By Teachers, For Teachers
My first year of teaching was riddled with hard-learned lessons. A lack of organization skills was one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome. In the spirit of genuine transparency, I must admit that I was not an organized person. I came into the classroom with a life full of junk drawers and misplaced items that only I could find. It didn’t take long to realize that a disorganized classroom would negatively impact classroom management and ultimately student performance.
After learning the importance of classroom organization, I also learned that organization in the classroom extends beyond filing systems and supply storage. Your seating arrangements, planning, and bulletin boards, amongst other things, all play a part. Tackling all facets of classroom organization can seem daunting, but there are some easy habits you can adopt and adapt to make your classroom more organized.
Your bulletin board should serve a purpose within the organization of your classroom. In lieu of displaying a classroom theme, use this space for organizational charts, classroom jobs, procedures, and more. Post reminders like notebook setup, paper headings, and daily/weekly schedules to help students understand the structure of your classroom.
The top contributor to the mess in my classroom is paper. It literally feels as though for every paper returned, two more materialize out of thin air. I converted to a paperless classroom a year ago, and this has helped my organization tremendously. Even if you don’t have the resources to go completely paperless, there are many websites such as Google Classroom, Khan Academy, and Read Theory that you can implement in the classroom when possible. These sites allow students to learn, work, and track progress without the fuss of paper.
When storing materials, you will need to invest in items that serve as organizational tools. Purchasing bins, filing systems, and storage containers can become costly. You not only can but should repurpose items that you already have for classroom organization. Cans, mason jars, six pack holders, and crates, to name a few, can be repurposed to organize your classroom materials.
Clean-up time in the classroom can easily convert you to a broken record player. Labeling where things go in the classroom can save you from incessantly repeating this information. Furthermore, labels help you remember how to file and store things while on the go. Labels make your classroom organization more efficient for you and your students.
If you’ve been teaching for any length of time, you know that your precious resources and materials tend to sprout legs and escape your classroom. Students break and misplace things. They take them home intentionally and unintentionally and neglect to return them. You will lose things throughout the year, but you can decrease your losses by checking out/in books and materials. Having a record of who is using your classroom items will help you keep them organized and accounted for.
Effective classroom management is the foundation of an effective teacher. Students need to not just hear but observe the authenticity of your classroom expectations. Keeping your classroom organized demonstrates your concern for the classroom and your students’ learning. This models respect for the classroom and influences your students to take ownership of the learning environment as well. Organized classrooms encourage engagement and elevate accountability. When students are engaged, invested, and accountable, they can succeed. Your classroom organization plays a pivotal role in classroom management.
All educators can agree that we serve as academic and professional examples for our students. This influence we possess includes our approach to classroom organization. We are preparing our students for higher learning and the workforce – both of which require organizational skills in order to be successful. As teachers, we have an opportunity to model effective organization for our students. Furthermore, our expectations for student organization through notebooks, desks, and other classroom components will give our students applicable practice for future organization.
In order to practice effective classroom organization, it’s important to know your strengths and weaknesses and find a system that works for you and your students. Remember that how you structure the classroom speaks volumes about your expectations and priorities. Even if organization is not your strong suit, it is important enough for you to invest time in developing and implementing an effective organization system.
Whitney is an English teacher and received her Ed.S. in Teacher Leadership degree at Thomas University, GA.