Last year, after returning to second grade, I felt like I spent the majority of my year struggling to get myself organized. So, after teaching at that grade level for a year, I had a better idea of how I was going to use my resources. Here are a few classroom organization tips and tricks.
Over the summer, I took a few hours to organize my entire classroom. I need every precious minute throughout the school year to focus on teaching and classroom management.
*This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
Classroom Organization Tips & Tricks
To start, I took EVERYTHING out of my filing cabinets, the books out of my classroom library, and materials out of the cupboards. I sorted items into the piles keep, donate, and trash.
- Keep – went back into folders to place back into my filing cabinets later or went into my cupboards, organized by subject.
- Donate – went to the prep room for other teachers to use or the teacher’s lounge for them to sort through manuals/books I no longer needed.
- Trash – I will admit I enjoyed decluttering and getting rid of some of the things I had for years that I was hoarding. It was about time!
1. File Cabinet Makeover
I took all of my files out of my filing cabinet and reorganized my resources. Then, I placed the materials I use the most in the top two drawers.
Spending a little time before school starts setting up your file cabinet will make your life a whole lot easier the rest of the year. This summer, I plan on taking my filing system one step further:
- Make bright and bold labels to make finding those resources just that much faster. Plus, they’re more fun! Read all about this 30-minute file cabinet makeover and snag a free template from Kate’s Science Classroom Cafe.
2. Organize by Month
The holiday or special activities you only use once a year can be sorted into boxes and stored away for later. You can purchase large tubs to store them and put them on top of your cupboards. Or, if you’re like me, I needed to prioritize what to spend money on. So, you may choose to spend it on other organization items. I mention a few of them below.
I decided to use copy paper boxes – because they’re free – and spent a few months collecting them from our copy room. I also asked the janitors if they would keep an eye out for me.
Next year, I will be switching over to a farmhouse classroom theme. I wrote about 5 Farmhouse Inspired Classroom Designs here. I ordered white wood bulletin board paper by Teacher Created Resources to put on my bulletin boards.
I cut paper to fit the front of the copy boxes, labeled and laminated the paper. Then, I glued the labels to the front of each box, and will be sorting items into them this summer. These boxes are also great for art projects that don’t fit in your filing cabinets!
3. Shoe Boxes
No more open baskets and bins of different sizes in my cupboards. They’re difficult to stack, take up a lot of space, and pulling them out to access materials is a complete nightmare!
For another classroom organization tip, place smaller items you put in your cupboards, like manipulatives, games, and task cards in shoe boxes. These IRIS 5 Quart containers can be quickly labeled and stacked on top of each other. This makes finding materials more efficient and convenient. You can also purchase clear shoes boxes with lids individually at Dollar Tree.
Both are affordable options that I recommend, depending on the needs of your classroom. And the clear color will coordinate with any classroom theme.
When you need to access them, they are easy to pull out and you don’t have to worry about materials falling out all over the place. Then, they can quickly be put in any area of your classroom for you or your students to use without having to find another basket or bin to put them in.
4. Organize Teacher Materials for the Week
One of my favorite items is this IRIS 6-drawer storage cart. It has absolutely saved my classroom organization! I use it to store all of my copies I make for the week.
I talk about how I organize this cart here. I place this right next to my desk so I can get to everything I need to teach each lesson quickly when needed.
Classroom Organization Tips for Student Materials
When it comes to student materials, these are typically the ones that are going to be out in the classroom all or most of the time. Scissors, glue sticks, crayons, markers, pencils, etc., are the materials that are going to be stored on a counter or open shelf for students to access quickly when they need them.
5. Baskets or Bins
Again, you can use clear shoe boxes to store materials to make them easier to switch out as needed. Or, you can color-coordinate your baskets and bins with your theme.
I, personally, spent a lot of money the first couple of years trying to color-coordinate everything to the theme I had each year. I have been moving toward using clear, white, or black storage containers, so I can use them year after year to match any theme. Then, I choose one or two accent colors for some of the bins in my classroom. It allows me to change out the color each year to add a pop of color. But, it saves having to spend money each year buying new storage containers.
6. Table Caddies
If you place student tables or desks into groups, table caddies can help keep things organized. The tools they will use daily will keep things closely within reach. Things like pencils, glue sticks, scissors, etc. can be stored for anyone at the table to use. It also saves time because they aren’t getting into a pencil case every few minutes searching for something. Then, you’re not hearing “I can’t find it” or “I need a pencil.” They can grab it quickly and be ready to start working right away.
You can assign a classroom job for when they run out of one of these materials. Or, first thing in the morning, they can check their caddy to make sure it’s well stocked for the day.
The dollar store usually has something similar to this kind of bin, or here are some Classroom Caddies in a variety of colors.
7. Classroom Organization Tips – Use Supply Carts
Place a caddy for pencils, crayons, scissors, and glue on top, with other materials you will use daily. I put whiteboards, interactive and writing notebooks, and math manipulatives in the drawers. Each cart can be placed next to a group of student desks so they could access them easily throughout the day, and save valuable time passing out materials.
Use these 4 Drawer Storage Carts to store the materials students will use every day. If this option doesn’t work for you, another option is milk crates. Simply stack 2 or 3 of them zip tied together for storage.
8. Label Everything!
This is probably one of my classroom organization tips that is the most time-consuming. It takes a lot of time initially to get everything labeled. So, I recommend using labels that will go with more than one classroom theme.
- 120 Supply Labels With Pictures by Cupcakes n Curriculum
- FREE Chalkboard Supply Labels – Chalkboard-Themed Classroom EDITABLE from Alina V Design and Resources
One of the ways we can have students help us to stay organized is by labeling everything. Setting expectations for how to take care of the materials will go a long way toward saving you time and energy throughout the year having to reorganize again and again. Everything in your classroom should have a place and students should know exactly where to get materials they will use frequently.
Here are a few examples of farmhouse-inspired classroom labels:
- Sunflower Classroom Labels
- Nature Classroom Supply Labels
- Editable Farmhouse Classroom Labels: Supplies, Library, Binders, Table Numbers from A Pea in a Primary Pod
- Editable Rectangular Rustic Farmhouse Classroom Labels from Teaching in a Small Town
- Supply Labels – Farmhouse Themed Classroom – Classroom Labels FREE from Alina V Design and Resources
9. Classroom Jobs
Assign regular classroom jobs that allow your students to take ownership of the classroom. I have twelve jobs that I assign to 1 student each week, and we switch jobs weekly. So, half of my class has a job and the other half does not.
Some teachers have every student have a job and they switch weekly or monthly. Others have one or two students of the day and those students do every job for the day. It’s completely up to you and how you want to run your classroom.
Here are the jobs I typically have in my classroom:
- Teacher Assistant (calendar and any other miscellaneous jobs I have for the day)
- Lunch Aide (lunch count)
- Musician – chooses our GoNoodle song
- Computer technician (turns them on and logs them in)
- Homework folders (passes out folders at the end of the day)
- Librarian (takes library books down to the library to return and organizes classroom library)
- Electrician (turns lights on and off)
- Cheerleader (chooses the classroom cheer we do to celebrate our class achievements or a students’ hard work)
- Custodian (sweeps the floor at the end of the day or as needed)
- Janitor (makes sure guided reading table is clean and chairs are put up)
- Secretary (passes out and collects papers)
- Pencil Sharpener (sharpens new pencils as needed and empties pencil sharpener each day)
10. New Student Bags
You’re all set and ready to go, or you’re well into the school year, only to find out you have a new student! Ahhh! Creating several new student bags helped me tremendously. For any labels I make for my class, I make a few extras. Then, I place them in a gallon bag all ready to go just in case a new student arrives. I also include a copy of my PowerPoint and other documents I pass out to parents at the beginning of the year or at Parent Night.
11. Classroom Library
One of my last classroom organization tips is to have plenty of storage for your classroom library. Whether you choose to organize it by reading level or by topic, you will need lots of baskets and bins to store it in.
Next year, I will be moving toward having more neutral baskets in my classroom library. I currently have pink, blue, and green to match my Eric Carle Inspired Classroom Theme, which I got from Dollar Tree. However, they do not have a lot of options for black-and-white storage. So, I plan to purchase something similar to these Sterilite Small Black Baskets.
I organize my classroom library by both topic and reading level. I just put the reading level on the back of the label, attached with bookbinder rings. This gives me a better idea of what books my students can read easily and what they need to work on. You can also have a list of books available in your library with reading levels just for your reference if you like. This way I can better recommend books for my students to read.
Molly from Lessons in Laughter shares a great post about how she organizes her classroom library. She provides great classroom organization tips on how she labels her books.
I also make sure I have a wide variety of books in my library, so my students have a lot to choose from. If I don’t have a series they like to read, I go to my school library and check out a basket of those books. That way there’s something there for everyone.
This Book Storage Box Basket is also a cute addition for books that need to be returned to the school library.