Alright teacher friend, answer the question. Which is better? A Pinterest classroom or a practical classroom? I know what you are thinking “practical, duh!” But if that’s true, why do we spend so much time pinning those Pinterest classrooms and re-gramming those Instagram classrooms? Let’s chat practical classroom organization ideas that will help you have an organized classroom all year long.
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Pinterest classrooms are beautiful and they are so fun to look at! But they aren’t always practical. And if our jobs are to educate our students, we need to be focusing on practicality over Pinterest perfection.
In this week’s podcast, I share some practical classroom organization ideas you can use to make sure you are doing that create a cozy, welcoming, and safe space for you to teach your kids.
Why Pinterest Classrooms isn’t Where it’s at
I don’t remember any of my teachers’ classrooms. Do you?
I don’t remember having classroom jobs or super cozy reading nooks. I’m sure, though, even in the 90’s many of my teachers labored over their classroom decoration and I don’t remember a lick of it. And I bet the same is true for you.
I do remember the teachers though- which ones I like did and didn’t like. Which ones made me feel welcome and safe vs the ones who yelled anytime someone did something wrong.
The same goes for your kiddos.
Yes, organization and a cozy classroom are CRUCIAL to creating that safe space.
Yes, designing a cute and welcoming classroom is important for the kids WHILE they are in your classroom.
But it isn’t the end all be all and it shouldn’t be.
If you find yourself prioritizing what your classroom looks like over the teaching that is going on inside your four walls, you are missing it…by a lot.
Practical Classroom Organization Ideas
Here are some things I want you to focus on instead of trying to get that Pinterest Perfect classroom.
1. Who is this for?
This is your guiding question for everything you do in your classroom- organization-related or not!
Remember to ask yourself before you spend time doing something in your classroom, “is this for the kids? Or is it for me?”
2. Simple Colors Over Patterns
My first classroom had lots of blues and greens and LOTS of patterns. I had many different patterns bordering bulletin boards all around my classroom.
This was an intense amount of visual clutter and when I look back at past pictures of my classroom, I can see how much stimulation I was giving my students just in the borders I decided to display in my classroom.
Stick to neutral colors (we’ll talk about that next) and minimize the amount of patterns you use in your classroom.
3. Netural Colors
There is a lot of evidence to back up the idea that colors affect mood.
When you are thinking about your color scheme in your classroom, stick to simple and calming colors like blues and greens.
This post does a great job of breaking down how each of the colors might affect students and what you should consider when choosing a color scheme for your classroom.
4. Don’t Have Nooks in Your Classroom
I know, I know…that library nook is SO cute!
I’ve done my fair share of nooks in my classroom. In fact, I had a cute little library nook in my classroom on the day Debbie Diller came to our school to begin working with our campus.
Almost immediately she talked about how we should avoid nooks because they actually make our classroom feel more closed off and smaller.
I resisted her advice for a while but eventually decided to give it a shot.
All of the bookcases and shelving that I had used to create nooks in my classroom got rearranged and pushed up against the wall.
What do you know…it actually made a difference! So, avoid nooks in your classroom if you can.
5. Use Accessible Fonts
This goes for fonts on your walls and on your papers. The cutesy fonts are cute but it also isn’t teaching our students who to properly write or form letters. Not to mention students who have reading difficulties.
Spending time finding cute fonts for displays in your classroom or for worksheets you are creating is just not an effective use of your time.
I think this is an area where “Pinterest” (or more like TPT) has tricked us into thinking that in order for an activity to be “good” for students, it needs to have a fun, cute font with all sorts of graphics.
I disagree. Yes, you can most definitely use these fun fonts for special occasions, but don’t waste your time or energy trying to create something that looks like what you see out there online.
6. Be Realistic with Flexible Seating
I am a huge advocate for flexible seating and have even used it in my own classroom. If you have the time and energy to use flexible seating in your classroom, do it!
But, be realistic with it.
Again, when we look at pictures on Instagram or Pinterest, we see classrooms with all sorts of different seating arrangements that look like the teachers must have spent hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on them.
Maybe they did. Or maybe they got the furniture other ways.
Either way, don’t feel the need to completely transform your classroom overnight.
I got yoga balls for my students in my second year of teaching but didn’t have a classroom full of flexible seating options till year 5. So don’t rush!
7. Avoid “Themes”
That’s not to say you can’t do themes inside your classroom but do it sparingly. Your classroom should not “vomit” lions or rainbows or whatever it is that you choose to theme your classroom.
Remember, you want your classroom to be full of student work and art, not decorations you found at the Target Dollar Spot or at a school supply store.
8. Use Boxes and Bins that Look Similar
When teachers ask about an easy way to clear the clutter in their classroom, I always recommend using similar boxes and bins.
Bins that are in the same color family, size, or shape will help alleviate some of that visual clutter in your classroom.
Don’t feel the need to go out and buy all new boxes and bins (but if you want to, this post shows some of my favorite bins).
You can see in this teacher’s classroom I used what she already had and did my best to arrange them in a way that is organized and similar to help keep the visual clutter down.
It’s important to know, though, that boxes inside your cabinets do not need to match!
Lastly, just don’t forget to give yourself some grace.
It’s so easy to look at all the other classrooms online and think “mine isn’t good enough.” But, just like we tell our kids not to compare themselves to others, we also need to do the same ourselves.
Here’s a quick recap of the 8 tips you can use to make sure that you prioritize practical classroom organization ideas over “Instagram Perfection:”
- Remember to ask yourself “who am I doing this for?”
- Stick to simple colors and minimize patterns
- Netural colors to calm students
- Don’t use nooks in your classroom
- Use accessible fonts
- Be realistic with flexible seating
- Avoid themes in your classroom
- Use similar size/shape/color boxes and bins
I shared lots of links inside this post, here is a quick list of all the additional resources shared in the post and on the podcast:
- 5 Ways to Stay Organized as a Classroom Teacher
- 10 Time Management Tips for Teachers
- 5 Ways to Incorporate Hygge in the Classroom
- Flexible Seating Ideas in the Elementary Classroom
- 21 of the Best Classroom Organization Supplies and How to Use Them!
- How to Organize Classroom Cabinets
- Freebie: How to Set up a Classroom Guide
- Podcast Sponsor: Cora Feminine Products
- The Organized Teacher Framework™
Until next time,
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