Saturday, August 5, 2017

#SPEDCHATSATURDAY - Classroom Organization

 I'm excited to be apart of an awesome group of Special Educators hosting #SPEDCHATSATURDAY for the next few months. Today I'm sharing all about Classroom Organization.
If you've followed my blog or social media, you know how much I love organization. Like, A LOT. I have too much to do in my teaching day than to be wasting time by searching around for something I need. I need to be able to grab something quickly and move on with my students.  Due to the fact that I literally have not stepped foot into my classroom since after summer school ended, I'll be sharing all sorts of classroom organization with you from previous years.  Today we're only talking about organizing materials. Paperwork is a whole other topic for another day. =)
When your classroom (office or work space) is organized, you can pretty much find anything quickly and easily. The most difficult part of getting organized is the TIME it takes to get your materials organized in a way that works for you. You'll need a space to sort all of your materials in order to group them. Where are you going to store your materials? Do you prefer binders? File drawers? Bins? What space do you have available?
Be prepared. Getting organized means it has to get worse before it gets better.  For example, as you clean your supply cabinet, you need to pull EVERYTHING out of the cabinet. As you do that, group similar items that you know you can store together. Figure out an organization system that's right for you and your needs.
My classroom certainly did not get this way overnight. When I have the time (and energy) I tackle another area of my classroom. I am really good at PURGING. And you need to be too! Take a good, hard look at the items your organizing. Is it even worth it to store the item? Will you REALLY use it in the future? Us teachers are really good at hoarding. We think that we will use that one item some day. Well guess what, we are not going to use it. Toss it. You totally have my permission. 
Nothing looks more organized than matching bins that are COLORED.... not clear. If you can find them, buy something colored or with a pattern. It will hide the contents. But don't forget to label the outside so you can quickly find what you are looking for. These giant bins from IKEA hold my seasonal books, center materials, and some random odds and ends that just don't fit in the closet.
Inside those bins, I simply printed the months at the top of some cardstock to sort my centers. Same with my books. I printed a divider for each season, topic, etc. It's not pretty, but it does the trick. 
 If you have clear containers, just line the front with some scrapbook paper to hide the contents.   Label the outside and you're good to go.
How about books? Your classroom library. Everyone likes to sort them a little differently. I have my leveled by reading level on top for the fiction and sorted by topic for non-fiction on the second shelf. The bins are from Lakeshore and are perfect for classroom libraries... they have held up really well. Although sorting your classroom library is a huge job, the students are more likely to find something that interests them, rather than one bookshelf with everything thrown in. I also have all of my classroom library titles saved in an Excel file. This way I can quickly find a book for a read aloud or specific topic. 
Our Guided Reading books are sorted by level in the IKEA magazine boxes. The students do not touch these boxes, which is why they actually have held up pretty well. 
Last summer I took the time to organize all of my math manipulatives. That wasn't easy! I pulled everything out of the math cabinet and sorted it by topic. So all of my teaching ideas/materials for each topic are in the large bins (from Walmart) and actual manipulatives are in the smaller bins. Did it take time? Sure. But now I literally have everything I need right behind me when I teach math.
For math centers, I use these Dollar store baskets with number labels hot glued to the front of the baskets.
Our Fairview Learning Centers are set up on another bookshelf with baskets and each student has their own box to put their materials in. I make all of my labels with packing tape for "lamination" and then hot glue them onto the baskets. Super easy. 
I also am a big fan of curtains. It makes your room look neat and tidy when the clutter is hidden. I don't have a lot of file cabinets, so I use crates to store a lot of my materials. Just make a label for the front, and you know exactly where to find what you need. 
The only classroom project I actually worked on this summer was organizing my new Fine Motor Center materials. I started doing Fine Motor Centers in February and needed a place to store all of the materials (and not in my garage in random bags brought home from school). I used the freebie monthly tags from Teaching Special Thinkers, printed in a smaller size. Michael's had their Iris Scrapbooking storage boxes for only $3.99 this summer and I couldn't pass them up. Now my materials won't be spread out all over the place and I can quickly find what I need.
Clearly, that's the theme of this post. If you take the time to organize and label your materials, later on when you need something you'll be able to actually find it quickly. When someone walks into my room and asks to borrow something, I literally can tell them what cabinet, what shelf, what container. I know our time is precious and it seems like there are a lot of better things you could be doing with your time than sorting art supplies or math manipulatives. But in the long run, being organized makes you a much more efficient and effective teacher. What's the point of storing something if you can't find it when you need it?
 Hopefully something I have shared here with you today will inspire you to organize just one cabinet or just one drawer. Tackle one little project at a time and pretty soon your classroom will be well organized.
If you have an organizational tip or photos you'd like to share, please comment below. Or post them on social media with the hashtag #SpedChatSaturday. Feel free to use this template and join us in getting organized for the new year!
Check out the upcoming topics hosted by various Special Education teachers on #SpedChatSaturday. Thank you to Ashley at The Behavior Bunch for organizing these awesome topics!


  1. Hi Kelly! Oh my, you've organized everything! Oh my! I would love for you to come to my classroom, and do the makeover for me, I would love that!!! Thank you for all the tips. They're really helpful-- thanks!
    ~Lele (IG: mrsleleruiz)

    1. Thank Lele. Remember, baby steps! Tackle one section at a time! You can totally do it! Thanks for stopping by! =)