a container with papers to take down to the school office, a slot for photocopies you need to make, etc. The time you dedicate to setting up such a system, will pay off throughout the year, every time, when you need to find a particular paper quickly.
- Leave decorative items for last. While it’s tempting to spend time creating colourful bulletin boards and cute decorations, these things aren’t essential for student learning. You’ll have limited time and energy during the back-to-school rush, so stay focused on organising materials for learning. Classroom decorations can be a work in progress, and you and your students can slowly add to wall displays throughout the year.
By Angela Watson
Angela Watson is the founder and owner of Due Season Press & Education Services. http://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/