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Classroom Organization Essentials: The Ultimate Top 10 List

Classroom Organization, Classroom Set-Up
Blog Header for blog post about classroom organization

Classroom organization is a topic that is near and dear to my Type A teacher heart. Whether you are a Type A, Type B, Type C, or Type Z teacher – organization to a degree is important in any classroom.  

Here are three benefits to having an organized classroom…

  • Less clutter and chaos in the classroom can reduce stress for you and your students
  • Saves time when materials are organized and easy to find for you and your students
  • Sets a positive example for students which helps them continue to build their executive functioning skills

I’ve been teaching for 17 going on 18 years and classroom organization is something that I’ve continued to refine and change over time. Today I’m sharing my Top 10 list of items to use to help keep your classroom organized and efficient. A lot of these organizational items are extremely versatile and could be used in many different ways in the classroom.

Affiliate links are included for your convenience.

Classroom Organization Essential #1 – 6 Qt Storage Box

Photo of classroom organization tool - a storage box used to hold classroom library books

Over the years, I have probably bought 1 billion of the shoe box plastic storage bins. These are great for storing extra supplies, organizing your classroom library, storing math manipulatives, and more. Sometimes I use them with the lid and sometimes I use them without. These storage boxes are extremely versatile!

Classroom Organization Essential #2 – Mesh Bags

Picture of mesh bags being used to hold classroom games

These mesh bags have been a game changer for my classroom organization. I have them in tons of different sizes and use them for ALL of the things! They are a great way to store literacy stations and math games and can also be used for other materials. The smaller sizes I used to organize my decodable books and I’ve used some of the larger sizes to organize all of the materials that come with our phonics program. 

Classroom Organization Essential #3 – Rotating Supply Organizer

Picture of rotating supply organizer for classroom organization

This classroom supply organizer is new to my classroom this year! I’m so excited to use it at one of my small group tables to have supplies organized and easily accessible for when they are working there. I love that these containers come out and the best part of all – it’s a lazy susan – it spins!

Classroom Organization Essential #4 – Teacher Toolbox

Photo of a teacher toolbox for supplies

I was on the fence about making a teacher toolbox a few years ago and wondered if I’d really actually use it. But, I caved to the peer pressure and made one. And, best of all – I actually use it! This toolbox has been extremely handy to keep small supplies organized – paper clips, binder clips, sticky notes, etc.  Super easy to make and use! 

Classroom Organization Essential #5 – Grey Storage Bins

Photo of grey storage box holding decodable books

These bins are also extremely versatile in the classroom. I am currently using these bins to house my decodable books (in their mesh bags) and my book study sets.  I have also used them in cubbies for students to keep their crayons and headphones in. These storage boxes will also often fit inside a desk so that is an option too.

Classroom Organization Essential #6 – 3 Drawer Storage

Photo of 3 drawer organizer for classroom organization

I love the Iris brand for storage materials! They are always sturdy and are long-lasting. I got this 3 drawer storage as a two pack set. I decided to use one to organize my writing station materials. So, I made little signs to go in each drawer so students would know what they’d find. I use the other organizer to organize our writing workshop papers.

Classroom Organization Essential #7 – Plastic Case

Photo of plastic project case

I am currently using these project cases to reorganize some of my math materials and games. I love how it’s clear so you can see what is inside and it’s a great way to divide out some of the math topics. For example, instead of a big bin for measurement – I now have a measurement one and a perimeter/area one.

Classroom Organization Essential #8 – 16qt Clear Storage Box

Picture of plastic organizer for geometry materials

Another organizational item that can be used for pretty much anything! I have used these to organize stations. So one bin might be the fluency station and all of the station materials are inside that bin. Then when students are at that station they would grab that bin and take it to their work area. I have also used these to organize math task cards, materials, and games by topic.  I have used these as book bins for larger picture books and nonfiction books in my classroom library.

Classroom Organization Essential #9 – Brag Tag Organizer

Photo on brag tag organizer

I love using brag tags as a positive behavior system in my classroom. However, I don’t love all the eight billion pieces! Using one of the toolboxes as an organizer has made it so much easier to keep track of it all!

Classroom Organization Essential #10 – Large Clip Box

Photo of mentor texts organized in clip boxes

The stackable storage option is great for a variety of things. I currently use it to organize my teacher books/mentor texts. Each bin is a different topic – reading skills, back to school, behavior, growth mindset, science, etc. This makes it easy for me to pull mentor texts when I’m looking for them for specific lessons.

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3 Strategies to Make Planning for a Sub Easier

Classroom Set-Up, Guest Teacher Binder
Blog header for Planning for a Sub

Ugh…planning for a substitute teacher. Is there a task that teachers dread more? I don’t know about you, but planning for a sub is one of my least favorite teacher tasks, which is why I came up with 3 ways to make planning for a sub easier! Check out these 3 ideas below…

Sub Planning Idea #1 – Substitute Teacher Binder

Photo of Substitute Teacher Binder/ 
Sub Binder

Before the school year begins or now, create a substitute teacher binder for your subs. This binder will be the subs one stop shop for all info needed. Once you create this binder you’ll just need to update it each year with new student info. This is a great way to be organized and ready for a sub at a moment’s notice! Here are a few things I include: class list, important school phone numbers, maps, specific behavior information, seating charts, and more.  To learn more about my Substitute Teacher Binder, click HERE.

Sub Planning Idea #2 – Google Doc Templates

Photo of Sub Plan Templates in Google Docs

With a young child at home, I tend to have a lot of last minute sub requests that can’t be planned for in advance.  I have created daily templates in Google Docs that have saved me so much time especially when I’m typing sub plans at the last second or in the middle of the night with a sick child.  

In Google Docs, I created a template of plans for each day of the week (since each day our schedule varies a bit). In this template, I put in specials, pull-out classes, lunch, recess, times of specific subjects, etc.  For each of these areas I add notes and information that would be applicable any day of the week. Then, I leave the rest blank. 

When I need to create sub plans, I copy the template page and then fill in the specifics. This has saved me so much time since I’m not starting from scratch.

Sub Planning Idea #3 – Emergency Sub Plans

Photo of teacher desk set up for sub

Somehow I did not have emergency sub plans until this year – which is crazy – I know! I highly suggest searching on TPT for emergency sub plans for your grade level. There are a variety of options out there.  These are great to already have printed, copied, and saved in a special place for when you need it. They come in handy for those last minute substitute teacher situations.

Substitute Teacher Binder Cheat Sheet FREEBIE

Photo of Sub Binder Cheat Sheet FREEBIE

Here is a FREEBIE with all of the great things to include in your substitute teacher binder! This quick reference will help you figure out what to include in your own binder to make your life and your substitute teacher’s life much easier! Click HERE for your own Sub Binder Cheat Sheet.

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Substitute Teacher Binder

Back to School, Classroom Set-Up
Blog Header for Substitute Teacher Binder. Picture of teacher with class behind her working at their seats.

I have a teacher hack/tip to share with you today. Before the school year begins, create a substitute teacher binder for your subs. This binder will be the subs one stop shop for all info needed. Once you create this binder you’ll just need to update it each year with new student info. This is a great way to be organized and ready for a sub at a moment’s notice!

Benefits of Having a Substitute Teacher Binder

  • You will be prepared for any time you need a sub. All of your basic and important information is in the binder.
  • With COVID, unfortunately there might be more of a need for subs so you’ll have this ready to go.
  • When you’re not feeling well the last thing you want to do is get ready for the substitute teacher.  While you’ll still need to write your actual plans for the day, the rest of the information will be ready to go in your binder.

Items in Substitute Teacher Binder

Picture of Substitute Teacher Binder with cover that says "Guest Teacher Binder"

At the beginning of the binder, I include a table of contents so the sub can quickly identify where to find different pieces of information.

Student Info 

  • Class Roster
  • Seating Chart
  • Dismissal Plan (students have different plans each day so I leave a chart so the sub can identify how each student goes home at the end of the day)
  • Health and Allergy Info (While this is confidential information, a substitute teacher does need to know if students have allergies or major health issues. I always write – “Keep Confidential” at the top as a polite reminder.)
  • Behavior/Work Needs – It is helpful for a substitute teacher to know ahead of time some of the needs in your classroom. On this page, I share with the sub if certain students will need assistance completing work or reminders for specific behaviors (staying on-task, etc.).

School Info 

  • School Phone Numbers – Make sure to highlight important phone numbers (administration, secretary, team members).
  • School Map – Make sure fire drill routes are easy to see on this.
  • School Emergency Plans – If your school has written out directions for lockdowns, fire drills, tornado drills, etc make sure your sub is aware in case their is a drill on the day you are gone.
  • School-Wide Behavior Expectations – If your school has a school-wide plan, place it in the binder so the substiutte teacher is aware of the expectations and can keep things consisten for the kids.


  • Daily Schedule – Although I include a detailed version of the specific schedule in my plans, it’s always nice to have your weekly schedule in the binder for the sub to reference.
  • Special’s Schedule – Make sure the sub has the schedule of what special classes you have when.

Behavior Plans

  • Classroom Behavior Plan/Expectations – Share your class rules or expectations with the substitute teacher. While all class rules are similar, make sure he or she knows the specifics for your class.
  • Info on Class Reward System – Share with the substitute teacher how you reward positive behavior. Currently I use brag tags so I let the sub know and leave out “Good for the Sub” brag tags for the sub to hand out at their discretion.
  • Individual Behavior Plans – If you have students on individual behavior plans make sure the substitute has that info so they can be aware and help keep things consistent.

Lesson Plans

The last tab is where I leave my specific lesson plans for the day or days I will be absent. These are specific to the current curriculum and by leaving them in the binder – everything is in one place and easy for the sub to find!

I then leave the substitute teacher binder along with whatever items the teacher will need for that specific day out on my desk.  I also label games, worksheets, books with post-it notes explaining what subject they are for. The nice about thing about this substitute teacher binder is it’s always ready to go. Once I’ve updated it in August/September with my new class info – then I’m ready for a sub!

Long Pin for Substitute Teacher Binder. Picture of guest teacher binder.

Classroom Reveal 2018

Back to School, Classroom Set-Up

The time has finally come for me to show you my classroom!  This is my first year back in first grade and I have tables again which I love for first graders.  This classroom is definitely smaller than my past one so I had to be creative with the space and try to open it up to make it feel larger.

Without further ado….my classroom for 2018!

Here is the view when you walk in the classroom door.  I have 5 tables and 16 students (yes I know I am very lucky and grateful!).  So there are 3-4 kids at each table.

This is the bulletin area on my back wall. I will have each child’s brag tag necklace hanging on a pin.  I also have our classroom jobs board and will be displaying Writing work and Anchor Charts.  In the bookshelf, I am storing math tools and other tools for the classroom – white boards, clip boards, etc. On top of the bookshelf we have our class iPads and Chrome Books. The black bins on the ground are from Target. I got them many years ago during their college sales and they still sell them now. I use these to collect library books, one is for planners, and one is to hold their take-home folders.

Here is my classroom library. I have a post explaining how I organize that…here… The bulletin board will house our reading and math anchor charts. Since the bulletin boards in the classroom were very large I decided to split them so I could use them for more things!

Here you can see one of the tables for students.  I got these caddies at Lakeshore Learning and I love the bright colors.  Each table also has one of those Target crates.  The table crate will hold their book bags, white boards, privacy folders, workbooks, etc – since we don’t have desks.

Here is the front of my room. I am so excited to have a Smart Board again!

Here is the view from the front corner. You can see I moved all of the large furniture against the walls to open up the space as much as possible.

I am very lucky to have another white board kidney table for small groups. This also serves as my desk. I am working on ways to keep it more organized so I can use it as both easily!

Here are the cubbies for students. Each child has their own cubby and then the share the backpack part. I also store classroom supplies over here and have our turn-in bins.

This area is behind my desk. Again I’m trying to make it as functional as possible since I don’t really have a desk – more of a small group table.  I’m storing my teacher books back here, supplies for small group, curriculum resources, and more.

So that is my new first grade classroom! It has been a lot of work, but so worth it! I am so happy with how it turned out. I think my students have a bright, fun, safe space to learn in!

Classroom Library Organization

Classroom Set-Up, Organization

I know there are many posts out there on classroom library organization.  While there are already many, I decided to jump in and share how I organize mine.  My library organization has worked for me the 8 years I’ve used it.  Organization and especially of your class library and your classroom books is a personal thing. Everyone has their ways of organizing. So, I thought I’d share how I organized mine in hopes it might speak to a few people.

There are probably about 8 billion ways you can categorize your classroom books.  The first thing I recommend you do is decide how you want to categorize your books and then separate them into those categories.
I chose to categorize based on types of books and series. I mainly focused on series of books that I had multiples of.  For example, I have many Junie B. Jones books. So I have a Junie B category that only has Junie B books.  I have a few of the Rainbow Fairy books, so those just go in the chapter book category since I didn’t have enough to make it’s own category and bin.  Here are the categories I have….
Picture Books, Non-Fiction, Animal, Bugs, Science, Social Studies, Math, Sports, Chapter Books, Junie B Jones, The Littles, The Boxcar Children, Clementine, Judy Moody and Stink, Mystery Books, A to Z Mystery Books, Cam Jansen, Who Was/What Was, American Girl, Holiday, and School.  
Ahhh…containers.  Containers make my OCD heart happy!  For my books, I use the three containers pictured below.  Depending on the size of the books and how many are in the category, I choose which bin best fits the books.  You can find these containers at Target, Walmart, Amazon, and I’m sure many more places.  Dollar Tree and other Dollar stores also have bins similar.
Sterilite 6 Qt Storage – Great for chapter books
Sterilite 16 Qt Storage – Great for picture books, larger books, and a big amount of chapter books
Sterilite Medium Storage Basket – Great for large amounts of chapter books, picture books, large books
Another thing that I love probably as much as I love containers are labels! I love to label things. Like love it – like probably too much.  My OCD side definitely got going with my classroom library and I was a label making queen.  I decided to make labels to place inside each book.  That way a child can look at the label/sticker and know what bin the book goes in.  The label has the name/category of the book and then also a picture.  When I taught first grade the picture was perfect for some of my friends who were still learning to read.
I recommend buying the labels at Costco. I was at mine the other day and they had a pack of 140 sheets which is 4200 labels for around $8.  I use the white address labels.  Here is a screen shot of what it looks like in Word.  As you can see, very simple, but easy to understand. 
After printing a few sets of each label, I got to work. I first made a label on card stock laminated to go on the front of the actual book bin.  Then, I started labeling each individual book. I know it seems like a lot of work, but once you do it…it’s done.  Then, as I get new books, I have extra labels in my desk drawer that I can use and then put in the correct bin. Once you get the first overhaul and organization part done, it is much easier.
We use AR (Accelerated Reader) at my current school. To prepare the books for AR, I used this awesome website called AR Book Find. It’s FREE! And, it’s awesome.  All you do is type the title in of your book and it’ll tell you the level, a brief description, quiz number, points total, etc.  If no book comes up in the search, then the book is not an AR book.  This takes awhile as well, but again worth it in the end.  Inside each book, I place the label, my name, and then also the level of the AR book. This way a child can quickly tell if a book they choose is in their AR level or not.  Some teachers put the quiz number in so it’s easier when taking the AR test. I opted not to.  One – it takes a while to do that.  Two – I like having the kids type the title into the AR App. I think it’s good typing practice.

The last thing and one of the most important things is to model how you want the kids to find books and put books away.  This past year, I did not model as much as I normally do and I regretted it.  I was finding books in the wrong bin. I recommend modeling how to find the book and then how to figure out where it goes when you are done. I also recommend having a library helper job. This student’s job can be to check the library each day and make sure things are being put away in the correct bins.
I hope this was helpful! Happy organizing!
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Classroom Reveal 2015-16

Back to School, Classroom Set-Up, Organization
I’m so excited to share my classroom for the 2015-16 school year. This is my 9th year teaching and my 2nd year at this school.  It is so much easier decorating your room when it was the room you had last year.  We have summer camp at our school so we do have to pack up everything in May, but it was so much easier setting up this year since I had been in that room all last year.
Let’s take a look.,..
This bulletin is out in the hallway right next to my classroom. I had seen many different variations of Instagram boards on Pinterest and used those for inspiration. My goal is to take many pictures throughout each month and post them up for everyone to see. We will also create hashtags as a class like we do on Instagram. I think this will be a neat way for us to capture a timeline of our year.
This bulletin is also outside my classroom. For back to school, it has all of the names of the students in my class.  Throughout the year, I will be posting student work on this bulletin. The clothespins make it easy to switch out work.
Here is a view of the front of my classroom. I like students to work in groups and have 19 so I have 3 groups of 5 and one group of 4.
This area is my math and work area.  The blank space on the bulletin will house the anchor charts that students and I create together.  The empty bins in the first cubby storage that have numbers on them, will be used for Math Stations.  The bins in the other cubbies will hold all the math materials that we use.  On top, I have a turn in bin as well as pencils, etc.  This will be a much-used area.
I shared these frames last year in a Monday Made-It. I use these for posting the essential questions we are working on in the different subject areas. The nice thing about them is I can move them and hang them on the white board to make them more visible.
This is the writing area. It will be used for writing station and also houses the folders for Writing Workshop. The folders go in bins that have the different writing processes labeled. This way I know what stage the students are in.  For writing station, students will use the I Can list and the items in the two white storage units on the desk. (I’ll post more on Writing Station later).
I still use the Clip Chart. I know there are a variety of thoughts on the Clip Chart, but I find it works for my students and many of the other grades use it at our school so it helps for consistency. These bins hold all of my teacher books that I use when modeling and doing read alouds. The bins up top need to be labeled, but they hold games and activities for different subject areas.
I love having a storage closet in my classroom. It is quite full, so no picture of that! On the door, I have my I’m Done activities listed.   I also have moved my Bucket Filling area to this wall.
Here is my classroom library. I don’t think I’ve done a post on how I organize it, but plan to do one soon. I’m very OCD about my library and have found a system that works for students to quickly find books, but to also keep them organized.
Student cubbies and my classroom jobs chart
Here is our meeting space. I use the rug for students during Morning Meeting, but also throughout the day. We have short throw projectors so I like to have the students up close when I’m projecting things but also like proximity when teaching to help keep students on task. I use the three pocket charts for vocabulary. One for reading, math, and social studies.  I like having it accessible so students can see it and use it throughout the day.
Here is my area. Now, I have been free from a teacher desk for awhile, but these were brand new and we have to have one in each classroom so I decided to use it as a desk and actually like it.  The table by the window actually fits on the end of the desk and can be used for many things. 
I use the board as our homework board. Each student has a planner divided into the same subjects on the board. I write the homework up here for each day and students can then copy it in their planner.  I love washi tape!
Here’s a view of the back of the classroom.
Here’s a view of the side of the classroom.
And, one last view of the front!
I’m loving my new bulletin labels. I use three boards in the classroom – reading, math, and writing. I got the idea for the pennants from Sarah a teacher I taught with back in AZ. I saw she used them on her bulletins and loved the idea! She found them Target in the party aisle. They have them in many different colors. I then used big stickers from Michael’s. I’m pretty excited with how they turned out. Now, I need some class made anchor charts to put on the board!
We are big on growth mindset at my school. I saw this board on Pinterest and it was made by Sarah from Math Equals Love. I loved it and my teammate and I made a replica on one of our hallway boards for all parents to see. 
Thank you for stopping by to take a peek in my room.  Excited for our first day of school tomorrow!

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Monday Made-It – July 27

Classroom Set-Up
This is my first time linking up with Tara at 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made-It for this summer. Summer has been getting away from me and it’s almost over :-(.  Be sure to link up with her here
For this week’s Monday Made-It, I just have one item.  This is my new bday gift for students. Over the years, I’ve done many different birthday gifts (as I’m sure many of you have to).  I used to do a birthday postcard and pencil, birthday crazy straw, etc.  This year I decided to simplify life and do a free homework pass. Now, I’m sure some of you’re thinking Jordan this isn’t rocket science…people have been doing this for years.  And, that’s true. But, I’m finally jumping on the bandwagon.  So, I made up these cute homework passes to use as gifts for my students.  I’m going to put them in the cute buckets below from Michaels that I used to use for my bday crazy straws.
What do you use or give as birthday gifts for your students?
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Classroom Reveal 2014-15

Back to School, Classroom Set-Up, Organization

I’m so excited to share my photos from my new classroom. I’m going to warn you, there’s a lot.  Last Sunday I moved into my new school and new classroom. And….I….love….it! There are windows.  Not just one – but four! It’s amazing how having windows makes the room so much brighter, warm, and more inviting.  The other cool thing is that I’m on the 2nd floor and out two of my windows I have an awesome view of the Las Vegas Strip. 

Here we go….

Outside Bulletins in the Hallway

Welcome Bulletin for Orientation

Now, the inside…

Love that kids can each have their own cubby and there are also hooks for backpacks.
My classroom library space
Classroom supplies (in the cubbies)

My teacher workspace/desk and small group area

I’m super lucky that we have extremely small classes.  I have only 16 kiddos. I’ve always had 20-24, but this school keeps them very small, which I’m going to like!

Essential Questions boards – can use an Expo marker to write the essential questions and change them as needed.

White board with projector. I’m going to use the pocket charts below the white board for our vocabulary words.

Writing table area. I’m going to eventually use this for a writing station.

Math Area – Math Bulletin board (blank spot is for anchor charts created as a class). Bucketfilling area below…

My teacher books that I use for lessons organized by skill or topic.

I also love that we have a closet here with shelves. Nice to have storage options. 

Thanks for stopping by to check out my classroom space. I met my kiddos yesterday at Orientation and they are so cute! I can tell we’re going to have a great year together!

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Monday Made-It- August 4

Back to School, Classroom Set-Up
I’m linking up with Tara at 4th Grade Frolics for another Monday Made-It.
This week I made my new bday student gift. My kids loved the crazy straws last year so I decided to do those again.  Here’s how I made it…
1. Buy Crazy Straw from the Dollar Store – 6 came in a pack…

2. Make a little tag so people know what it’s for. 

3. Cut out circles. I saw this done before and liked that they looked like little balloons once they were finished. I used cardstock paper from Michaels and also my Martha Stewart Circle Cutter (love this tool!)

4. Then, I glued on the note and then taped the straw to the back. I tried hole punching and tried to put the straw through the circle, but it just looked bad and squished the paper, which I didn’t like. So….tape it is!

5. Then, I made the little container to hold them. I love the plastic paint containers/buckets (not sure what these are really called) from Michaels. I cut scrapbook paper and taped it inside. I love the colors on this paper and love the polka dots.

And voila – here it is!

Since these containers only hold so much without falling over I decided to have 2 – 12 straws in each…. I thought about getting the big container but also didn’t want them falling all over if it was too big. So, I decided to stick with the smaller size and have two.

Hope everyone has a good Monday!

Also, be sure to check out the TPT Blast Off Back to School Sale – my whole store is 20% off and technically 28% off with the TPT code “BTS2014”

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New Bucket Filling Bulletin

Back to School, Bucket Filling, Classroom Set-Up

As I mentioned in Friday’s post, I’m now using bright colors as my classroom color scheme. Since I’m ditching the purple/orange Suns colors, I also needed to update my Bucket Filling Display.  I’m not in my classroom yet, but I’ve put everything together so all I need to do is hang it up.  See my plan below.
Also, to see how I use Bucket Filling in the classroom check out this post from a few years ago here.
Ribbon to hang the Ziploc bags (buckets) on with the clothespins.
Clothespins to put on the ribbon that will hold the Ziploc bag (bucket). Love, love, love these stripes!

And, the new Bucket Filling sign.

I’ll post again once I actually have it up in the room.  Hope everyone’s having a great weekend!

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