Monday, July 15, 2013

Time to Organize!

Throughout the country, school has ended and teachers have packed up their classrooms. In the past, I have dreaded returning in August because my classroom is usually an unorganized HOT MESS!!!  Around April each year, I make a plan to organize all my materials and then pack in a timely fashion. It never works out that way. Between assemblies, conferences, piles of paperwork, and endless changes to our schedules, I end up throwing things in boxes and bins in a random fashion. I am never done by the last day and always have to go back after school is over to finish packing.

This year, I vowed it was going to be different. And it was! I successfully organized and packed all my materials away with two days of school left. 

Would you like to know how I tackled my classroom materials? I began in May. I started in my math area. I sorted all my math materials into categories. I had 12 piles when I was done. Three of the piles were standards I no longer teach. I went through those piles first. I gave new teachers any of the materials I no longer needed. I held onto only the manipulatives or activities that I could use for enrichment students. For manipulatives of smaller amounts, I used the old math storage kits that came with the math textbook. It was a perfect match! For some of the larger amounts, I purchased shoe box size storage tubs. 
 

Then I purchased three 3-drawer cart organizers.  My plan was simple. Each standard would have one drawer.  I could only keep enough manipulatives for a class of twenty and they had to fit with activities in their assigned drawer. This was going to be a huge challenge for me. I tend to hold onto manipulatives, “just in case.” Well, I have been teaching ten years now, and I still had doubles, sometimes triple, of materials. I was determined this was going to be the year to get rid of the stuff!

Each afternoon, I sorted through one of the nine piles left. I kept activities the kids loved and the manipulatives for the standard. Anything that would not fit in the drawer went to other teachers. I did this every day until my piles were neatly in drawers. Then I made cute labels for my new math drawers. They are neat and organized. More importantly, I now know exactly what I have for each standard.

When I was finished with math, I moved onto the dreaded filing cabinet. Lucky for me, I have never been one to stuff it full. I only use two drawers for resources. The other drawers hold copies when they come from the print shop. I went through every file and purged everything I no longer need or use. If I had a digital copy, the file went in the recycle bin. I am happy to say, I no longer have any files other than required data for students, in the filing cabinet. Next year, it will be for housing print shop copies. It took me about three afternoons to go through every paper in the filing cabinet. Over the year, I created binders for lessons and activities that I use frequently. 
The next week, I moved onto my reading centers. Again, I followed the same system I used for math. I ended up with 27 piles this time. I bought two 10-drawer cart organizers. I also bought six 3.75-quart bins for larger standards.  I labeled each drawer and bin. It took me a little over a week to organize all my reading materials, minus the textbooks and teacher resources. (Those are all boxed up and ready to go to the book depository. We will be getting new reading textbooks next year.)  

Now, the scariest part for me…BOOKS! I have a classroom library with well over a thousand books. That does not include the three hundred read alouds I keep separate to teach with.  I bought another twelve 3.75-quart bins. I labeled each of the bins with the months of the year. Then I sorted through all my read alouds and placed them in the month I teach with them. Next, I added my monthly resources and center activities to the bins. This took me three days to do. My resources were already organized in a cabinet; they just had to be moved into the bins. 

I moved onto the classroom library. For this project, I had my students help me. I was prepared with guided reading, Accelerated Reading, and genre labels. Each student took a basket of books and inspected each book. If a book needed repaired or labeled, I did it right then. Each student cleaned their basket with a baby wipe and returned the books to the basket. This took us about four hours, over two days. My library is now current with labels and organized by genre.

I am thrilled my classroom is not only packed, but also organized! When I unpack, next week (UGJ!), it should be a breeze. No more dumping boxes, sorting, moving stuff, and then setting up. I will be able to walk in, move my furniture, and start unpacking. This year, I will be excited to get back as I know I will not be overwhelmed! 

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