Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Clean Classroom is a Happy Classroom

So until I can get all my random first-time-blogger thoughts out, my posts are going to seem sporadic and unorganized...and I feel like that's okay. Today I wanted to share some pictures and suggestions for how I organize my classroom. :) 

First off, let me say, my classroom is not always neat and clean, certainly not when all my 5th graders are in there; BUT, I can [almost] always find whatever I need (or a colleague needs...) in less than 2 minutes. My classroom is a thousand times more organized than my house...but I have a 5 month old, so can you blame me? Ok, so here are a few practical tips I use to keep my classroom and school life organized:

1. Assign classroom jobs the first week of school and STICK WITH THEM. I get the whole "everyone needs a chance to do [a certain job]. But think about the real world, we wouldn't encourage our students to change their job every week. My partner teachers and I have always agreed that allowing a change at the semester mark is probably acceptable, but otherwise, our kids keep their same job for most of the year. If they struggle at it, we give lots of time to "teach" them the skills required to be successful and if they really don't care, they are "fired" and we "hire" another student interested in picking up the slack. (I usually "pay" in tickets and kids can use those for rewards, pencils and such....more on that in another post.) Anyway, my kids LOVE having a consistent job and it makes my life simple. A few jobs I find as "essential":
-Breakfast Administrators (My school is Title 1 due to federal funds, we provide breakfast for every student on campus.) These students are responsible for collecting uneaten food, collecting trash, checking off the breakfast list, etc. I never have to mess with breakfast in the classroom.
-The "Commander": I got this job title from my mentor teacher while student teaching and it has stuck. This student is responsible for passing out anything I need. They need to be fast, and not someone who is easily distracted. 
-The Picker Upper, Door Holder & Lighting Technician: pretty sure these are self explanatory but totally necessary
-The HW Checker: All this student does is check to see who turned in complete homework (not whether it's "right" or not)
-The Collator: puts the papers in alphabetical order...a total time saver when you go to enter grades
-The Human Resources: 2 students who are rarely absent that are responsible for collecting work for students who ARE absent. They put the work in a folder and make sure to explain it to students when they return. These kids are AWESOME. 
-The "Go 2 Guy": This kid picks up the slack whenever anyone is absent by doing their job
-The Angel: When there is a fire drill, this kid is the first out the door. They grab the sign with my name on it (which are mandatory at our school) and lead the class outside to our designated spot. They hold the sign high and I don't have to worry about corralling 5th graders, because they line up behind the sign. 
-The Clean Up Crew: They make sure my room is generally clean in the afternoon. 
Moral of the story...Give your kids a job and relieve some of the stress! 

2. Do not make piles. I seriously can't handle piles of papers. Stuff gets lost, it doesn't get sent home, I never grade it, etc. I have a place where I put all the copies I make and organize them by the day I plan to use them. I have a place where I put papers to go home. (see below) I have a place where I put papers to be passed back, a folder for papers to file, and a place for all the other "stuff". Buy a pack of file folders and USE THEM. They are your friend. 

3. Keep your supplies organized. Your kids will thank you, and you will be able to find stuff so much faster. Do it now, do it at the beginning of next year. But please, just do it. 
*Tip: At the beginning of the year, I put the containers of supplies out and let students separate their own stuff out. The beauty of teaching older kids. 

My "5th grade supplies" cabinet

4. Don't let your classroom library get out of control. (That's another classroom job- Librarian!). The books should be organized genre, by author, by topic, etc. 

5. Keep your personal space clutter free. It's totally acceptable to throw things away. If you have an electronic copy, you don't need 6 "just in case" copies of something. Keep one if you must. Most teachers at my school ditched the whole "teacher desk" and opted for a small group table instead. There aren't as many drawers to stuff things and you have to keep it clutter free so that students can actually come over for small groups. (see my picture below). I still have my personal supplies and stuff but I keep them on a bookshelf or in a small 3-drawer container behind my desk. 

So there you have 5 most important tips for keeping your room organized and able to function as a well-oiled machine. I love helping my friends get their rooms organized. Just implementing a few things can change your whole day! 

On a totally unrelated note. It is 18 degrees and snowing here today. (It was 70 degrees 4 days ago...and that's why I LOVE Texas.) Anyway, it's almost impossible to teach my little darlings when right outside our window is the closest thing to a winter wonderland most of my kids have ever seen-in fact, they reminded me that it hasn't really SNOWED (not just ice) since they were in 2nd grade. I love how excited they are!

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