There was some confusion regarding downloading the Ultimate Back-to-School Checklist Freebie. If you weren't able to figure it out yesterday...try clicking here. It'll take you directly to that item. Thanks again! about a winner?

I'm super excited to announce that Sunny from the Caffeinated Teacher was the winner of my Countdown to Summer contest. Sunny's changing grade levels for next year so hopefully she'll find some things that will help make the transition easier.

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Mail & Communication Station - Setting Up the Classroom Series

{Click to see more of my posts on how to set up a classroom.} 

As we continue to get your classroom set up, we need to talk about setting aside an area for student mail and communication. The "communication station" if you will. You have options. I know because I've tried them all. There are pros and cons to each. I'm going to take you on a tour I like to call, "The Evolution of My Student Mailboxes."

Back in the day (translation: when I first started teaching), I coveted those spiffy, wooden literature sorters. I knew it would be great. But, I was young and poor and couldn't justify the cost. So I got creative.

I started by just putting folders on their desks and passing out all of the papers at the end of the day.

Excuse me while I take a moment to shudder at the memory of the daily chaos.

OK. Moving on.

I invested in plastic stacking trays. And by invested I mean I got a good deal and scrounged up enough cash to buy a class set. This was a decent option. If you have the space (I put them on a counter) and can find a good deal, it's worth giving a try.

My set met their demise when I moved home to Massachusetts from Florida. Incidentally, that was also the demise of my tan, but that's irrelevant.

Next up, I bought a bunch of boxes from Ikea.

I made them all cute with scrapbook paper and colorful labels. Color that a waste of my time. I don't think they lasted a month and that was with them undergoing some emergency surgery from me and my hot glue gun. Even packing tape couldn't revive them.

I had used some of those wire dorm shelving cubes at home to create a system for storing scrapbook paper. I used cable ties to secure them as shelves.


I didn't care for them in the classroom for several reasons. It was hard to secure a name tag on them and the kids reaching into them made them fall apart. If you do go this route, my partner teacher laminated different colored 12x12 paper with a name label on it for each student to help them keep track of where their box was located. You may want to try that.

The following year I was moved to Kindergarten where I had two classes (an a.m. and a p.m.) so I needed two sets of mailboxes. I thought these pocket charts would be perfect. They were wall mounted so they wouldn't take up space. They weren't all bad. If I was in an older grade at the time they would be doable.

A) Because the kids could help mail things.
B) Because the kids might be tall enough to reach them.
In my situation I not only had to stuff everything into the pockets (which was a challenge because they were tight), but I also had to stand there and take everything out and hand it to my little wee ones because they couldn't reach the higher pockets.

I repurposed those to hold paperwork and switched to a crate with hanging folders (one color per class with #s so I wouldn't need to remake them).

So I followed my heart.

But, much like the rest of me, my heart is ubercheap.

So I bought the cheapo, cardboard version of my dream boxes.

And much like when my Payless shoes dye my feet funny colors, I realized you get what you pay for. These didn't last very long.
But, that didn't matter because the skies parted, angels sang and my husband presented me with not one, but TWO of the sorters of my dreams.

Well that's a bit of a lie actually.

The one in my dreams would be new and black, and these were a bit worn and that funky, fake wood-looking brown color. But nothing a little paint couldn't fix.
I've since made new labels for the new year AND repainted them a shiny, sleek, black and they are now super bee-you-tee-ful!

Oh. Are you wondering what I did with the other set? Stay tuned and prepare to be razzle-dazzled tomorrow.

Did I cover them all in my teaching career thus far or do you have a different system you use or have used?

For more ideas and pictures to help organize and manage your classroom, please check out my book: The Clutter Free Guide to Classroom Organization and Management by clicking here.

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

My Whole Group Meeting Area

I had posted the Whole Group Meeting Area portion of my Setting Up Your Classroom Series earlier today. Here's a sneak peek at my meeting area.

I set it up in the back corner of the room because the shade doubles as a screen for the LCD and document camera and there is a computer that I can use with them.

The ottoman is from a living room set that didn't fit in our new house when we moved. I love it as a "teacher seat" because it is low enough to the ground so that I am not towering over the kids. When I use the easel, it's easy to reach. It's large enough that a student can join me to share their writing. It doubles as a comfortable place for the kids to read and buddy read.

I have a calendar and daily schedule posted on the door to reference. I also included pocket charts, a dry erase board and an easel w/ chart paper (to the right).

Typically, I would suggest avoiding having the group area face windows. However, my windows look out into an open field and aside from the random bunny or squirrel there really is nothing to see out there. Also, the kiddos are low enough to the ground that they can't see out during group time.

  • I assign seats in the group area.
  • I have students that sit along the edge of the carpet and others who sit in the middle. I refer to them as the "perimeter kids" and the "area kids" and dismiss them from group as such. I found that area and perimeter were a challenging concept to teach and this daily reinforcement has really helped to embed those words into their vocabulary.

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Seeing Red...or not :)

Giddy does not begin to describe the joy I am feeling over something so silly.

I like things to match.

And when it comes to my classroom, I'm not a fan of the color red.

I acquired the shelf in the picture below from a coworker who had inherited it with her room.

I literally painted it black within 8 minutes of it being in my room.


do you see those chairs?

They make me crazy.

I'm OCD like that.

Well, last week I brought in fabric book covers because I read online that you could use them as chair pockets.

You can't.

They are way too stretchy. But, since I had already bought them all and I am TERRIBLE about doing returns, I played with them a bit. In doing so I found that if I double wrapped the chairback then it transformed the clashing red into a color that matched my room. I decided to do that because I could then refer to the kids by color groups.

That left only the red seats to stare me down and irk me.

And irk me they did.

So you can imagine my joy when me and my Ikea cart stumbled upon this bin of chair cushions.They were in the "as is" bin because they were made too small for chairs...which makes them oh-so-perfect for my little classroom chairs.

And they just so happen to be the same colors as my room.

And they were only .50 cents each. I'm also excited that my friends will be more comfy this year.

The only problem is that IKEA doesn't give you bags and they took up lots of room.
We made it work. I can't wait to go in tomorrow and attach them to my chairs.

Unfinished Work Boxes - Classroom Organization & Management

Yesterday I wrote about the evolution of my mailbox system. After going through some trial and error, my husband scored me two literature sorters. This is how I use the second one.

This is an older picture. I recently painted them black.

Over the years I tried a few different approaches to managing the work that students had not finished. Many teachers will have children keep a folder of work in progress activities. The problem with that is that it is "out of site and out of mind."

A few years ago my husband rescued a paper sorter from his office and brought it to my classroom. I already had one that I used as a mailbox, but wasn't about to pass up this treasure. That's when I had a lightbulb moment and my "unfinished work boxes" were born.

Here's how it works:
  • Each student is assigned a box which is labeled with his/her number.
  • If we are working on a whole-class ongoing project, I will collect the student work and hold onto it until the next time we are going to work on it. However, if the children have not completed work during the allotted time I tell them to "put it into your unfinished box."
  • The students will then slide their assignment into their box until a time arises when they can finish it.

I love this system because it allows me to tell at a glance who is falling behind on classwork. I can easily see who has work to complete and who has A LOT of work to complete. I can also tell when children are making "may do" choices when they should be doing their unfinished work from the "must do" board.

I find it beneficial to have everything in one place. My "late finishers" are often my more disorganized students. In the past, I would need to spend time helping them find their missing assignments before they could finish it. Now it's all in one central location.

We empty the boxes at the end of each week. This may mean that I invite the children to come in before school, stay after school or else I'll send it home to be completed on the weekend.

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

STORING STUDENT BELONGINGS: classroom Management Series

This post is part of my Classroom Management Series. Click here to read other posts from the series.

Depending on where you live the amount of “stuff” that gets brought in daily will vary. Here in the land of four seasons we deal with wet raingear, snowboots, mittens and everything in between. I’m fortunate to work in a school that has hallway lockers for each student. This gets the outwear “out-a-sight.” Assess the space you have available for students’ belongings and determine how you want them stored.
Once you have a system in place: Create a chart that includes a photo or diagram showing the students exactly what is expected.
  • SAFETY: You don't want coats and bags in walking paths.
  • DISTRACTIONS: The hodge podge of patterns and colors creates visual clutter. If you are storing the items in your classroom, I would highly suggest finding a way to keep them hidden during the day.
  • LICE & BEDBUGS: Let's all say it together, "ewwwwwwwww!" Unfortunately, it is something that sometimes must be dealt with. If you have problems with these types of creepy crawlies in your school then you might want to find ways to keep the students' belongings from being clustered together.
  • If you do not have lockers, cubbies or even hooks, then you may want to consider using laundry baskets or tubs. If space is an issue, you could put out rubbermaid tubs and have 4-5 students place their belongings in each one. Place the lids on and stack them on top of each other.
  • Put a large table with a sheet or tablecloth covering it all the way down to the floor. Have the students store their belongings in baskets and slide them under the table when class is in session.
  • If you have an open row of cubbies, you might want to look into options for covering them during the day to eliminate the visual noise. Tension rods made for showers are great. You could also velcro fabric onto the top and cover over them after the students unpack.
This is a nice, cheap option if you are not supplied with cubbies/lockers. I highly suggest using cable ties to reinforce holding them together. Again, I would cover it over with fabric or hang a curtain in front of it.

managing a classroom classroom routines classroom procedures best practices classroom management ideas classroom management tips classroom management pictures classroom management strategies effective classroom management plan examples of classroom procedures elementary classroom procedures primary classroom procedures middle school classroom procedures kindergarten classroom procedures first grade classroom procedures sample classroom procedures manual harry wong first days of school rules routines daily classroom routines that really work children printable free freebie second grade third grade fourth grade fifth grade education behavior management clutter free classroom organized classroom tips for organizing a classroom storing student supplies cubbies

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Just Genius ~ Glitter Clean Up Tip

I have a love / hate relationship with Pinterest.

I certainly find oodles of inspiration there, but...

More often than not it makes me feel like a slacker.

I high five myself when I use a Christmas tree shaped cookie cutter on my kids' sandwiches when packing lunches in the morning.

And then I stumble upon someone who has whittled a 3D tree out of a block of cheese and decorated it with wee little pepper pieces and I feel like I've let my offspring down.

But alas, there are the days when I spot something on there that doesn't cause me to go all Martha Stewart and I simply get to enjoy a "why didn't I think of that moment."

And since it is glitter season in classrooms nationwide.

And since I tend to loathe glitter because of the mess it leaves behind and I know many of you feel the same way....

I present you with this Pinterest-found treasure:

Seriously awesome!

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Storing Student Supplies Between Tables

I recently spotlighted Ms. Parten's colorful and organized classroom. Several of you had inquired about the space between the desks.

So I did a little investigating.

Upon closer examination...and this here looks to me like she placed one of those plastic shelving units between the desks to store student supplies on. Here's a link.

I couldn't help but notice that she also has chair pockets.

As a desk-loather I'm all for not using the desks as desks. This would be a great option for using them as "tables."

classroom organization, how to organize desks, storing student supplies, cleaning desks

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Word Walls - Setting Up the Classroom Series

This post is part of my Setting Up Your Classroom Series.

Regardless of your grade level, it is so important to create a print-rich environment. Dedicating a space to a word wall is wonderful. However, in order for it to be valuable there are a few things to take into consideration.

What kinds of words will you display?
What is your goal in including it in your classroom?
How will you make sure it's being utilized?

  • Currently, I have a word wall for high-frequency/often misspelled words. I also have a word wall for math vocabulary and use chart papers to display content words for science and social studies. I found this worked best for my children.
  • I always loved using a magnetic white board for my word wall. I could write words on and erase them when needed.
  • In my humble opinion, I feel it is best to distinguish the different sections of your word wall.
  • I have found the best way to section off a word wall is with electrical tape. It's bold and neat and cheap and easy. I've also used different color papers.
  • The easiest way to attach the tape is by drawing the lines onto the background with a pencil (or dry erase marker if you're using a white board) and a ruler. Adhere the tape directly on top. If you are not attaching it to a whiteboard, I would add some staples to hold it up well.
  • Make the words clear and easy to read from afar.
  • Try to display your word wall at the students' eye level.
  • Fight the urge to display all of the words before the students even arrive for the new year. Add them slowly with the students. If you feel the need to hang something on it then use the students' names.
  • Develop activities that require the students to access the word wall and learn to use it as a resource.
The above word wall is from a coworkers classroom. See how the electrical tape makes it look so organized?The board above is from my classroom last year when I did the Jungle Theme. I used double-mounted papers and animal print stickers. I wrote the words directly onto the cards.

It does not get any cooler than Cara Carroll's Corner Word Wall.

The next three images are from First Grade Fabulous Fish. I think portable word walls are a great idea.

(view source)

(View more pictures of this classroom here: source)

For more ideas and pictures to help organize and manage your classroom, please check out my book: The Clutter-Free Guide to Classroom Organization and Management by clickinghere.
word walls pictures of word walls word wall pictures images ideas interactive word walls how to set up a classroom classroom design class set up tool classroom set up tool set-up setting up an elementary school classroom kindergarten first 1st second 2nd third 3rd 4th fourth 5th fifth arrangement design organization arrange theme cleaning decluttering organized classroom preparing a classroom getting ready for the first day of school preparing a classroom first year teacher classroom organization how to organize a classroom preparing for the first day of school setting up a classroom for the new year

By the way, if you are not already subscribed to The Clutter-Free Classroom newsletter I encourage you sign up. Subscribers receive weekly tips for organizing and managing a classroom as well as exclusive free printables. You can sign up here.

Back to Top