These are my favorite things when it comes time to getting that classroom setup. These 7 things are non-negotiable. They need to be in my classroom, and in my hands when I walk into that classroom. They’re going to change everything for you. This is perfect for brand new teachers to find out this information, as well as veteran teachers who maybe aren’t quite as effective as they want to be in the organizational department. This could be some great information for really everyone. Maybe you’ll pick up a few new tricks. Maybe you already use these 7 things in the classroom, which you’re an organized rock star, I’m sure of it.
Number 1 on the list: 2 pocket folders. I even prefer the ones with the brads inside of them. They’re perfect for organizing student work. If you have something specific that you want to organize, reading groups, math groups, whatever, these packet folders are perfect. Now, where do I get all of these pocket folders? Because you know, if you ask parents on a school supply list to send in these folders, you’re going to get all different types of folders, right? What I like to do is go to the big box stores, Staples, Walmart, wherever, and when they have their back to school sales in July or August, whenever it happens to be wherever you live, because it’s pretty regional, depending on when school starts. A lot of times, you can find those folders for 1 cent, 3 cents, 5 cents, a piece.
When that happens, I don’t care if you need to go back 5 times in the day, and bring 5 family members with you. That’s okay. I like to buy at least 100 of every color that they have. I have 100 blue ones, yellow ones, purple ones, red ones, green ones, black ones, whatever that they have, I have them because if they’re only a penny a piece, which I find most years I can usually find them for a penny a piece, 100 of them are only going to cost me a dollar, right? I can save them from year to year, if needed, because you are going to need a bunch of them, because yes, they’re paper, and yes, they will rip and students won’t always take very good care of them, but that’s okay, because it only cost you a penny to replace it.
I adore 2 pocket folders, because they can put them in to their desk. I like to have a blue one for homework, a yellow one for spelling, red for reading, whatever color you decide to go with for different subjects, or different periods that you have in your day. If you break it up that way, or reading groups, however you want to use it. I know that if I say, “Okay, it’s spelling time,” and I look across a sea of yellow folders, I know everyone is ready to go for spelling that day. They can easily put them in, put them back. Yes, they will rip, and yes they will not take very good care of them, so usually about midway through the school year, I will have a handful of students that I need just to replace this folder, but it’s okay, because I have stockpiles of them already ready to go.
All right, so that’s the number 1 thing that I highly suggest for all organized teachers in the classroom, pocket folders. Number 2, which goes right along with pocket folders, labels. Labels, labels, labels. I prefer Avery labels pretty much in any size. I have 2×4’s are my favorite that I use. They’re pretty multi purpose. I can use them for lots and lots of things. These ones here, I like to use 1×2 and 5/8s for student names. Then, I even like to use these ones which are the shipping labels. They are 3 and a 1/3 inch by 4 inches. They’re more of almost like a square, but they’re a little bit bigger shipping labels. You say, “Okay, well that’s great, but what do you do with these labels?”
Well, the first thing I do is I take a label, I take the 1 by 2 and 5/8s. There’s 30 of them on a sheet and I pretty an entire sheet with just the student name. I take this entire sheet. I have to tell you, Avery.com is perfect for this. It’s a free software program that you can go right to Avery.com, type in the product number of the label that you’re using, and they have the cutest templates. You can change the colors if you want to, you can change the fonts if you want to, you can change the size if you want to. Whatever you want to do, make it easy or as complex as you like, but print an entire sheet of just the student name. When you get your class roster, the first thing you want to do is pop over, print off those labels, one full sheet of labels for every single student.
Then, when it comes time to having them come into the classroom, you’re ready to go, because now you’re going to take your 2 packet folder. I like to take the larger labels, and put reading, math, spelling, whatever the subject heading, or if you know what reading groups you’re going to have, put the reading group down there, whatever you want. Then, I peel right off of my label sheet, with that particular student’s name on there, and I put their name up in the corner. No one gets their folder confused with anyone else’s folder. Then, you say, “Well, that’s great, but now you have a whole sheet of labels. What are you going to do with them all?”
I actually label their rulers. I can label their pencil boxes. I can label all of the rest of their folders, anything else, their crayons, their markers, anything they have in the classroom that they may give back at the end of the school year, I make sure to label all of that. I have their student names, so first day of school, we put everything into piles, and we just start labeling. Label everything with your name, so it’s already there. Even if it’s already written on their by a parent, because chances are there’s going to be someone else who did not label theirs, and it’ll just be easy if we just use these labels. I don’t have to worry that a parent wrote on it with a sharpie, okay?
Number 1, and number 2 must haves for the classroom are 2 pocket folders and labels. The number 3 must have for all teachers in the classroom: baggies. All sizes of baggies. They will be your BFF. You can use baggies to hold everything from markers, to crayons, anything that you want to do. I like to put scissors in there. All of the students’ scissors. I actually write their name on the scissors with a sharpie, which will stay there, and I put them all into a baggie so when it comes time to everybody needs to get out their scissors, I just have somebody come around and we just past the bag around. You grab your scissors, you’re good to go. Baggies for everything throughout the year.
My number 4 must have for all organized teachers is a plastic shoebox size tub with a lid. These plastic tubs. I absolutely adore these. They’re 97 cents at Walmart or wherever. I’m sure you can find them at the Dollar Store. I always love the ones with the lids on them. I use them for organizing all of the school supplies, so we actually have community supplies in our classroom, and we pretty much share everything, so I can have everybody, I have all the tubs laid out the first day of school on the counter with whatever it is. They can label it, and they can put it right into the tub, and I can put the lid on it, and stack it away whenever they go to specials. It makes it super, super simple, right from the very beginning of the school year.
What else can I use these for? I can take the lid off. Of course I can stack manipulatives in them, which I do as well. I can even take this box and I can put books in it. Now, it becomes a book bin, as well. I can put a label on the front that says what level book it is, and now you have book bins. Very simple, very economical, very easy. Again, you see I’ve used those labels. You can also use them for the next thing that I’m going to show you that I love to have in the classroom. I use community supplies in my classroom, so in the middle of every table grouping, so 4 or 5 students, you would put just an empty bin, and it doesn’t have to have a label. You could even put duct tape, fancy decorative duct tape around there, to match your classroom theme if you like.
Number 5 is a cup. Any kind of plastic cup. I actually prefer larger cups, and you can find just plain plastic cups about this size at your Big Box store for 99 cents for 4 cups. Then, I put that right inside of my bucket there, and all of the pencils, all of the pens. If you have markers, you could put those in there. I like to keep the markers in the boxes, and just leave them in there, so you have enough supplies for all the students. All the pencils stay in the cup. If you have scissors you could put them in there. If you have glue sticks, you can put them in there. If you have rulers that you might need, put them in there. Extra erasers can go right in here.
If they need supplies throughout the day, all they have to do is reach in the middle of the table grouping, and get out what they need. The pencils are sharpened at the very beginning of the school day, and placed into the cup, so if their pencil breaks, or they lose it, whatever, they just grab another one out of the cup and they’re ready to go. I don’t need to stop lessons, no disruptions.
The 6th thing I like to have in my classroom: Sharpies. I use Sharpies to label things that I can’t put a sticker on. Like I said, I do like to put them on the blade of scissors. Use a sharpie and write the student name on there, and it will stay on there. I still have scissors from my own personal class sets that the sharpie has stayed on for years, and years, and years. Label their name on there, no one else can take it at the end of the school year.
You can do the same thing with a ruler, just on the back of it. Write with the sharpie, the student name. Anything that needs to be labeled, where a sticker label won’t work, a Sharpie is perfect for that. I also love to use Sharpies for laminated posters, so if I have a star student poster, or my specific student jobs poster, I will actually use a Sharpie to write all that information. It stays on there, it doesn’t smudge, I don’t have to worry about any of that, and then at the end of the week, when it comes time to change it, I actually just take nail polish remover, and I use the nail polish remover, cleans it all off, dries it off, and I’m good to go again for the next week. Sharpie markers are my 6th item for my must haves.
The 7th and final must have for all organized teachers is some type of speaker for your classroom. Why? Because as soon as you get into that classroom and you are ready to go for the school year, you need some jams. You just need something to get you prepared, to get you in a good mood. Grab your favorite playlist, and use it. You can also just grab an iPad speaker and plug your phone into it, but I highly suggest creating several student playlists. One for quiet time, one for brain breaks, and have your own playlist. One for after school, or during specials, when you need to get some work done, and you need to get ready to go for the year. Music for me, is definitely a must have, on the very first day that I step foot back into the classroom.
Those are our 7 must haves for organized teachers. I hope that was helpful for you. If so, feel free to come on over to Instagram, take a quick selfie of yourself, and use the hashtag #TeachersLoveOC. I would love to see that this has been helpful for you, as well.