While I have been working faithfully on the Clutter-Free Classroom Project challenges, I never seem to find the time to post about them.
So today you're getting a couple of installments all at once...
For each week, you can link back to the post at the Clutter-Free Classroom Project.
Why don't you click over and join us?
Week # 4 Challenge: Teacher Work Area
As I have mentioned before, I don't have a teacher's desk. There's just no room. What I DO have is a "back table." This is where I meet with small groups or confer with readers. When other people come into my classroom to work with my students, they meet with them at the back table too.
For quite a while, I had a class job called "clear back table." The kids knew how to move all of the various cups, bins, and things onto a nearby counter. If I had been working on paperwork before the day (or before their lesson) got underway, this "clean up" was particularly challenging.
In Week #4 of the Clutter-Free Classroom Project, Jodi challenged us to consider our teacher area. I wanted this to be an organized and clutter-free area for me to work that would also accommodate the teachers who "push into" my room.
I decided I needed to have a way to clear off the surface in one quick whoooosh! Enter this sweet little organizer. Both the support people and I need access to these items, but we need the table area too.
I put away or threw away LOTS of bits and pieces that were formerly housed on the table and left only the essentials (Okay, to ME, multi-colored Sharpies are essentials). You can see that I also cleared away the majority of the items in the nook. I boxed up most of the "treasures" that have been there for years. There are a few photos and three most beloved items. That's it! (Truth: There were 34 pieces of "flair" before the clean up!)
When someone needs to use the table, they simply move the organizer to the nook! Sometimes the kids do this before their "other teacher" comes in. I know she loves having a clear place to work--especially when working with kids who have difficulty organizing themselves and their work area.
I still have decluttering to do in the background, which always becomes much more obvious in these pictures. We love our twinkling lights, but I need to change the path to the plug as it really does look messy. I'm so surprised that the fire marshal didn't comment on their presence as they carefully restrict everything we put on our walls and ceilings. I'm just going to delight (heehee) in having them until they say that I can't!
After I cleaned up, I treated myself to a new chair. It's made of "bungee cords" and it comes from the Container Store. It's magenta and it matches my room. And it rolls. That chair makes me happy!
Week # 5 Challenge: Storage Containers
If there is anything I own that helps me organize myself, it is storage containers. I change my system far too often, and the pile of containers grows accordingly. Once I have my classroom reorganized, I am going to offer up my containers to any of my colleagues who would like to do a little organizing in their classrooms too!
Because I teach all of the subjects in my classroom, I have a LOT of instructional materials. I like to have props, teacher materials, craft ideas, and student books for each unit, so some collections are extensive. I have been trying harder to keep things organized.
I have started organizing my social studies lessons by unit. This has lead to color-coding the boxes. The Early People label is "earth-colored" (like the cave walls) The Mesopotamia sticker is green (you know, fertile crescent and irrigation and agriculture!). The Egypt boxes (of which there are several) have a bright gold label (King Tut and all!). This way I can look for the right box and find it--even when I can't find my glasses!
What a JOYous day it was when I discovered that Office Depot carried the same storage boxes in COLORS! WooHoo! As I go through the piles, I am organizing my materials in color-coded boxes. Math materials are in blue boxes, science materials are in yellow boxes, literacy materials in purple boxes, social studies in clear boxes (with colored labels!). And I love DJ Inkers fonts and clip art!
The top drawers contain lined paper, unlined paper, yellow draft paper, colored paper, word study paper, envelopes, index cards, paper clips, staples, and other fasteners. The big bottom drawers hold dividers (cardboard and "holders") for test-taking.
There are systems for using, taking and returning the materials here. A few guidelines at the beginning of the year, and this station stays organized all year long.
And, because my middle name is OCD, the labels are edged in purple, magenta, blue, and green--just like the rest of my classroom.
After 30 years, I have a lot of stuff! And I actually use a lot of it; I use different items depending on my mood, my focus, or what is being touted by the district any given year.
I can't always find what I need, however, and that leads to a lot of anxiety. I was intrigued by the week 6 Challenge, because Jodi asked us to upcycle a container. I generally like plastic bags and clear boxes for small items because I like to see what's inside. If it something used by kids, I use a lot of baggies because they're easily replaceable and they can fit inside the storage boxes in which I keep class sets.
I always up for something new, so I decided to join in the fun with Crystal Light containers. I have several different kids of dice that I use for math tasks and other activities. Here in their new upcycled home are the colored dot dice that are so near and dear to my heart.
I still have a gazillion things to do to bring my classroom up to clutter-free standards. But baby steps here and there will get the job done.
This is another reason that I adore blogging: There are so many helpful ideas, so many creative mentors to inspire you, so many sweet friends to encourage you, and so many things to do to make the classroom more effective and supportive of student learning.
Oddly, typing this post has motivated me to redesign my math lesson for Monday. And now I know just where to find the materials I need...