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The Fundamental Four: Classroom Organization

IG_FundamentalFour-previewWelcome to the second post in the Fundamental Four series! Yari and I know that there is nothing better than an organized classroom where everything has its place. This is an achievable goal, but it’s important to start early… even before the year gets going! Set yourself up for a successful school year with these organizational tips!

Tip #1: Planning the Year Ahead 

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Every year I use this slideshow go over my rules, expectations, procedures, curriculum and much more! This helps me stay organized even before school starts, when I’m planning out every little detail of how I want my classroom to run. Once I’ve worked out all the details, I go through it with my students so we’re all on the same page. I rely on this slideshow to keep my head on straight during the crazy hectic first day/week of school! It’s extremely helpful that everything is already planned out and in one place.

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The editable slideshow includes pages for Open House, making it easy to stay ahead of the game and be ready for the parents! Using a slideshow cuts down on paper, makes it easy to tweak things year after year, and can be shared with parents/students to use as reference throughout the year. Best part about using a slideshow: I’m not reinventing the wheel year after year!

Tip #2: Guided Reading Materials

Guided reading is a big part of most ELA classrooms and with all the little leveled books we go through it can be hard to stay organized! That’s why I turn to the Iris Greeting Card and Craft Keeper box to hold all of my guided reading books. Each box comes with 6 dividers that can be used to keep book titles separate from each other or group books by level. They are the perfect size to fit the small group books and I especially love that they snap closed, keeping them safe from dust. I’ve had my boxes for 3 years and they’re holding up perfectly!

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I also use small Sterilite Pencil Boxes to organize tools my students use during reading group! I keep a line reader and reading strategies bookmark (both from Target Dollar Spot), pencil, highlighter, sticky notes and expo marker in the Guided Reading Toolkits.

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Tip #3: Projects and Paperwork

I used to have a hard time holding onto master copies and student samples, at some point they’d turn into clutter in a big pile of papers and get recycled. After a few years of having to reprint and recreate, I overcame the struggle and started keeping my master copies and samples in these Large Iris Desktop File boxes. I divide my projects up into two boxes, First Half Resources and Second Half Resources. The first box contains all of the projects that we do from August-December. The second box houses projects from January-June. This helps me remember, and prep for, all the things we do each month! Click here or click the image below to download a free set of File Box Doodle Labels!

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The third box holds all of my student information. Forms required by the school, conference notes and important documents for each child. It is so helpful to organize them this way so I know exactly where everything is when I may need it. It also makes end of the year filing a breeze! Click here for the Haunted House Writing resource and click here to check out the Holiday Lights Book Analysis shown above!

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This Student Information file holds one folder for every student. I put these Back to School Parent and Student Flip Books in them along with any other important information that needs to be tucked away safely. Keeping a folder for each student has been such a time saver when prepping for conferences, data meetings and all of the end of year documentation!

Tip #4: Student Materials and Book Bins

After polling my Instagram audience for advice, I’ve decided to transition from traditional desks to tables this year. One of the biggest warnings I received from teachers was that I needed to have a solid organizational system for all of the things that typically live inside of a desk. So, that’s exactly what I did! Students will store what would normally be inside of their desk in Ikea Kallax Shelves. They will each have one Small Iris Desktop File that will be home to their notebooks and folders. Students will place their textbooks, planner and pencil box in a neat stack next to the file box. I am also displaying a checklist of items that go in the file box directly on the side of each box so there is no question about what belongs and what does not!

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Students will pick up their file boxes first thing in the morning after putting their backpack and lunchbox away, and they will return it to the Kallax shelf at the end of the day before getting their backpack and lunchbox to pack up!

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I don’t know how I ever functioned without having student book bins my first two years of teaching. They are an absolute necessity for me now! I’ve had my set of black book bins from ReallyGoodStuff for 3 or 4 years and they’re still in great condition. Definitely worth the investment! Students grab their book bins in the morning, after unpacking and bringing their aforementioned (love that word) file boxes to their table. First thing in the morning is one of my favorite times for independent reading.

Contents of Student Book Bins:

  • 3-5 Books– I ask that two books are a different genre from the rest so I know they’re diversifying their reading.
  • These “Reading Pouches” from Oriental Trading— I put a Talking Back to Books Bookmark, pencil, highlighter, and sticky notes inside!

Tip #5: Classroom Library

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One of the most important things to keep organized is your classroom library! An organized library is inviting and encourages readers to read. It makes it easy for students to locate books they want and find other books in a series. I stopped using bins to organize my library a few years ago and now I use my library labels to stay organized!

The books are organized by genre and grouped together by similar series. My hope is that students will find one book they like on a shelf and know that all the books around it are similar and that they have a good chance of liking them if they liked that first book. It’s my subtle way of recommending books to students… and it works! The library labels are editable so you can use this strategy in your classroom too! I also include a student-friendly definition of each genre to make book shopping easier. You can read more about how I organize my library without the bins in this blog post- Ditching the Bins.

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I hope you found some helpful ideas to keep your classroom organized! Stay tuned next week for the third post in the Fundamental Four series where we’re talking all about Classroom Community! The post will go live on Monday, July 29th! Now head over to Yari’s blog, SweetToothTeaching.com to read all about her favorite Classroom Organization strategies!

P.S: This week we’re giving away a Michael’s 10 Drawer Organizational Cart + Lakeshore’s Neon Connect & Store Book Bins + Back to School Flipbook and First Day Slideshow from my store + Drawer & Bin Labels from Yari’s store!

Check out our “Classroom Organization” post on INSTAGRAM for more details on how to enter! (U.S. Residents ONLY) 

Hey! 😃 Lakeshore Learning is having an awesome Back to School sale! Many of their organizational products are 20% off in stores and online, now through 9/1! Happy Back to School shopping! 

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Pin the image above to share this Fundamental Four post with other educators!

-Courtney💕

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