A new school year means a new start for you, your students, and your classroom. HOW you arrange WHERE you teach is important. As teachers stream into schools to unroll posters from last year, make new locker signs, and set up classroom spaces, it’s an excellent time to consider something new. Just because you always had the word wall by the door doesn’t mean it has to go there again. Give your classroom—and yourself—a fresh new set up.
Big Goals Set Your Stage
First, articulate your big goals for the year. If you are teaching a new grade level this year, goal setting will be a natural part of your planning steps. If you are returning to the same grade you’ve taught, it can be tempting to dust off the classroom items you put away last year and tack them up in the same old places. Before you do, jot down your three biggest goals for this year. Perhaps you’re tackling new standards, have a new assistant teacher, or took professional development courses you’re that anxious to apply.
Create an Organizational Checklist
Once you’re clear on your major goals, set up your classroom to support your goals. If independent reading will be significant in your plan, a reading corner with fun pillows makes a classroom focal point. When your classroom space echoes your goals, you and your students will be more mentally and physically prepared for success. To set yourself up for success this year, create an organizational checklist where each item ties back to your goals. Ask yourself if you are setting up your classroom out of habit or effectiveness.
Create a checklist of what you need to organize so you and your classroom function at maximum efficiency. Define areas you need to set up: entrance, storage areas, your desk, learning centers, students’ desks and lockers, bulletin boards, word walls, etc. Create sub-bullets to break down tasks. Under “Organize My Desk,” list specifics (desktop, drawers, file cabinets, computer, and so on).
Create a Blueprint for Your Classroom
In addition to your checklist, make a quick blueprint of your classroom. Draw a box in proportion to your room. Make each inch equal one foot. Then, use simple boxes and map out the “blueprint” of the physical layout of your classroom. Methodically plan the layout of your room with a strategic thoughtfulness. Consider the best place for your learning centers. Consider how you want your students’ desks to be arranged. Consider how your desk and work area will be organized.
The way you set up your room affects many daily routines and transitions. Think sequentially. Start with lockers/cubbies. Students filter into this space each morning with coats and backpacks, so it’s a great place for reminders. Then what? If the carpet is your morning meeting spot, place the carpet near the board. Create a convenient bin for morning work and folders that students must walk past en route to their seats. In the first few weeks of school, practice and reinforce routines easily when the physical space reinforces your objectives.
Organize Your Desk
Keeping your desk organized from the start of the year helps your days go smoothly. You might incorporate color-coded folders. Many teachers use a traffic-light theme: red folders for ungraded work, yellow for work being graded, and green for “good-to-go” graded work. Other teachers like to take folder organization to the next level with specific folders for specific types of materials. Check out Teacher Peach’s Teacher Pocket Folders. These clearly labeled, color-coded folders make a very professional desk display on Back-to-School Night, too.
In that same light, you may want to segment sections of your desk for different purposes. Perhaps place a basket for students to turn in homework, create a section for everyday supplies, and show an item that “makes you real to the kids,” like a photo of your dog.
It’s helpful to house paper clips, tacks, rubber bands, and binder clips in one easy-to-reach container. Loosely tossing them in a drawer means you’ll need to dig through and untangle clips, tacks, and bands each time you reach for a paper clip. Many teachers like Teacher Peach’s Push, Clip, Hold, & Attach Desk Supplies Box. This handy and economic desk accessory keeps supplies organized. The clear container fits on a desk or in a backpack.
Plan for the Predictably Unpredictable
We all know that no matter how carefully any teacher plans and prepares, bumps in the road will appear out of nowhere. A student will inevitably get a scratch, a paper cut, or even an “invisible” injury that can be cured with a colorful sympathy bandage, so it pays to keep a box of adhesive bandages on hand. Better yet, upgrade to Teacher Peach’s Boo Boo Bag and be ready for all sorts of boo boos—in class, on field trips, or on the playground.
Some days just don’t allow you a moment to breathe. On days like that, you’ll be so glad for a spare minute to recharge your own batteries—and the batteries of all of your devices. When you suddenly realize you’ve forgotten to charge your tablet—on the very day you intended to teach from it— it helps to have a tech bag nearby with cables, wires, adaptors, and chargers for these predictably unpredictable events.
Keeping extra chargers and cables at your desk means you won’t have to transport your chargers from home to your car to your classroom. If you have one charger at home, one in your car, and another in your classroom, you’ll worry less. If you’re looking for a charger that’s perfect for your car, home, and classroom, look no further than Teacher Peach’s Teacher Power Dual Auto and AC Adapter Charger. This versatile little charger plugs into a standard wall outlet or your car’s electrical socket and welcomes any USB.
Weekly Supplies and Holiday Supplies
Once your classroom space is in shape and your everyday supplies are close at hand, focus on the tools and materials you use only on a weekly basis. After that, find storage spots for holiday and special occasion supplies. These don’t need to be on your desk or taking up valuable classroom space all the time.
Easy-to-grab, home-communication tools are another successful strategy of well-organized teachers. For example, many teachers keep some Quick Notes Home in a nearby drawer to send notes home—and retain a record of what was sent. Quick Notes Home come in three styles—blank pads for custom messages, easy-to-use check boxes with places for families to reply, and even “Oops” notes that your students write for themselves. These kinds of notes save time and build relationships.
What things do you do to set yourself up for success for the school year? How do you plan for the predictably unpredictable? What are your super organizing tips?