Easy Organization Tips for Student Materials - Cassie Dahl | Teaching + Technology

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Easy Organization Tips for Student Materials

Organizing student materials can be tricky. This post details different ideas that you can try in your classroom and immediately see results!

Organizing student materials can be difficult! Add flexible seating or a rotating block schedule and it can feel downright impossible. Having a plan for student organization will help streamline transitions, minimize distractions and create an overall sense of calm in your classroom. Keep reading to find out what I do in my classroom to organize all of my student materials.

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Student Numbers:

One component to student organization that is crucial in my classroom is to assign students a number at the beginning of the year. I keep it simple and assign their number based on alphabetical order (yes, new students will arrive and throw the whole alphabetical order off… but it’s easy to manage this way still).

The numbers are used in a variety of ways in my classroom.

  • Cubby Numbers
  • Locker Tags
  • Book Boxes
  • Storage Drawers
  • iPad Storage
  • Student Mailboxes
  • and More!

I also have my students put their number on the their papers when they write their name (ex: Cassie – 0). This allows me to easily put the papers into alphabetical order when I am grading them to transfer grades into the gradebook and put them in student mailboxes.

You can grab the number tags I use in the Free Resource Library – either sign in above or click here to sign up!

Storage Drawers:

If you have tables, organizing student notebooks and folders can be a nightmare. If you have individual student desks, it can still be scary (umm… who knows what lives in the deep dark depths of student desks).

One way you can organize these materials is to have a spot for “groups” of things. For example, all of the math notebooks could go in one bin or all of the science folders in another. I tried that a few years back and it worked, however I noticed that it took a long time for me to hand out materials (or to have a student hand out materials). So I decided to try something different. Instead, I wanted a place where each student would be responsible for putting their things.

Michael’s Craft Store has 10 drawer carts that I absolutely LOVE. I was worried about how they would stand up against fifth graders pulling the drawers in/out daily, but they worked great. We had to practice putting things away/taking stuff out at the beginning, but students quickly got the procedure down.

I placed the carts around my classroom in three different areas. This helped to avoid traffic jams. When all of my students needed to put their materials away, I would call either odd or even numbered students to put their belongings in their drawer. This eliminated traffic jams too!

What we keep in each drawer:

  • 1 Folder
  • 4 Composition Notebooks
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Glue Stick

My students have pencil boxes where they keep all of their colored pencils, markers, scissors, etc. Those materials are kept in their cubby. We use the drawers for the materials we know we will use each day.

The folders are crucial if you decide to use these drawer carts. Loose papers will fall out the back or get stuck in the tracks. My students got into the routine of putting any loose paper (unfinished work) directly in their folder before they could close their drawer. I recommend spending the extra few cents for the plastic folders. They hold up great for a whole school year – no one likes ripped folders!

If you purchase these drawer carts – remember to use your teacher discount, find a 50% off coupon or wait for them to go on sale! You can find both clear or rainbow drawer carts here. Grab the labels below!

Color-Coded Materials:

I color code the four different subjects in our classroom. This helps students know which colored notebook they need out. (Read about color coordination in my classroom here.) However, requiring students to bring in specific colored materials is so hard for parents. I figured out a simple hack that worked fantastic!!

Since each of my students needed four composition notebooks, I purchased colored duct tape that matched each of the subjects. No matter what colored notebook students brought in, I just taped a colored strip down the side of the spine. Students could easily distinguish between the four different subjects and know exactly which notebook to take out! This would also work great for different blocks/rotations of students.

I found duct tape on Amazon that came in the beautiful colors you see above. One roll is 30 feet. That was plenty to do my entire class for each subject and have some left over if I had new students join us mid-year. Don’t forget to color code your notebooks too! You can grab the same duct tape I used here.

Book Organization:

The last major student material that needs to be organized is student books. I recommend keeping all text books on a shelf where the students can easily grab them. If you need to assign a book to a student, simply use duct tape on the spine and label each one with student numbers. This system can be used year after year.

Individual reading books have to have a home too! A majority of the day, my students have their novels out on their table spots. Many of them like to grab their book and sneak in a few pages when they get done working, so I don’t like them constantly getting up to grab their books. However, their novels still need a place to live. I have tried lots of different systems and have found book bins to be the simplest.

The bottom shelf houses are student book bins. Students can generally fit 2-4 novels in the book bin at a time (I try to limit it to 3… it is hard for students to track that many stories at the same time). They put both their books from our school library or our classroom library in their bins.

I found these bins to be the most reasonably priced. I had to purchase multiple sets to get a full class set of black ones (I sold the other colors to different teachers in our building). Dollar Tree offers different colors each year. If you order online, you can always return the colors you don’t want to the store for store credit! You can also find similar bins at big box stores or from teacher supply companies.

I hope that helps you organize your classroom just a little bit! I truly believe that an organized classroom will help students be more successful and relieve teacher stress! Please reach out on social media if you have questions about how I organize any other materials in my classroom!

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