Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Teacher Week '13 - Organizing for Instruction

It's Day 3 of the Teacher Week Blog Hop, and the focus is on organization!
Don't we all dream of a fully organized space?  But perfection is not what we strive for with the little ones (or the big ones either), so we set up our classrooms to look like they belong in school supply catalogues and then the children come and settle wonderfully in and it all becomes less sterile, less organized, more realistic, and more loved.
So rather than perfection, what any real teacher strives for is functionality!  I'm excited for today's hop, sure that I will get some real "why didn't I think of that!?!" ideas.  Here are a few things that work well for me in my classroom:
These are my student mailboxes (the white organizer on the shelf).
Why am I showing you this?  Stick with me...
I have 24 mailbox slots. Since I typically have up to 21 or 22 students, I generally have a few mailbox slots free.  I always make a few extra copies of any send-home form that I may need to resend (like field trip forms) in there so I am not scrambling to find them if I need to send a second copy home.  The bottom slot always houses extra reading logs that are part of the children's nightly homework. If you lose a reading log, grab a new one, they are right there in the mailboxes. 
If you look at the larger pic again, you can see these milk crates next to my mailboxes. They are excellent for storing smaller construction paper in hanging folders! 
Next up, a few things by my classroom door:
My door frame is metal, so I put a laminated bus cutout with each bus number on the door frame (the ones at the top are for parent pickups and after care) and list the children who take that bus with an Expo marker. This way, subs know exactly who goes where at bus time without any fumbling.
As soon as you walk in my door there are large wicker baskets for Take-home folders, finished work, and notes for me. They are different sizes so the kids learn which is which right away.
 Also right next to the door, a removable hook with name tags for my students, each with his/her lunch number on the back. We wear these the first few days of school and take them to the cafeteria to help us remember our lunch numbers (we have a lunch account system so the kids just punch their number into a little machine that looks like a calculator.  Parents can send in checks or pay online to replenish lunch accounts). These name tags also come in handy for substitutes or anyone who comes in to work with our class.
My school was not built with ideal closet space for the kids' coats and backpacks by any stretch of the imagination, so we have to get creative. (Plus the space under the hooks is shelving space! NOT ideal to have stuff stored under hanging coats and backpacks!). Now I have the kids hang their coats and put their backpacks into the large bins on the floor.  It has neatened the mess considerably.
Next to my classroom library on this metal cabinet (not pretty, I know... one of these days I will do something better to it lol) I hang magnetized pics of the kids in pairs so they can always look to see who their reading and writing buddies are for our workshops.  This is especially helpful in the beginning of the year when they don't know each others' names or forget who their buddies are, for new students, and for times when I change partnerships.
 This one is silly but saves my sanity. :)  Always keep a basket with a dull pencil can and a sharp pencil can inside so the kids can trade a dull in for a sharp without interrupting everything with the loud pencil sharpener 800 times/day. Often I will sharpen pencils, but it is also part of the Nest Keeper's job (my theme is Wise Owls, so each table has a Nest Keeper, which is essentially a materials person).

Thanks for checking in!  I can't wait to get ideas from all of you!  If you would like to link up and share your organizational ideas, click on the button at the top of the post. :)
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  1. I love your "Nest Keeper" job--that's too smart. I bet your kiddos adore it!

    I also store my construction paper like that. When I first started doing that, I was worried about it getting dusty--but we totally use the construction paper fast enough that it doesn't happen!

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. I love the idea of the ID badge lanyard for lunch numbers. I write them out every year every time someone forgets their number...that would save so much time! Thank you for sharing!

    1, 2, Eyes On You!

  3. Thanks for sharing your ideas. I really like that you have the partners displayed ahead of time.

    The Very Busy Classroom


Speak to me! :)