How to Organize Your Classroom Files

It might be 2019, but filing cabinets and files are not a thing of the past. If you have filing cabinets and master files of important documents and resources, this post will help you tackle this space in your classroom and make it work for you.

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Maintaining organized files makes things easier on you in the long run. When your paperwork is stored where it's supposed to be, you can find what you need quickly.

#1 - DECIDE HOW YOU WANT TO USE YOUR FILING CABINET(S)
Over the years, your paperwork files have likely been pared down, but they still demand some space within the filing cabinets. If you have more than one filing cabinet, you may not need to use both of them for actual paperwork. Maybe you can use one of them for storing items like read alouds.


If you only have one filing cabinet, decide how it can best meet your needs. What do you want to store in the drawers that you do have. How many drawers do you have? Do you need all of the drawers for paperwork? Or just a few? How can you best utilize the other drawers?

#2 - DETERMINE WHICH FILES (IF ANY) NEED TO BE WITHIN REACH
Take stock of what you keep in file folders. Are there any file folders that you know you need quick and easy access to throughout the day? If so, maybe these files won't be stored in a drawer. Maybe you'd prefer to keep them on your desk in a hanging file box.

A box like the one below is compact and won't take up a lot of space. I keep one near my desk to store math fact pages that I send home with my students as needed.



#3 - PURGE YOUR EXISTING FILES
Given that many of our resources are digital these days, there's a good chance that if you haven't gone through your files in the last few years, you have some things in there taking up unnecessary space. Go through your drawers one at a time and get rid of the files you no longer need. A good way to do this is in front of the television with your favorite beverage. Bring home a few files every day for a week or so until the job is done. Toss what you don't need and take the keepers back to school the next day.

Plan to purge your files annually so they don't get out of control.

#4- FILE FOLDERS OR HANGING FOLDERS-PICK YOUR FAVORITE
Organizing your paper files can play out in a number of ways, but first, decide how you want to store those files. Do you prefer legal or letter size? Are you a hanging file folder kind of person, or do you prefer a basic file folder? Below are some fun colorful options to meet your needs.

#5 - CREATE A SYSTEM 
Once you know what you want to file away, create a system that works for you. Just remember to keep it simple. A complicated system is an overwhelming system.

One way to keep it simple is to break things up into categories: Reading, Writing, Math, etc. From there, color code your files based on those categories. Use pink folders for your various Reading files, yellow folders for your math files, and so on. Group the color categories within the drawer so you can quickly and easily find what you're looking for.

Instead of using colored folders, you could opt to use colored labels.

Label the outside of your drawers, if that helps.

#6 - KEEP THINGS TIDY
File papers daily. Don't let things pile up. It only takes a few minutes to file a few pieces of paper. Remember: if it takes less than 2 minutes, just do it.

Honestly, things are likely to get lost or misplaced if you let them sit around for days and days before putting them back into their files. Spend a few minutes each day keeping on top of the filing, instead of wasting large chunks of time down the road.

#7 - BE SELECTIVE
You don't have to file everything. You don't need to keep everything. This takes up too much of your time, and ultimately, your space. Make note of important information from memos, then throw them away. No need to file papers like that.

Only keep what's most important to you. What's important? Well, ultimately, that's up to you. But, maybe it's important to you to keep hard copies of your observations and evaluations, parent handouts that you know you use at the beginning of each year, or materials that you use to supplement each unit of your reading program.

I hope you find this post helpful. Happy organizing!

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5 Quick & Easy Daily Tasks to Keep You and Your Classroom Organized

Organization is an ongoing process. You may have heard me say that before. Truly, there is always something to organize and stay on top of. One way to minimize the amount of time you spend organizing every week is to tackle a few small organizational tasks every day. These tasks might be small, but if you do them, it will make a big impact over time.


#1 - FILE YOUR PAPERS DAILY
File those miscellaneous papers daily. I'm guilty of not doing this from time to time, and every time I let those papers pile up, I regret it. It ends up taking what feels like forever to file everything. It's much easier to file a few pieces of paper each day than it is to file 40 pieces (that will likely be going into 15 different places) at the end of the week.

#2 - EMPTY OUT YOUR TEACHER MAILBOX
Daily. Just do it. Just like with filing, it's easier to go through a few papers at a time than it is to let it all pile to the top of the box and work your way through a mini mountain of papers-some of which might be time sensitive.

#3 - GET RID OF PAPERWORK YOU DON'T NEED
When you get papers and notices in your mailbox, go through them. Make note of what you need to, add important dates and times to your planner or calendar, but then ditch the paperwork if you no longer need it. You don't need a bunch of memos pinned to your bulletin board. It's clutter and when you put them all on display, they no longer stand out or serve their purpose.

#4 - CHECK YOUR EMAIL AND DELETE AND/OR FILE MESSAGES
Friends, check.your.email. Your work email shouldn't be like one of those personal email accounts that some people have where on any given day the inbox features 547 unread messages. I'm not knocking people with inboxes like that, I'm just saying make sure your work email isn't like that. It's part of your job to make sure that you read your email.

Check your email in the morning, and again after school. That way, you know you won't miss any important information that you might need for the following day. Decide how frequently you need to check your email, as well as the time of day that will work best for you and stick to it.

Also, just because you get an email doesn't mean you need to print it or keep it. Some emails are sent school wide but don't really pertain to you. Delete it! If it is a message you may need to refer to in the future, create a special folder. We often get emails with procedural information/reminders. I don't need to print these out as I won't refer to them on a daily basis, but I may refer to them in the next week. I move these messages to a special folder where I can quickly reference them as needed (and won't lose them).

#5 - UPDATE YOUR TO DO LIST
At the end of the day, take a few minutes to update your to do list for the following morning/day. When you get to work the next day, you won't spend any time guessing what you need to do. You'll already know. And, if you're like me, you'll think of a few more things to add to that list by the time you return to school the next day.

While this may sound like a lot to stay on top of every day, it really isn't. It's when you let these tasks pile up that it becomes hard to stay on top of. It's much easier to spend 15-20 minutes scattered throughout the day doing these things, than dedicating a large chunk of time to them at the end of the week. In the long run, doing these tasks each day will save you time, make you feel less frantic, and ultimately, help reduce your stress levels.

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12 Organization Tips for Teachers

Maybe you've heard me say this before, but an organized classroom is so important. When I say organized, I mean everything has a place and everything is in it's place. I mean that you have developed and created systems and spaces that work for you. I don't mean you work in a classroom void of materials, resources, or decor.

classroom organization tips
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Making sure your classroom is an organized space is crucial to making sure your sanity stays in tact. Not to mention, it will help your students be successful too. Just as many adults feed off the energy of a room, so do kids. If your room isn't organized, you'll feel frazzled and scramble to find what you need. Kids will pick up on this energy too. An organized room creates a calm space in which students can feel relaxed and ready to learn.

What follows is a list of my top organizing tips that I use in my classroom. Grab a coffee and let's get to scrolling.

#1 - MAKE LISTS
I say this often, but I'm crazy serious about the importance of doing this. Making a list creates accountability, helps you prioritize tasks, and allows you be more productive. It takes the guess work out of what needs to get done.

Make daily to do lists, weekly to do lists, and even look for opportunities to set long term goals. Revisit these lists often and keep them where you will see them and use them. If you have to dig them out, you won't stick to the lists.

Some colorful pens and a pretty notepad or notebook will do the trick. OK, they don't have to be pretty, but if you like pretty things, go for it. Here are a few pretty notepads that might help keep you inspired.


#2 - USE A PLANNER
Invest in a planner and use it to map out important due dates, meetings, training, and so forth. And, while you're at it, use that planner to schedule some intentional organization time. There are so many different kinds of planners out there. Find one with a layout that works for you. You may want to use a teacher planner to organize your lesson plans, and a personal planner to note important meetings and training. Decide what will work best for you, there isn't a one size fits all solution here.

#3 - EVERYTHING HAS A PLACE AND EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE
This saying is everything. Give everything a home and be diligent about putting items back where they belong. It's easier to find things in the future, and you won't have piles of stuff everywhere. And it also saves you time when you go to use that item again in the future. Remember, if it takes less than 2 minutes, just do it.

#4 -UNLOAD YOUR TEACHER BAG
Teachers are notorious for loading up their bag or backpack with work to take home. That bag goes back and forth day after day. And day after day more things make their way into said bag or backpack After a while, it's anyone's guess as to what's floating around in there. Put that bag front and center and take out any old papers, unnecessary papers, and/or other items that have been put in there and forgotten about. That bag isn't a permanent home for anything. It's a means of transporting items back and forth. Try to keep unnecessary items out of that bag. Don't load it up if you know you aren't going to do your work at home.

#5 - PUT YOUR READ ALOUDS AWAY
Many teachers display the books they've read to their class. Sometimes, the students are allowed to reread these books in their free time or during independent reading time. Sometimes, the books are placed on white board ledges and shelves so the students can be reminded of the book. Either way, once you notice your display areas are all filled up, put the books away and make room for a new set of books to feature. If you have too many books on display, the kids won't pay attention to them anymore.

#6 - TAKE DOWN OLD ANCHOR CHARTS
Anchor charts weren't meant to stay up in one place all year. Over time, they lose their effectiveness. Once a week, take stock of what you have on display and take down what is no longer needed. If you think you'll need to pull one back out for future reference, save it if need be, but it's probably going to be more effective to make a new one with your kids if you plan to revisit that topic.

If you're worried about forgetting about the layout of a really great chart you made with your class, take a picture of it first. Save all your anchor chart photos to a folder in Google photos or Google Docs so you can refer back to them as needed.

#7 - KEEP YOUR DAILY MATERIALS CLOSE BY
Designate a space in your classroom where you can store and easily get to the lesson materials you need every day. If you are hunting for the math materials in front of students, chaos might ensue. Be ready and keep these kinds of materials in one place.

#8 - GET RID OF STUFF
Seriously, you probably have some things you don't need to keep anymore. Excess leads to stress. Try to keep only what you need. You can read more about decluttering your classroom by clicking HERE. Just make sure that as you go through things you ask yourself the following:

  • Is this still relevant?
  • Do I still use it?
  • What value does it bring to me and/or my students?
  • If I went shopping today, would I buy this again?

A good place to start this process is by taking stock of any teacher resource books you might still own. Chances are, you've acquired lots of digital files and no longer need many of the books you used to rely on.

#9 - ORGANIZE YOUR PAPER FILES
Not everyone is 100% digital, myself included. There are some things that I need to save and reuse. To organize this space in your classroom:

  1. Go through your files and decide what you need to keep. If you do have a digital version of that item, do you really need to keep a hard copy too?
  2. Create categories and label your folders/hanging files. Be sure to decide ahead of time if you're a folder kind of person, or a hanging file kind of person. Color code your folders or files. You can use different colored folders, or you can color code the labels on the folders.
  3. Label the front of your drawers so you know what's in there.
If the idea of color coding your files speaks to you, like it does me, Amazon has you covered. They have lots of colored file folder options.

#10 - ORGANIZE YOUR DIGITAL FILES
This can be a daunting task, but once you figure out a system that works for you, it will be so worth it. Since this task is a big one, be sure to break it down into smaller tasks. Here's how I approach this organizational task:

  • Create folders for each subject (categorize your folders).
  • Within that subject break it down by genre or skill (Say you create a Reading folder, within that folder you might have subcategories like "Reading Passages," "Fables," "Citing Text Evidence," and so on.
  • Back up your files onto an external hard drive, Dropbox, or a jump drive in case your system crashes, you move schools, or you need to access your files from another location.
Once you organize your digital files, stay on top of it. When saving new documents, be sure to put them in their intended folders from the get go.

 #11 - LABEL EVERYTHING
If you have a storage cabinet filled with special bins and containers, label them. This way you can quickly and easily find what you need. You can scan your shelves quickly and find what you need. Otherwise, you'll be going through too many of those bins one by one, and that's a total time suck.

#12 - DON'T DEDICATE PRECIOUS CLASSROOM REAL ESTATE TO SEASONAL DECOR AND BULLETIN BOARD ACCESSORIES
Unless you have unlimited storage in your classroom, keep that seasonal stuff somewhere else. You aren't digging into your box of themed decor as often as you are pulling out math materials or art supplies. Store your seasonal items in a more out of reach location like a storage shelf in another location (if provided by your school) or in your garage (just pull out what you need when that season approaches). 


If you like to switch out your bulletin board border and background every month, more power to you. I keep the same background and border up all year. It saves me a ton of time. However, if I did change these things out, I would l store the items in an out of reach location like my separate storage shelf in our computer lab closet. If you're only using these items on a monthly basis, it isn't worth giving it a designated space in your classroom if you don't have the room to do so.

FINAL THOUGHTS 
These are my go-to organization tips, but remember, organization is a very personal thing. We all have our own style and way of doing things. Our needs and availability of space varies greatly. Find what works for you and stick to it.

Do you have a favorite organizational tip? Share it in the comments below. We'd love to hear from you!

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5 Truths About Organizing Your Classroom

Organization is kind of my thing. I enjoy it. But, organizing isn't easy. More specifically, organizing a classroom isn't easy. Before you get started, there are some things you should know so you don't get overwhelmed.


The number one benefit of having an organized classroom is reduced stress levels. The long term effects of stress are not fun: anxiety, high blood pressure, and more. An organized classroom means you spend less time looking for what you need, less time scrambling around, and more time checking tasks off your to do list. In other words, you become more productive and feel at ease.

If you're looking for some tips to help you get started with getting organized, click HERE to read more.

So now that you've been reminded about the importance of an organized classroom, let's take a look at some truths behind the organizational process.

#1-THERE IS A POINT TO ORGANIZING YOUR CLASSROOM
The point is to simplify and tidy your space. The space that is in many ways your home away from home. Taking the time to organize your classroom isn't meant to be busywork. It's meant to improve the quality of the time you spend in your classroom. A clean classroom means you can be more productive as you move through your space to prepare to teach every day. And, it creates a calm environment. Clutter and disarray can cause unnecessary stress and contribute to anxiety. Teachers don't need that kind of negativity in their lives.

#2-ORGANIZING YOUR CLASSROOM IS AN ONGOING PROCESS
Once you organize a space in your classroom (or the whole room), just know that you will revisit that space over time. Often. Organization isn't a one and done type of thing. There is always something new to organize, or old systems to tweak. When you finish organizing a space, it may seem perfect, but once you start using and interacting with that space, you might find it isn't as perfect as you thought it would be. Making changes along the way is simply a part of the process.

#3-ORGANIZING WON'T ALWAYS BE FUN
Some organizational tasks and jobs are downright daunting and annoying. The process won't always be fun, and it won't always be easy, but it's totally worth it. Organizing is always most daunting when you are tackling an area for the first time. This is why maintaining your organization (see #5) is so important.

#4-ORGANIZE YOUR MATERIALS BEFORE YOU BUY ALL THE STORAGE THINGS
Matching bins are a sight for sort eyes, no doubt. But do yourself a favor and wait to buy them until you know what you need. First, organize your stuff. Look, I like tubs just like the next teacher, but you may not need a one size fits all tub. Twelve of the same exact storage bin may not suit the materials you need to store in the space that you have. Your student clocks will take up more storage space than your task cards. They may not need to be stored in identical sized bins. You might need a variety of sized of bins to store your items in order to maximize your space.

#5-KEEP YOUR ORGANIZED CLASSROOM MAINTAINED
It's easy to organize an area, or several areas, only to find that they get sloppy over time. That's because as you use the space, it can get disorganized...if you ignore it. Be firm with yourself and make sure you keep your tidied spaces tidy. Remember, everything has a place, and everything in it's place. Repeat this mantra however many times you need to. It will save you tons of time in the long run. And, remember, if it takes less than two minutes to put something away, then do it.

FINAL THOUGHTS 
There is no one size fits all approach to organization. It truly boils down to what works for you. Maybe you prefer to keep all of your things in plain sight. Maybe you like to keep your things behind doors and in drawers. Whatever your style, know that it will take some work to find a system that works for you. But once you find that system, stick to it.

Do you have a truth about organizing? Share it in the comments. We'd love to hear what you have to say!

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Organization for Teachers: Tips to Help You Get Started

I've said it before, but teachers have a lot of stuff. It just goes with the territory. Teachers also do about 150 different things every day, all of which takes them to different areas of their classroom. So, keeping all that stuff organized is important for reducing stress levels and increasing your overall efficiency.


If you find organizing to be a daunting and overwhelming process, and you just don't know where to begin, this post is for you. Keep reading!

#1-MAKE A PLAN
Decide what you need to organize. A classroom is filled with nooks and crannies, cabinets and shelves, drawers and storage units. You can't do it all at once. Decide what you need to organize first. Once you've decided on a spot to tackle, set a goal. If the task is a small one, set a goal for that same day. If the task is more involved, give yourself a few days and break the job up into smaller, more attainable and realistic mini goals.

#2-START WITH THE MOST ANNOYING SPOT IN YOUR ROOM
If you want to follow step 1, but can't decide what to tackle first, then this tip is for you. Think about the part of your room that most negatively impacts you on a daily basis. This area likely fills you with feelings of burden and frustration, and just generally drives you bonkers anytime you have to access it. This is where you'll want to start. Come back to the other areas you want to tackle when you're finished with this one.

#3-STICK WITH ONE AREA AT A TIME
Trust me on this one. If you only halfway finish organizing an area of your classroom only to start another, you'll just end up with a bunch of half organized spaces. Ultimately, you'll feel just as overwhelmed and icky as you did before you started the process.

#4-GO SLOW TO GO FAR
As you break your organizational goals into mini goals, or shorter tasks, set time limits. Once you identify the space you want to work on, set aside 15 minutes a day to work on it until it is finished. It may take you a few days to completely organize the space you're focusing on, and that's OK. Lighten the mood as you organize by listening to your favorite podcast or some music while you work. It will make those 15 minutes fly by.

#5-HAVE THE RIGHT MINDSET
If you aren't in the right frame of mind when you tackle a job like organizing an area meant to improve your time spent in the classroom, you will regret it. Have a positive mindset and trust that you will get your task done, even if it isn't your favorite thing to do. Remind yourself that you are taking the time to clean up and organize your space so that you will benefit in the long run. In the end, you stand to benefit from your efforts, and it's worthwhile to invest in yourself.

#6-SCHEDULE YOUR ORGANIZING TIME
Add it to your "to do" list or planner. Set a reminder in your phone. However you choose to record this time commitment, be sure to carve out a few minutes each day to get the job done. If you schedule your organization time, you're more likely to stick to your plan. It would be helpful to decide what time of day this will work best for you. Before school? During your prep? Or after school? Decide and then do it.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Organizing can be overwhelming. It's also a never ending process (more on that to come). But when you are in a state of disorganization, stress levels spike. Our physical environment plays a big role in creating a calm atmosphere.

I believe that some of us react more strongly to our physical environment than others, and we all have different levels of tolerance when it comes to being organized, but your students also stand to benefit from an organized and tidy classroom. In the long run, you will never regret taking a bit of time to organize your classroom so that you are able to maximize your productivity and maintain lower stress levels.

Looking for more posts on organization? Click the link below and check back soon as more posts will be added.
5 Truths About Organizing Your Classroom

Do you have a tip to help  others get started on their organization journey? If so, leave it in the comments. We'd love to hear from you!

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Wood Slice Snowman Ornaments {Tutorial}

Every year I have my students make a holiday gift for their families. What they make seems to change every few years. I like to try new things, apparently. Hehe.

thumbprint snowman ornaments tutorial

This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of my links. For more information about my Disclosure Policy, please visit this link.

Last year, my students made some adorable snowman canvas ornaments. But this year, I switched it up, and simplified the project by using wood slices to make these fun thumbprint ornaments.

snowman ornaments tutorial

These were pretty easy to make. Keep reading!

What You'll Need
  • wood slices (with holes at the top)
  • blue acrylic paint
  • white acrylic paint
  • black paint markers (at least two)
  • orange paint markers (at least two)
  • q-tips

You can find the wood slices on Amazon.



You can find Mod Podge at your local craft store, but for ease, you can also find it on Amazon.


Here's What You Need to Do
Paint the wood slices blue. Depending upon the amount of time you have available to devote to this, you may want to paint the blue yourself. You will need to paint two coats.


Pull one or two students at a time to make the snowman. To create the snowman, paint your students' thumbs. They will make three thumbprints stacked on top of each other to create the three parts of the snowman. Be sure to apply fresh paint to their thumb before each thumbprint. Let dry.


Pull two students at a time to add details. Paint markers are easy to use and create bold lines and accents. Have students use the black paint marker to draw a hat, eyes, mouth, buttons, and arms. They will use the orange paint marker to draw a carrot nose.


*Pulling kids for these last two steps means you don't have to carve out time for the project at the expense of instruction. It also allows you to closely monitor and help students with the task (they get nervous about doing it wrong sometimes). If it seems overwhelming to pull them in small numbers, shake that feeling, it will go by much faster than you think. Chances are you have several opportunities each day to pull a few kids for 3 minutes at a time.

Use a q-tip dipped in white acrylic paint to create snowflakes. You can do this when you call students over to add their details, or you can call them over at a different time.

snowman ornament tutorial

Next, you'll want to seal the ornament with some Mod Podge. Use a foam brush to apply, it's much faster.

Finally, tie a piece of ribbon or jute through the hole. If you order the wood slices linked in this post, you'll also get the jute that is shown below.

snowman ornament tutorial

That's it!

Tips
Some of the wooden slices may crack when you paint them (see pic below). The paint dries out the wood causing any fairly significant pre-existing cracks to really open up. Have a few extra slices on hand in case this happens.

If you notice a teeny tiny crack in the slice (see below), no worries, when you seal the ornament with Mod Podge, it will be protected. In this case, simply put a coat or two of Mod Podge over the small crack, on the front and back. It's those big cracks (shown above) that you want to avoid.


Kids love to create things, and they always enjoy making something special for their families. I hope you can use this idea, or modify it to meet your needs this holiday season. :)

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Winter Tree Pop Art Tutorial

Quick and easy bulletin board ideas are my favorite. If you're a fan of quick and easy too, then this is the post for you.

winter bulletin board idea

I recently made these winter trees with my students to display in our hallway alongside some winter themed writing. It took us no more than 30 minutes to complete from start to finish!

I just love the contrast of the black and white with the blue backgrounds (other colors would be fun too).
winter bulletin board idea


What You'll Need:
  • tree template
  • Sharpies
  • colored card stock or construction paper
  • scissors
  • glue


How to Make Your Own Winter Trees (Pop Art Style)
Give each student a tree template and a piece of card stock or construction paper.

easy winter bulletin board tutorial

Display some pattern suggestions for decorating the different sections of the tree. You could project some pattern ideas, or you could draw them on the board for students to pick from as they decorate their tree.
easy bulletin board idea

Students will choose one pattern at a time and fill in each section of the tree, one at a time. No need to use pencils, just give each student a Sharpie and have them create their bold pattern that way. This also helps them slow down and pay more attention to what they are doing.

Be sure to remind your students to use a different pattern each time (no repeats within any of the sections of the tree). You might want to model this for your students, one section at a time to make sure they completely understand what to do.

Cut out the tree.

Glue the tree to card stock or construction paper. Trim the card stock or construction paper, if desired.


Hang them up for all to see!

pop art tutorial

That's it. So easy. You can grab the FREE tree template, and pattern suggestions by clicking here. Have fun!

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