Organized Charm

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Student Cubby Organization in My Classroom

Student cubbies can be a scary place. 

I always feel like my students’ stuff is slowly creeping out of the cubbies to clutter up the rest of the room. 

A couple of years ago, I was cleaning out my kids’ cubbies and found a moldy orange that had clearly been hidden under papers for months


“If there’s one thing I get together next year,” I told myself “it will be the cubbies!”. 

And I have tried. I have really tried. I’ve come up with some systems that are making a difference. And luckily, I didn’t find any mold in last year’s cubbies, so I say that’s progress! Something that I think is so funny is that my former students will come by the room and say, "Who has my old cubby?" The cubbies are their own little personal spaces. I want them to feel as much ownership and responsibility over their cubbies as possible!  

Here’s how the student cubbies are organized in my current classroom:

Of course, each child’s name is in the cubby. I found this cute little panda face clipart through the magic of Google. Then I copy and pasted it to a Word document and typed each child’s name. The font is Hello Firstie Big Gulp, and I LOVE it! 

I cut out the panda faces with the name and then glued them to black construction paper. Then I cut that into a circle and laminated. Voila! Cute little pandas looking at us all day :) 

Item Labels
Inside the cubbies, each one is labeled to remind the children where each item should go. I copied clipart and typed the labels in a Word document. Then printed them and laminated them, and used hot glue to glue them into the cubbies. This shows where each items goes. We keep lunch boxes, backpacks, raincoats, and a towel in each cubby. 

Work Baskets
In the bottom of each cubby, the children have these colorful baskets. I originally purchased them from Really Good Stuff to use in the cubbies of my teacher shelf, but they were 1/4” too big. 1/4"! I was SO SAD, but I refused to return them. I knew I could use them for something! Finally, it hit me… they fit in the student cubbies and they could replace our current filing system. Now the kids put their work straight into their cubby basket. 

Filing System
Speaking of our Filing System, here’s how it works: Each child puts his or her work into the basket in their cubbies all week. On Thursdays, we send home a “Thursday Folder” with all of the work. I call “Pink Baskets” and the kids with pink baskets put their work into their folders, and their folders into their backpacks and sit back down. Then I call another color. The parents empty the folder and return it on Friday. Then we start the process over again. 

Baskets vs. Hanging Files
Last year, we used one of those metal hanging file cubes, and each child had a hanging file. It was a good system with two flaws: 

1. The amount of time wasted as the children stood in line and waited for their turn to file their work. 

2. The amount of time it took for a teacher to transfer the work from the files to the folder. 

If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s wasting time! This system also freed up prime real estate on a classroom shelf!

Where to Find Baskets:

  • These baskets are super durable (and pretty!), but they can be pricy. 
  • Dollar Tree has some more affordable options (24 for $24, if you order in bulk from the website). 
  • ELFA also has a container that would work well for this system on The Container Store’s website. 
The colors aren’t as pretty as the ones from Really Good Stuff (all neutrals), but you could easily liven them up with cute tags or labels! I also wrote a post on the best places to find containers for your classroom... because I LOVE containers! 

Cubby Inspector
Even with all of these labels/systems, the cubbies still manage to get messy. So I came up with the Most Organized Cubby award. The Cubby Inspector changes each week (I just rotate through the class list, so everyone has a fair turn). They inspect each cubby for 

  1. Lunch items to be inside lunchbox 
  2. Backpack to be zipped up 
  3. All items to be in their designated locations with nothing hanging out of the cubby
Then they announce the Most Organized Cubby and give a Dojo point to the winner! Having them evaluate each other's cubbies is also a sneaky way of helping them learn how to keep their own cubbies clean :)

And that’s how we keep our classroom cubbies somewhat organized!

This is what they look like at the end of a real schoolday. They still aren't perfect (after all, it is Kindergarten), but everything is in its place, and that's what matters most!

My parents visited my classroom for Grandparents’ Day last year. When they walked in they asked, “What have y’all been doing today?”. One of my little boys replied (in an exhausted-sounding voice) “Organizing!” He gets it :) 

How do you keep your students’ cubbies organized (and prevent things from growing in them)? Any secret tips you would like to share? Post below so we can all benefit! 

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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Classroom Tour

Some of you have expressed interest in seeing a tour of the classroom as a whole and how all of the systems and routines work together. Here we go…

Welcome to the Peppy Panda classroom! Let me show you around!

When each child arrives in the morning, they switch their attendance magnet in the hallway. 

Then they enter the room, greet the teacher, and begin their Sight Word Path. This is a sneaky way to monitor them as they review their Sight Words each day! After the Sight Word Path, they put their items in their cubbies (labeled to help them remember where to put everything!). 

Then they grab a journal page and sit down. (The writing checklists above are from One Sharp Bunch) After they finish their journal page, they clip it into their journals and sit down with a Library Book. 

When it’s time for Morning Meeting, we put the library books away and get started! If we do Morning Message (usually second semester), I simply tear off the giant sheet and post it to the bottom of the board using magnets. This still gives the children a chance to write on it, but it can be easily removed so we can use the board for other things, too!

During the first last Morning Meeting of the month, they "apply" for their new classroom job. They used to switch jobs each week, but it was difficult for them to remember who was the new Door Holder, or who needed to be turning out the lights? So they voted to keep the same job for a whole month. Now they fill out a monthly "job application" and get "paychecks" (Class Dojo Points) every Friday. 

On Friday mornings, they bring their Class Dojo hundreds charts to the carpet. I pull down the projector screen and display their Class Dojo points, and they fill them in. Then we talk about who earned what special privileges for the upcoming week!

Every day is a little different, but we usually do Morning Meeting, Calendar Math, and Everyday Math during this time. Then it’s time for snack and recess!

After recess, we start with a quick Open Court reading lesson and then jump into workshops. We post all of our current sight words and other skills on the whiteboard. At the end of the week, we move the sight word to our word wall on the cabinet doors. At the end of the month, we move our writing skill to our Writing Checklist near the student tables (where they write their journals every morning). 

When it’s time to explain workshops, the teacher helper and supply monitor take turns bringing the workshop buckets to the middle of the carpet. 

On the white board, we also have a turquoise pocket chart from Target where children can “sign up" to spend extra time working with the teacher. Believe it or not, they actually watch this board like hawks so they can add their names when a spot opens up!

The children then split up into their different workshop rotations, one of which is individualized instruction at my teacher table. You can read about that here. 

As each child finished his or her work, they either place it on the drying rack in the hallway, or in their “take home” basket in their cubbies. If they don't finish, they put in the Ketchup Basket. When a child adds something to the basket, he/she puts a name clip on the edge so it's easy to see who has catch up work!

On Thursdays, I hand out our weekly Parent Communication Folders to the children, and they go file their own work into the folders. Then they put it in their backpacks so it’s ready to go at dismissal! After workshops, we clean up our classroom and prepare for lunch, specials, rest, and second recess. 

Afternoon is usually the time we get last minute emails from parents about changes in transportation. We make sure that each child’s clothes pin is clipped onto the correct method of transportation. We also keep a schedule of our after school “enrichments” by the door, so we can keep up with who stays after school for what. 

That’s basically a tour of the Peppy Panda classroom and how everything is used! 

Let me know if you have any questions! 

Saturday, August 4, 2018

How I Organize My Teacher Lesson Planner

This is our in-service week, which means planning for all the things!! In my post about My Lesson Planning Process, I explained how I plan each week. Today, I wanted to show you how I keep it all together! 

My lesson planners from last year and the year before

Every school is different. When I taught in public school, my daily schedule was extremely consistent (same thing at the same time everyday). All that changed was the “special” of the day). The Erin Condren lesson planner worked perfectly for me in this setting! 

When I switched over to private school, I bought another ECLP, only to abandon it halfway through September. 

I tried and tried to make it work. I really did. But our schedule was so different, it just wasn’t happening. 

I kind of floundered around for a few months when it came to planning, trying several different methods. Until finally (in January), it hit me! Just create your own! 

So that’s what I did. 

First I asked myself, what do I like so much about my EC Lesson Planner? Then I made a list of the sections that I absolutely cannot do without. They are:
  • Yearly Curriculum Map/Pacing Guide
  • Usernames/Passwords
  • Monthly Planning
  • Weekly Planning
  • PD Hours
  • Grading

Then I set out to make a sheet for each section that accomplishes the same purpose, but fits my needs: 

Yearly Curriculum Map + Yearly Checklist
There are a lot of great ones online, or you can create your own using Word or Pages (or Excel or Numbers, if you’re really talented). I just wanted a place where I could quickly look at a certain month and know what we’ll be doing.

You think you have a lot of usernames and passwords. And then you become a teacher. I can’t even tell you how many websites I have to log into (or log my students into) every day! It’s really helpful to be able to have all of that information in one place! Nothing really fancy about this :) 

Monthly Planning
Pretty straightforward. I downloaded these editable monthly calendars from Learning in Wonderland (one of my favorite teaching blogs!) so that I could type out and color code my monthly schedule. There are also tons of free monthly calendars available on Pinterest! And of course, you could always make your own! 

Weekly Planning Sheets + Weekly Checklist
This is the main part of my lesson planner! The weekly planning! I have talked before about how every day looks different at my school. We get to do a lot of exciting stuff (on top of whatever lessons are planned), and this helps me keep up with it all! Since teaching is a pretty cyclical profession, I print out this weekly checklist to help me stay on track!

PD Hours
Something that’s really unique about my school is that we’re responsible for keeping up with our own PD hours (versus public school, where they take attendance and report it). It’s great that they trust us enough to register our own hours, but I learned the hard way that if you don’t report all of your hours correctly, you’ll have to do them twice :/ I’m determined to never let it happen again! 

This is definitely my favorite part of my planner! Instead of giving weekly assessments to the whole class, I just test them on certain skills as they’re ready. At the top, I included every skill from their report cards (we have three a year). I leave the boxes under each skill blank until they’ve mastered it! Once a child masters a skill, I fill box with green. This is an easy visual that helps me see what skills we still need to work on as a class, and which skills individual students need extra support! 

*Lots of White = Reteaching skill to class/small group

*Lots of Green w/ a Couple of White Boxes = Working one-on-one with that specific child on that specific skill

These editable binder covers are a free download from Maria Gavin

And that’s my lesson planner! It may not be the world’s fanciest or most beautiful planner, but it helps me get my job done! :) 

What kind of lesson planner do you use? What do you like about it? What would you change about it?

To see my classroom in action, follow @organizedcharm on Instagram! :)
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