Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Classroom Organisation Binder

So here it is!

The rather late post detailing my Classroom Organisation Binder. This binder is not about planning and student data. This binder is about keeping your classroom organised. 5 year olds have this amazing way of not putting things back in the right spot and while the room can look TIDY, it is NOT organised. Ever spent 20 minutes looking for something you really wanted to use, not finding it, and then finding it in some random place two weeks later? It isn't my idea of fun.

I keep this in a 3 rind binder, mainly in sheet protectors, but my editables are hole punched and loose. This binder LIVES dead centre on my desk. On the odd occasion that my desk is an overflowing mess (report card season anyone?), I make sure the binder is on the TOP of the pile. You'll see why.

You absolutely can not put anything in your binder after the cover.

Unless of course, it is your personal calendar. Your calendar is critical for all organisation. It just is. Even if you don't believe me right now, try it just for this year. If it doesn't work for you, don't do it next year.  I can't emphasise to you enough just HOW many times this has saved me.

On the reverse of my calendar (remember, I put all 12 months in one sheet protector) I put my school's term planner. I go through and transfer anything that actually applies to me off that calendar and onto my personal one. Why have two?  I need the school dates on my personal one for scheduling purposes. I need the school one as a reference and to copy for prac teachers, relief teachers and sometimes for parents, depending on the situation.

After the calendars, I have a to do list, hole punched and NOT in a sheet protector.

As soon as something comes up I write it straight on the to do list. Not a post it note. Not scrap of paper. Not the back of an envelope. My to do list, in my binder. I know where it is. I know where to look later.

Behind that, in a sheet protector I keep pre-punched spare lists. Sometimes one list will last me a whole week. Sometimes I go through one a day. But I always have spares. When I pull out my last spare, the first thing I do is write a note on my to do list to copy more! 
But wait! you just wrote on the last one!
Nope! It was a pre-punched spare. My MASTER copy is not punched. Has yellow highlighter all over it, and lives BEHIND the To Do List divider.

Just to clarify because that sounded confusing to me- in the one divider, in order from front to back, I store: spare, pre-punched pages, the To Do List divider/title page, and then the master to do list.

After this I have a class supplies list.

Same deal. Loose, hole-punched page, followed by the spares, divider and master in the sheet protector behind. Write it down straight away. Not on your hand! Don't rely on remembering it when you're at the store! Write it down, in the RIGHT place! You know where it is. On top of the mess on your desk. Or dead centre on your tidy desk. If it's a mess, don't stress. A day or two and it will be sorted out. At the right time. You'll figure out your schedule for tidying your desk a little later down the post.

I have given you a sample of stuff I generally find I need to buy for my classroom. Notice the one on top? Yeah, this was totally written in the order of what I need most often haha!
On the day you usually do your groceries (or Friday if you are a weekend shopper like me), simply pull the page out and take it with you. You can add the items to your personal list, but for tax (and so I don't forget why I bought it), I like to keep them separate.

I have included a donation list template as well.

I don't use this, as where I am we just don't do this. Our kid's stationary is organised through the school. Please don't hate me, it wasn't my idea... but it is a brilliant one!
Occasionally, when we need construction materials or something specific, we will put out a notice in our class newsletter.

The routines.

Okay. Here's the hardest part. In my opinion. Yes. You teach them. You schedule them. If you followed my last post, your now working on implementing them for your home. Now we are setting up YOUR routine for the classroom. Flashback to that image of a messy desk. What do you have in your week after school? Kids ballet lessons? Sports? Staff meeting? Write these commitments in first, then break your room into areas, and schedule what day you will focus on cleaning them, along with any other little jobs you need to keep up with.


Here's a little secret. I go to work early. I'm there at 7 am. I can get SO MUCH done in that first hour before other people start arriving. The first thing I do when I get into my classroom is boot up the laptop. We used to have a super old laptop, and an old copper wire network, so it could take 20 minutes to boot up. Now it's just habit to boot it up before anything else. Sometimes, I do this before I even hit the lights. But that may just be because I know if I leave the lights off, no one will come and bother me. Slightly sneaky, I know. But this is MY few minutes to set my day up the way I want. The drama that will come later can wait for me to have my few minutes.

While I fill up the kettle to make coffee, I also fill a glass and have a drink of water. As I mentioned in the last post about Organising My Life, I have to schedule drinking water. Otherwise I just don't drink it.  Yes, I am blessed to have a small kitchenette in the adjoining classroom. My morning coffee makes me feel more in control. I don't NEED coffee. It just makes me happy. Sometimes I've been caught walking around holding an empty cup just because it made me feel better. I'm not weird. We all have our things. At least I'm not a gum-chewing pen clicker! If you are a gum-chewing pen clicker, I am sorry. Maybe this will help you :P
Kidding. I don't mind it at all!

Anyway.. while the water is boiling and I've finished my drink, I then put my lunch in the fridge. If someone has come and interrupted me before this step, it likely won't make it into the fridge until morning tea. We only have fridges because it's too hot to have food outside of a fridge. Another school in our area makes their kids all take eskys, but storage is a bummer. A fridge is easier.

Then I make sure my stuff is set up and ready to go. If I followed my afternoon routines the day before, this should really just be a double check, or a safety check in case something went awry the day before.. much the same way as I am meant to defrost my dinner the night before but have to have the safety check in the morning to make sure I haven't missed it...

If I have time I check my emails now... provided the computer has finished waking itself up. I NEVER got time to do this when I was arriving at 8 am, because by this stage at least 2 people had come to pick my brain, at least one of them being a parent, sometimes teachers coming to check on what my own children were instructed, and sometimes other staff. Frequently a crying child or parent. This is why the lights stay off until I get to the coffee :)


In the afternoon, I have a reminder to go to the toilet. I know how that sounds. I'm sure you've been there.  I am easily distracted and forget I really need to go. I need to read it to remind myself to actually take that 5 minutes and GO! I do actually deserve to look after myself with a few minutes to use the bathroom. Stop putting your own health last!

Food. Important. I normally don't get lunch, like the rest of you, I'm sure. But I must feed myself. It's not only good for me, but it stops the cranky lady from finding her way out. Water- as discussed already, I need reminding and it's also important, especially.... well all the time. I live in a place that spends most of the year under an ignored UV15 Extreme warning telling us not to venture outdoors between 8 am and 4pm. There's a very big risk of dehydration every day. Not to mention it prevents headaches, keeps us from getting sick and helps with weight loss. Who WOULDN'T want to drink water!? Me. That's who.

After I've emptied, refilled and fed myself, I do the dishes. Or I try to. If I don't do it now, someone else will do it for me. But it's usually my stuff. It's not cool to let them clean up after me like that. I have to write it on the routine list though. The sink is not in my room. I don't see it. I forget.

Then I normally spend 5 minutes on the messiest or most unorganised area of the room. It could be my desk. It could be the bookshelf. It could be the stationary access area. Whatever it is. 5 minutes. Then I do whatever area I scheduled myself to clean. It might be my desk. It might be my bookshelf. It might be the math cupboard.

Check emails. Respond right NOW. Otherwise I forget.

Now I get ready for tomorrow. Write the schedule on the easel, whiteboard or wherever you put yours. As I write each item, I get the resources needed for it out and ready for the next day.

Check on my To Do List. Do anything small that you'd likely put off but don't need to. Just get it out of the way. Normally, it's all those silly little things that pile up and cause us so much stress. Get rid of them as they come up. Next, do the most urgent. Work through from the most urgent to the least urgent, and only what you have time for.

Outside of reporting/interview periods, I have a set home time of 4pm most days. Staff meeting day and Friday is 5pm. Friday is the day I print off next weeks plans and resources.  Those finish times mean I start packing up half an hour before that time, so that my kids have finally found all their stuff they've left all over the school and we can LEAVE at the right time. Usually, without my lunch box. I try to go home as early as I can. If I get everything done, you bet I go spend time with my family. Does it happen? Yes. Not as often as I would like. But it does happen. But even without leaving early, my 4pm deadline means I get to see my kids and spend quality time with them through the week anyway.

It can happen for you too!

That's an average day. Not all days are average.
I have included one of my old weekly routines for you as well, but again, use them, change them or ignore them. Whatever works for you. This is what worked for me. Sometimes life changes and my routine has to too. I'm sure your life will have changes too!


After all the normal stuff, I check all my student work that needs marking, commenting, stamping etc. I take any notes about further instruction, small group focuses or anything I need to keep on eye on.

Now is the time I make sure all my copies and stuff is sorted for the week if I missed anything on Friday afternoon. I track down resources that are hovering in rooms around the school. The photocopier is normally fairly empty. No one wants to be late home on Monday.

I also clean my bookshelf area. Some years is better than others, and I can skip this for a few weeks at a time. Last year I had a few helpers who volunteered to fix it up during the lunch break towards the end of the week to help me keep it under control.


Tuesday is different.
Tuesday I do not do the normal afternoon routine. Tuesday is staff meeting day. By the time I get back from the car park (we supervise all our kids getting picked up), I'm usually already late. So Tuesday is run to the toilet, grab a piece of fruit, my drink bottle, and my staff meeting kit, and then bolt into the meeting while hoping I'm not the last one there.  My staff meeting kit is a heavy duty clipboard folder similar to this one. It has my staff meeting notebook and a to do list, pens, pencils, erasers, highlighters and sometimes my ipad in the back section (The storage compartment has two sections), and sensitive papers and class list etc in the front section. Everything is contained inside so I don't need to worry about eyes accidentally getting interested in what's stuck on the clipboard.

Because our meetings can go longer than I'd like, I simply respond to any emails, transfer anything on to my to do list and tidy my desk before going home.


Wednesday I tackle the big areas after the normal routine is done. My easel is probably the worse, because it tends to collect all those random items confiscated and found during teaching time. I also clean the math and literacy areas. It can take awhile. These are the areas little bits and pieces tend to get shoved and hidden.  But if I do it weekly it tends to stay tidier and get quicker as time wears on.


After the normal routine, I clean any messy spots. Usually my paperwork that's managed to overtake my reading table, especially during testing times. I clear up what I call the wet area- our lino area near the back door where we tend to do our art and messy activities. It's also where we eat, so it does tend to need a bit of love that the cleaners just don't always have time to give it.


Friday is a good day. After the normal stuff,  I tidy my desk. There's just something I enjoy about having my desk tidy. It kind of makes the room feel cleaner all on it's own. After that, I reset the room. I make sure the pencil cups all have what they should have. I put away any resources I've been hoarding at my easel during the week and no longer need. I put the activities from my BUILD boxes back in the communal cupboard. I get my room back to the way it was on the first day of school.  It makes me feel happy. You don't have to. I just like it. I guess I kind of consider it part of my behaviour management. If my class is in a tidy, organised state, the kids will be calmer and more respectful of the resources. Or at least I think so.

After I reset everything, I finish up printing and preparing for next week. It should all be laid out with my planning on my desk in a way that someone else could come and teach it without stressing if for some reason I desperately can't go to work on Monday. That never happens. I only get sick on Friday. It's almost a law. But it's good to be prepared.

I write my BUILD activities on the BUILD board for next week (otherwise I forget!) and write Mondays plan on the easel.  I do any filing that's popped up during the week. I hunt for junk to throw out. I don't leave until I've found about 10 things to toss, whether its straw wrappers stashed under the fridge, a scrunched up phone message, an almost-completely-eaten-eraser or paper stuff that accumulates on my desk that I don't need. A lovely fairy seems to pop so much stuff on my desk when I'm not looking.

You are going to have to spend a little time working out your routine and schedule for organising your room. This section is definitely the most important. It just keeps you on top of things. No scrambling to tidy up before an open night or special event. It just stays well maintained. Not completely perfect in every area, but acceptable.

A section for volunteer information.

I find this important, as sometimes my volunteers pull out. That means I have quick and handy access to contact details for other volunteers who may wish to fill that space. It also means that when a last-second schedule change occurs, I can get hold of anyone that might be affected by the change without hassle.

Where did I put that?

This question is asked often. Usually by me. It typically will go like this:
Teaching partner/aide: "Do you know where the really giant awkward things that didn't fit in the cupboard are?"
Me: "I think I had them. Where did I put that? ...No.. not here. Mmmm... maybe over he-no not there either. Hmm. Let me get back to you."

To solve that, I have a dedicated place to note down where I put things that don't fit or don't have a logical home. It has been incredibly helpful.

I also have a section for great books.

I always forget not so much which books I used (though sometimes I forget what I used them for!), as much as where I got them from.
Problem solved.

Another section for awesome resources.

Same thing, except this one details what I used it for. Lesson learnt after it took me two years to figure out why on earth I had put linking chains on this list. Don't get me wrong, I like linking chains. Well, not really. But why on earth did I have it written down as a LEARNING resource? This list was for explicit lesson resources!

Two years on... brainstorming some ideas with a teacher who was having difficulty getting a few kids to grasp the concept of making connections.... oh YEAH... that's what the chains were for!
Just write it down. Don't rely on memory.

A book wish list.

I can't really begin to imagine how many times I've fallen in love with a book.... and not been able to buy it. And forgotten all about it.
Now I write them down, and hunt them down, one at a time, when I am able to buy them. Or when there's a sale. Be reasonable. I teach, after all. Books are NEEDED. I can't teach a child to love reading for enjoyment if I don't have fun texts to share with them, just for the pure fun of it.

And sometimes it's a necessary behaviour management tool.

So there you have it!

My Classroom Organisation Binder is my one-stop place for things to do, buy, where I put stuff, stuff I used and stuff I want. It keeps my room organised, and my brain from forgetting to do important things, and from forgetting important things. It frees me up to focus on the important bits- enjoying my class and having fun teaching them, without fussing about potentially forgetting some critical detail or not having a lesson prepared.  Or losing a resource, worrying about admin coming in while my room looks like a bomb went off, or stressing about why I can't remember everything like I used to.

Or wondering why everyone else seems to have it all together while I can't even tell what day of the week it is.

Because I mostly do have it all together. Without stressing about it, worrying about it, lying awake in the middle of the night and remembering what I forgot last week.

Routines and systems will make your life so much easier and leave you with so much freedom to really love what you do, and to be the most effective teacher you can be, allowing you time to relish your personal life and overall, be the best you.

You just gotta spend some time putting in some thinking to set up and then follow a plan.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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