Organization in the New Year

I'm joining Hope's Linky Party from 2nd Grade Shenanigans on organization! Here are a few ways I already organize my classroom and ways that I keep myself, my aides, and most importantly, my students, organized!

Reading Group Organization:

I have three reading groups and each group has a bin with all of their materials in it. Underneath, I have supplies for centers, a bin for Orton-Gillingham and a bin with my writing materials for the week. The nice thing about having all of this laid out, is my students know where to find everything and will often set up centers for me!

Daily Housekeeping Organization:
Many of my students have organizational IEP goals so it is really important for me to stay organized, so they can stay organized. I have our daily routine and schedule listed (middle, blue), the homework for my whole team and our Common Core Standards for the day. I started my What's the Plan for Today? when I taught kindergarten and I have learned how much the students like seeing what is on the agenda for the day. I also have a PowerPoint up at all times that lists the directions and the order in which the students should be working. I have it on my television so I never have to erase it or worry that it will be in the way when I begin teaching that day. For example:
1. Fill in your agenda.
2. Turn in your spelling homework.
3. Work on your Math Wizard packet page 12-13.
4. Early finishers- use the Fluency Station.

Since I am not a homeroom teacher, my students come in and out all day long. After a few weeks with no mailboxes, I had small piles going on each child's desk. I also had piles on my desk of unfinished tests and quizzes, assignments that needed to be redone, etc. It wasn't working for me so I added the Unfinished Work bins and Student Mailboxes. Part of my students' routines every time they come in the room is to check both bins. It's also a great organization system for my aides because at any time, they can go into the Unfinished Work bin, pull out a test or quiz and give it to a student (all of my students have tests read to them). 

Unit Organization:
Being a consultant teacher, it's not uncommon for me to jump from the properties of multiplication to the different layers of the earth. I support my students in all of their subject areas so I like to provide visuals for them. I have a part of my classroom where I have the "Big Ideas" listed for the week that relate to the different vocabulary and units. I like to think of it as a reference area for the kids when they are working. They often refer to it to see how to correctly spell a content word or to find a definition or concept. 

The Busy Bins:
Ahhhh The Busy Bins. One of my favorite organization tricks. If you haven't noticed, I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to classroom management. I really don't like it when my students say "What can I do now?" or "Where can I get a _______" or "I need another ________ ". At the beginning of the year, the disruption of students taking out materials was driving me a little bonkers. 5th graders don't have supply boxes and they also don't have a desk full of materials in my room, so any time they needed to take out a highlighter, a correcting pen, a pair of scissors or a dry-erase marker, it became a big ordeal and we lost valuable instructional time. I also can't stand when they have those materials out and they can't stop playing with them! My solution? BUSY BINS! I store these blue and pink utility tubs at the front of my classroom and one person from each group is responsible for grabbing one at the beginning of class. They are great when I am teaching direct note-taking, study guides, review classes, vocabulary instruction, reading comprehension and more.

Each Busy Bin has:
  • 3 correcting pens
  • 3 dry-erase markers
  • 3 mini dry-erase boards
  • 3 highlighters 
  • 3 Post-Its
  • 3 glue sticks
  • 3 scissors
  • 1 dry-erase eraser 
When I know I am about to begin an afternoon where these materials will be used, one student grabs a bin and brings it to their table. The students know they are not allowed to take anything out of it until they are told to do so. Before they put them away, the person who took it out has to do "Bin Inventory" and check that everything is put away. These have truly been a lifesaver to me in terms of smooth transitions. 

Also pictured above are my pink and purple baskets that keep our paperwork and folders organized. We have a basket for our spelling folders, Friday folders, morning work, weekly summaries, homework bags and extra looseleaf. The students treat this as a command center where they turn everything in. This is another great tool for my aides because they can easily go through and check who has turned in homework and who has not. I also have Miss Eager's Mailbox (not pictured). My mailbox is where any miscellaneous papers and notes go. It keeps the piles off my desk until I am ready to go through them!

Fluency Station:
I am going to do an entire post on my Fluency Station, but here is a photo of how I organized it. These serve as a place for my students to work when they are finished early. I put this together as a central place for the students to find all of their options instead of wandering from one area of the room to the next to find something productive to work on. There are four levels. They have to complete one activity from each level to go on to the next level ( the levels progress they become more "fun" and therefore keep the kids engaged). More on this in another post!

These are dry-erase labels so I can change what is in each bin periodically.

Fluency Boxes:
I am big on flashcards for my students because for so many of them, they need the repeated practice and they need to develop good study habits. For many of my students, the biggest struggle in test-taking is not the actual content of the test, but reading the words in a question. I came up with the Fluency Boxes as a way to organize the flashcards that we are working on at any given time. 5th graders are not great at keeping 3 x 5 cards in one place, so this is their place. In each child's box I have a variety of words that are specific for that child. Here are some examples of what are in some:

  • Vocabulary words for Math, Science and Social Studies
  • High frequency words for reading groups
  • Test prep key words (e.g. according, passage, summarize, describe, explain)
  • Math facts (multiplication and division)

Each night, the students bring them home and have to practice all of their cards for 15 minutes with a parent, sibling, grandparent, babysitter. They are responsible for bringing them to and from school.

Teacher Organization:
Despite the number of bins and baskets with labels that I have, I still end up with stuff on my desk every day. This is my attempt to keep some of it together according to its department.

My Better Half Erin Condren Planner:
Last but not least, my very favorite organizational tool. It was TOTALLY worth the $60. If you have one, you know what I'm talking about. If you don't, take a look!

Birthdays and anniversaries

Month view

Week view

Home to stickers, cards, stamps, etc.

Home to coupons!

Now here comes my Organization Resolution. I feel like I have a pretty good handle on organizing my school life for now. However.....I'm moving in 4 months so I've chosen a personal goal. I've been living in my house for 4 years. You can only imagine the amount of stuff I have to go through, get rid of, clean out and organize. My first resolution is to make moving not be the worst thing ever, but a smooth and exciting change! Each month I want to tackle a different part of my house- clothes, basement, kitchen, office. If I can do a little at a time, I won't be pulling my hair out in April!

When the time comes that I do move, my second resolution is to organize and put together a really great home office. I spend 75% of my time at home on my computer (sad? I don't know) and I want a peaceful, organized space to do my blogging, crafting and working.

My third resolution is to organize my iPhoto library. After I graduated from college I went through and backed up all of my photos on CDs. Now, 4 years later, I have a computer full of photos again and they are not close to being organized. I need to digitally organize my life. I digitally organized my teaching documents a few months ago and it took me DAYS but it feels so good to have it all done.

Whew! That was a long post. But that's because it's one of my most favorite topics!


  1. Hi Sarah,
    My advice, get a dedicated P-touch labeler if you don't have one and start organizing your stuff into labeled storage bins for your move. This is one of the cornerstones of the Getting Things Done methodology of David Allen.

    Nice work and good luck!
    Uncle Richard

  2. Wow, this is amazing. So organized at school and you gave me loads of ideas. Good luck with your move.

  3. I agree about the Erin Condren planner!! It is totally worth the investment. It's time for me to get a new one. :)
    Learning Is Something to Treasure

  4. Wow!! I am amazed at your organization. I really need to work on mine! My room is always a mess. Thanks for the ideas!

    My Journey to 5th Grade


  5. Love all the labels and organization you have in the classroom.
    Come over to my blog and link up to "Forget-me-not" 2012. :)
    -Lovely Nina

  6. I am so obsessed with planners... I have 3 (YIKES!) but I have been dying to get the Erin Condren planner. I just can't break down and pay $60. Maybe, just maybe this year. :) Love your blog! :)


  7. I love all of your classroom labels!! Especially for your centers and reading group bins. Your reading group bins/stand is exactly what I have been looking around I just need to break down and get one.

    Kindergarten Kel


Back to Top