Keeping a classroom organized is the key to my sanity. I love having the room look aesthetically pleasing, as well as functional. My students also thrive when they know where things are, and everything has a place. I love watching my students grab stuff from the shelves, put their papers in a designated area, and have their folders in one space. It warms my heart.
Here are a few ways I keep my classroom organized, and running efficiently.
1. Remove excess clutter.
It's easy to be a "hoarder," as a teacher. People usually give us stuff, we see goodies we don't actually need, or we hate to throw things away that could potentially be used for a lesson/craft. My motto is if I don't use it, I should probably get rid of it. I cleaned my room a lot before the school year started. I had a hard time purging, but I am so glad I did. I put a lot of items in the teacher supply room that I wasn't using.
2. Have a home for everything.
It's easy for little things like highlighters to get lost in the shuffle, but giving them a designated area keeps them safe. All of my classroom supplies have a home. Investing in some storage containers will make keeping all the goodies be more likely to remain in one place.
I'll take more about specific "home" systems I use below.
3. Use labels for items the students will use.
Yes, students can look in a container and see what's in it. But a simple printed label can help them quickly figure out where something is, and where it belongs. Plus, labels help it look more organized.
4. Keep the top of your desk as clear as possible.
I know some people can function with piles and various "systems," however, I can't. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen the pile system fail people. They struggle to know where something is on their desk because they can't find the pile it's in. By keeping your desk clean, you'll have items stored someplace that you know where they are.
Also, it is helpful to keep the inside of the desk clean too. It's easy to let it get cluttered and unorganized. But I promise you'll have more mental clarity if you have it tidy.
5. Have a home for completed assignments.
Paper is one of the most difficult things to keep organized. I try to be digital as much as possible, but I do use paper a lot. I have found it is easy for papers to get lost in the shuffle of things. So having a home for each type of paper makes it less likely for them to get lost.
I have bins for all completed assignments, for each period. Students know where their completed assignments go. Often, students try to hand me papers at my desk, or when I'm floating around the room. I always direct them to the bin, eventually, they do it without being told. I am less likely to lose their work if it has a home.
6. Have a home for graded work.
I have a file folder for each period, in a plastic crate, with all of their graded work. I will have my teacher assistant pass back their work, or sometimes I'll do it myself. With our students being absent so often, it is vital to have a place for all their graded assignments.
7. Have a home for missing work.
I have two crates (one for English 1 and one for English 3) with a file folder for each student. These file folders are a game-changer. Each day, I have my teacher assistant put their missing papers in the bin. Missing/makeup work is something our students really struggle with. This organization hack is going to send me an immense amount of time/energy.
8. Create a layout for seating that is practical.
The overall layout of a room can help it feel organized. I have all of my students facing the front board, where I teach from. You know what works best for you, but having the desk organized will make your room run better.
9. Hide any clutter or items you don't use often.
I have messy areas, but those are tucked away. I have a closet that isn't super organized, and two "garage doors" that hide a bunch of stuff. I don't use any of it very often, so it is tucked away hiding. There's no need to have your mess showing if you can easily hide it.
10. Keep the wall decorations simple and unified.
Clutter on the walls can make a room seem overwhelming. There's actually been research done on the way cluttered wall space hinders learning. Studies show that you should leave approximately 20-50% of your wall space clear. Here's a great article that highlights a lot of my philosophy on classroom decor.
At the end of the day, you have the freedom to use whatever organization you thrive in. I would also encourage you to consider what organization your students will benefit from. If you don't know what works for them, ask them! I ask my students for feedback regularly. I want them to share what helps them and what does not.
I hope you find systems you need to make your classroom more organized. Also, don't think any messes will all magically go away in one day. Messy/disorganized spaces did not happen overnight, so you shouldn't expect it to disappear overnight either. Give yourself a lot of grace, and tackle one area at a time! I believe in you, and I know you'll feel great satisfaction from organizing your space.