OLWH: Back to School - Organizing a Classroom

OLWH: Back to School - Organizing a Classroom / Heather surrounded by classroom materials in drawers, bags, and baskets

Why the Client Called Me

A second grade teacher called me for help preparing her classroom for the new year. Not only was she changing classrooms within her school, she was also changing grade levels. On top of that, the state of California has decided to change its entire language arts curriculum this year. Needless to say, there was a lot to declutter in a short time frame.

OLWH: Back to School - Organizing a Classroom / Space to work with. A classroom with signs on the wall, whiteboard with empty cabinets next to it, and a cluttered desk covered in paper piles and storage caddies.


The biggest challenges in this fun project were:

  1. Decluttering all old teaching materials to make room for the new curriculum.

  2. Cleaning out items left by the former teacher, and from the former grade level.

  3. Deciding what former student work needed to be kept (and finding a place for it).

  4. Finding accessible storage space in a tight classroom.

  5. Finding places to keep schoolwork of 25 students that varied in its completion.

  6. Making room for students to enjoy the classroom - outside of sitting in a desk.

OLWH: Back to School - Organizing a Classroom / A giant blue paper recycling bin from the Marin Sanitary Service sits in the classroom, ready to receive loads of outdated papers for recycling


Out with the Old, In with the New. With the change in state standards for language arts, there were boxes and boxes of old curriculum (though in perfectly good condition) that included teaching manuals and reference binders and student textbooks. We pulled out all the old material and gave it to the school administration for re-purposing. We also opened all the storage areas (drawers, cabinets, shelves and cubes) and emptied the contents on the student desks. Leftover resources from the former teacher were passed on to colleagues, and space was opened up for a new organizational system.

OLWH: Back to School - Organizing a Classroom - supplies to donate to other teachers in boxes and bins, ready to go

Once all of the cabinets were emptied (no small task, let me tell you), we categorized what remained. We archived boxes of former student work, teaching resources and back up supplies and stored them behind the blackboard (which is hard to access.) For items used everyday by the students, such as math games, basic supplies and “choice time” activities, we placed those in clear bins with images and words to describe the contents. Supplies and teaching materials (just for the teacher) were put at a higher level, and in storage cabinet behind her desk. The counters were left relatively clear for cheerful-colored bins that each student could use to keep his or her work in progress.

OLWH: Back to School - Organizing a Classroom / Clear bins for specific supplies

As a result of purging out the old items from this classroom, the teacher is relieved and ready to start the new year in an organized manner. And that is worth its weight in paper piles.

OLWH: Back to School - Organizing a Classroom / Heather holding a stack of textbooks. A rainbow of empty bins for the students is next to her on a countertop, while student desks with supplies left to be sorted are on her other side.

#backtoschool #school #classrooms #organizing

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