Saturday, February 11, 2012

Classroom De-Cluttering Continues

Sometimes I feel like I have fallen behind in everything I am trying to do.  Just last week, I discovered a pile of math papers from October and some terrific "Thankful" activities that I found in BlogLand--and never got to teach.

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!

During this process, I also re-organized the writing center in the classroom.  I like materials to be accessible to the students. This stack of drawers in the classroom contains everything we use in a day.  (The students have materials on their desks too, but that's a topic for another post)

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.

Week # 6 Challenge: Upcycled Storage Containers   

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...


  1. I LOVE your teaching area. Very cozy and precious, and that container is great. I have some straightening to do, too.

    Buzzing with Ms. B

  2. LOVE it! Almost makes me want to do some cleaning in the house. Almost!

    Journey of a Substitute Teacher

  3. Whoa Kim!!! You have done a ton of organizing! And not only that, you've made it all look so beautiful! I am so envious. I have been lagging on my decluttering lately. You have motivated me to get back in gear!

    I LOVE that tabletop organizer you use for your back table. I'm afraid to ask this, because I really shouldn't be buying anything, but where did you find that beauty?

    Your color-coded organization is awesome too. I am going to look at your pictures again and again this weekend so I will get my act together!!! Happy Saturday friend!

  4. What an awesome job you've done . . . and from the spring in your voice it's made you feel good to boot!

    Happy V-day weekend . . . can I say that?


  5. I love the table top container! Where did you get it?? I agree, colored sharpies are a must which reminds me, I need to buy more. I children ran off with some of them.

    Did you say Office Max has colored shoe boxes??? REALLY!!? You have no idea how happy this makes me! Or maybe you do =)

    I want to see more pics from your classroom as I have the same OCD problem.

    Happy Saturday!

  6. Very nice looking teaching area. Great blog by the way!

  7. Oh Kim - it all looks FANTASTIC!!! I so need a decluttering ...
    And I LOVE LOVE LOVE that you put a shasta daisy in your sweet little desk organizer - I've got a few shasta daisies strategically placed in my house ... I need to bring some into my classroom - little things like that make me a happy, happy girl!

    Runde's Room

  8. I too am in love with that table organizer!! Wherever did you get it??

    I have not been decluttering AT ALL this year, even though I need to, because of National Board. Fortunately with bloggy-land the posts are there forever so I can always work on it this summer!

  9. Your back table area looks FANTASTIC! And friendly. Love the new chair! :)
    You are doing a great job!!! Keep it up, friend!!!!
    I'd love to sit at that table in the morning before school and have some chit chat and a coffee with you. Really. I would.
    A Teeny Tiny Teacher

  10. You are so inspiring :) I need to get my room organized if I plan on making it through the rest of the school year :)
    To The Square Inch

  11. Oh my gosh you have taken this challenge by storm. I LOVE everything you've done!!! :) Jodi

  12. Wow! Your room looks great Kim! What a great transformation of your teaching area?!

  13. This is inspirational! I love how organized it is, makes me want to sit in your classroom all day.

    The Crazy Adventures of a University Graduate

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. You have inspired me to get organized (or.. at least START.. hehe)! I love your blog, and I gave you an award! Come by and check it out :)
    Learning Outside the Box

  16. Hello,
    I just received an amazon egift card from your give away. Just wanted to say "Thanks for making my day!"
    Swamp Frog First Graders

  17. WOW! You did an amazing job! So proud of you! It looks great! I'm loving the supplies organizer and how you organized your material into tubs!!!!!

    Happy Vday Blogy Buddy!!!!

    ❤ Mor Zrihen from...
    A Teacher's Treasure
    Teaching Treasures Shop

  18. Wow! You have made major changes! I need to mosey over to that neck of the woods, both in theory and in physicality! The favorite of mine is still the refrigerator.

  19. Hey- Kim...thanks for your comment:)

    And your teacher area looks great- I dont see any smelly shoes, so that's always good:-)

    My oldest son heads to the big ole scary middle school for sixth grade next year.....I wish I could keep him with me...:)

    Go Starbucks!....(Peppermint Mocha)

  20. I love that organizer you got for your teaching table! It looks great!
    Teaching With Style

  21. your room is looking great!! Maybe I can get some of your organizer things for my home desk area!


  22. I totally enjoy reading your blog. You have inspired me.I have a lot of trouble getting organized because I am so busy planning, grading and teaching. Thank you very much!!

  23. LOVE the container! Where can I get one????


Thanks for reading this post. Comments bring me JOY! Please share your thoughts and join the conversation...