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Sherri in Tennessee wrote to me recently with the following question:

“I wonder if you could help me with a problem I have, what to do with each week’s lesson materials and all the “stuff.”. I need a plan for how to keep the materials needed for each lesson handy but out of the way while I teach my other classes. I also need ideas for how to organize all the “stuff” when I don’t need it. Any ideas?”

As always, I am full of ideas and opinions! Here are my suggestions for how to deal with all of the “stuff” that comes along with teaching six grade levels worth of students each week:

  • It is very useful to have some sort of filing system that is out in the open so that you can access paper materials that you need for each class (handouts, worksheets, projects that are in progress, etc.). This can be as simple as a crate filled with hanging file folders. If you have a small school, you can make one folder for each class, or for larger schools (like mine was) you can simply have one folder per grade level. If you are using one folder for each grade level, just remember that paper clips are your friend! Clip together each class’ work or handouts so that you can easily access them when needed. Keep this crate on a table or shelf near your teaching space so you can access it when you need it. I actually kept my files on the end of the circulation desk so that I could grab the papers I needed before each class came in. I had a great desk organizer that I used because it had space to hang files and also holders for pens and other desk supplies. It was really useful on the circulation desk. Although I bought it awhile ago, they still sell it at Staples. Check it out here.
  • You can also utilize library carts as convenient ways to organize materials and have them close at hand. If you need books for a lesson (a set of encyclopedias, nonfiction books for research, examples of Newbery award winners, etc.), you can set them up on one of those two-sided, rolling book carts. The cart allows you to pull the books wherever you need them to be and then push them into an out-of-the-way corner when you are not using them. When doing a big project with one grade level, such as the Famous Americans Research Unit on pages 46-51 in the book, you can assemble all of the books and other materials (like project packets, paper, pencils, etc.) on one cart that you can pull out each time you work on that unit. Those AV carts with two or three shelves are also very useful for organizing materials. I had a supply cart that was stocked with baskets of crayons, pencils, erasers, pens, and rulers; piles of lined and unlined paper; and other useful supplies. I parked the cart at the end of one of my rows of shelves, right near my teaching area, and it was always ready for whatever project was going on at the time. By organizing everything on one moveable cart like this, you can also simply roll it into a back room or other unused corner when you don’t need it.
  • As for organizing stuff when you’re not using it, that’s a bit trickier. If it’s papers, a file cabinet with well-labeled folders will do the trick. You should also make sure to save EVERYTHING on your computer in files organized by grade level and topic. If everything is saved (and backed up!) on your computer, you don’t have to keep hard copies in storage. If you have bulkier supplies and some available storage space, try using small filing boxes for each “unit” and storing them wherever you can. Make sure to label the boxes with the appropriate grade level and the title of the unit.

If you have any other suggestions or tips that could help all Tibrarians out there to stay organized, please post a comment!

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