Clutter in the Classroom

Your classroom environment highly effects you and your students productivity.

1. Are there books scattered across the floor?
  • Teach kids book handling skills. We put books back carefully on the shelf, or proper bin when we are finished. The bins should be labeled and your expectations should be clear.
  • Don't be the teacher who at the end of the day needs to straighten out their toys, pick pencils up off the floor or stack books. You have a classroom FULL of willing helpers. Assign jobs.
2. Piles of paper on your desk?
  • Set up a system. Try colored and/or labeled bins on your desk: To be Graded, To Be Filed, To Hand Out, etc. Your desk is a role model for your students. 
  • Spend 15 minutes every Friday having your students clean out their desks. Loose papers go in the recycling bin, remind students which graded papers can be left at home, stack books on the left side of the desk and folders on the right. 
3. What do the walls look like?
  • Mis-matched borders and backgrounds? Try sticking to 2-3 colors. Calming color combinations like blue, green, and white. Or an energy mix with orange and blue. Coral and turquoise with black backgrounds would be pretty too.
  • You do not need 500 man-made, mass-produced posters on the wall. The kids aren't looking at them. After teaching something new, create an anchor chart with the class and put it on a bulletin board. Once you move on to another topic, so does the anchor chart. Take a picture of the anchor chart and create a reference binder for you and your students. The binder should always be accessible and available to students if needed. Fundamentals (an alphabet chart, number line, multiplication table) should be up year round.  Prioritize and rotate the rest.
  • Anything tattered, worn out, etc. gets repaired (ask parents or custodians for help), recycled, or donated. 
4. If you haven't used it in the last year...

  • Recycle it!
  • If it is a good resource either donate it or let another teacher borrow it. If it isn't for the grade level you are teaching now it belongs with that grade. Plus, that teacher may return the favor. :)

5. Less is more.
  • Rotate! Give your students a chance to enjoy books, and then rotate them out into a covered shelf or cabinet. Replace the books with seasonal books or others that relate to your topic. This allows kids to expose themselves to new genres, and create new interests. Same goes for toys and some manipulatives. 

Bonus: I'm a substitute- what the heck do I save?
  • I periodically go through what I have and weed through. As I gain more and more experience in the classroom, I have a better understanding of what works for the students in my area and what works best for my teaching style.

In the canvas bins I store crayons, sight word magnets, Velcro, and white board markers. The pencil containers are recycled fried onion containers (my dad loves them) that I hot glued ribbon onto and labeled with my label maker. In the binders are my lesson materials and plans divided by grade and/or season. I teach summer school every year so they have a separate binder that I bring into school. Plus, my student teaching binder and student whiteboards are stacked neatly on the bottom shelf.

Finally, you don't have to be a minimalist or clean-freak to have a clutter-free classroom. It is important, however, to only own things you absolutely adore. Do you love it? Do your students love it? If not, why are you holding on to it? If the need arose in the future, you are a teacher- you know how to improvise. And you probably won't need it. Don't forget to get your students involved- they love to help!

Hope this helps,