When it comes to organization, everything needs a home. If you watched The Home Edit on Netflix, you heard them talk about “containing.” Same thing, we are just containing our items into different homes. Homes are created by using boxes and bins, really ANYTHING, to house a certain type of material. In this case, we are talking about the best products to create homes for classroom paper organization.
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Before you can get your papers organized into homes, you are going to have to do some serious clean out and separating of your papers. Inside the Organize Your Classroom Papers course I devote 3 lessons to the process of going through, cleaning out, and organizing your papers.
This step is really important because if you haven’t figured out what common types of papers you have coming in and out of your classroom, you won’t know what kinds of homes you need to create.
Classroom Paper Organization Products
To make things easy, I am going to split the tools up into to parts- teacher papers and student papers. I’m sure there are papers that fall outside of those categories, but those are the two main ones I get asked about.
Products for Organizing Teacher Papers
I am defining teacher papers by papers that really only you deal with- so things like IEP or RTI paperwork, letters from home, papers from the office or other teachers, your lesson planning materials…those kinds of things!
Plastic drawers are the holy grail of classroom organization! There are a ton of different sizings and configurations.
My favorite are the big ones, shown below. This is where I housed all of my lesson plan materials for each week.
You can learn more about how to organize your lesson plan materials (and watch the video) in this post here.
Next are plastic drawers sized for paper. Paper sized drawers are great inside a cabinet or on a shelf. I like to use these to house those “in between papers.” You know…the ones that don’t really have a permanent home, you are just hanging on to them for a limited time, like field trip permission slips or picture day money.
They have even smaller sets of plastic drawers, sized for pens, sticky notes, and small desk items. These are great to go on top of a shelf or on your teacher desk.
Another great option in addition to, or instead of the plastic drawers, are trays. Again, these trays can go inside a cabinet to house papers.
In the photo below you can see how I used paper sized drawers to house order forms, Scholastic forms and money, and a drawer for miscellaneous things. The tray on the bottom shelf creates a home for all of those papers that do not yet have a home or need to be looked through.
As an organized teacher, you want to ensure you have file folders. The hanging kind and the regular kind. On the blog post, 20 Classroom Organization Supplies and How to Use Them, I showed milk crates, and plastic tubs being used a few different ways. In each scenario, hanging file folders were really important to keeping things organized.
A hanging pocket chart is also a great way to store colored papers, lesson plan materials, or any other papers that need a home.
Niche Down Your Homes
When you create homes, you want to niche down your homes as much as possible. You don’t want to just put your professional development papers inside your filing cabinet. You want to put them inside a folder that says “PD Documentation” that is inside your filing cabinet.
When it comes to organizing student station activities, you don’t just want them in a math bin, you want them inside a folder of all activities on that topic, and then inside of a bin.
When it comes to organizing your classroom and finding homes for things, you want to get as much as you can inside of cabinets. This will help reduce the visual clutter in your classroom. Read more here about how to organize your classroom cabinets.
Products for Organizing Student Papers
You likely have a lot of student papers floating around your classroom. Papers they have turned in, papers they haven’t turned in, missing papers, papers falling out of desks!
Be sure to download the Student Paper Workflow Guide to help you create your own workflow for student papers in your classroom. You can also watch this video to see how I organized papers while I was in the classroom.
You’ll need a place for students to turn papers in- trays or baskets are great. Just be sure to separate by class or subject. If you have classroom jobs, this is a great job for a student to do at the end of each day. These are the stackable baskets I used.
You need a system for returning papers to students, as well, which means a place to store those papers. A lot of elementary teachers use classroom mailboxes. Don’t stress about getting one of those HUGE contraptions with a spot for each kids paper- a simple plastic tub with hanging file folders will work just fine!
Dry Erase Pockets
These erasable sleeves are great for students to do station work or even work on activities that you aren’t planning on grading at their desk or in small group with you. By reducing the amount of paper your kids are using, you are reducing the amount of papers you need to find homes for, sift through, grade, or put in the recycle bin.
Student Folders and Journals
When I first started teaching, I was hell bent on having all of my kids folders match. I was so stuck on this idea, that I bought class sets in multiple colors. Why? I’m not really sure. And I’m not ragging on teachers who do it or want to do it because I get it and my tendency is to still want everything to be uniform.
But remember, I’m here to help you spend less time doing school stuff and more time doing the things you love by teaching you organization and time management. 😉
So with that, I think it’s okay to let the color coded class folders go. At the end of the day, it didn’t really matter. I didn’t find myself saying “get out the orange folder” any more than I found myself saying “get out your reading folder.”
In effort to save you time and hassle, skip the time (and money) it takes to get class sets of folders, spirals, or journals, and instead spend your time on creating printable labels with each subject and each students name, if you really want there to ensure that your students know which folder or journal goes with which classes.
Organize Your Classroom Papers Course
Of course, I can’t talk about classroom paper organization resources without mentioning the Organize Your Papers Course.
The goal of this course is to sift through, clean out, and organize all your papers so you can stop spending time trying to remember where you put that copy or having to get your class involved in looking for those materials you just misplaced.
Inside the course we also talk about organizing filing cabinets, digital files, and lesson plan materials. Basically, any kind of paper material, I show you practical ways you can organize and systemize those papers. In less than 40 minutes I’ll teach you how to clean out, organize, and systemize the papers in your classroom so you can get rid of some of that clutter. Get more information about the course here.
Connect with Kelly
With so many papers floating around your classroom at any given time, be sure to have homes for each and every type of paper you have in your classroom. Bins, baskets, and trays are the easiest ways to create homes.
Also, if you are looking for a more budget friendly way to create homes for things in your classroom, don’t forget to check out garage sales, online market places, or even Amazon Prime boxes make great homes for things inside of cabinets!
Until next time,