Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Five Ways to De-Clutter Your Classroom

While your classroom has your name on the door it really belongs to the students. The majority of your classroom should be devoted to student exploring and learning. If your students can’t move about your room because you have piles of belongings, items stored in stacked pasteboard boxes, or large bulky items in every corner perhaps it is time to take stock of what you should keep and what needs to disappear.

1. First of all I begin each year by physically going through every drawer, every cabinet, and every closet reorganizing my teaching materials and other assorted items that find their way into the classroom. If I haven’t used the items in at least two years out the door they do.

Don’t just throw the items away; afterall many things you decide to get rid of might actually belong to your school system. I recycle. I pile up everything that needs to disappear and I send my colleagues a memo letting them know it is time for my annual “Free to a Good Home” sale. I also remind everyone that it is first come, first served. By the end of the day the majority of the items are gone.

2. If you have taught for a long time it’s easy to accumulate old projects, stacks of posters, and other realia that goes along with various units you teach. While pasteboard boxes are easy to come by at the local Walmart or grocery store I’ve opted for sturdy, plastic containers that make my room less cluttered looking. The pasteboard boxes get beat up over time, and just look junky. Every unit I teach goes into a plastic container and is labeled appropriately. They are colorful and stack neatly. Best of all little mice and nasty bugs don’t eat their way into the boxes.

3. You may decide some items are just too precious to get rid of; however, they don’t really need to be stored in the classroom. Perhaps it’s time to move a few things back home. For example, one year I taught a lower grade knowing the next year I would return to a higher grade. Instead of cluttering my room with items I didn’t need that year I took the items home…..after weeding out unnecesary items, of course.

4. Keep the traffic pattern in your room in mind when arranging computer stations and desks or tables. There’s nothing worse than having your room all done and realize once students arrive that you have a bottle-neck of traffic in an area. When arranging seating for students, I don’t tuck the chairs in….I place them in such a way that they are where they would be if a warm body was sitting in them. In this way I know if there is enough room to move around easily. Remember, you want to be able to move about the room as well.

5. I would guarantee that most of the items you have stacked on your desk that you haven’t gotten to yet are really not necessary. Here’s my proof----last year at open house time I ran out of time and took that stack of never-ending stuff from my desk and placed it in a container to make the area neater. Then I promptly forgot it.

This year before open house I went through the container and was surprised to find out that what I thought was pending matters last year was actually unimportant. Most of it was thrown in the trash.

A colleague has a system she uses that works well for her. If paperwork sits on her desk at the end of the day it must be handled before she can leave the building. She told me that suddenly all of those items that she used to accumulate such as a flier for a possible field trip, or a magazine article that might be helpful in a unit suddenly found their way into three categories-----thrown way, delegated to someone else for them to act on, or actually filed with the unit box the idea pertained to. A decision could be to keep the item or get rid of it when it was time to teach the unit.

What type of strategies do you follow to keep from being so cluttered?

Secondhand Thoughts has some great links to pictures of other teacher’s classrooms. Go take a look.


HappyChyck said...

Great ideas! I just cleaned out my file cabinets last week. It was a wonderful feeling! I like your colleague's idea about not leaving until the desk is cleared. I get so many little bits of this and that from admin, teachers, and yearbook that it just PILES up. I suppose it wouldn't be too hard to just DEAL with it.

30plusteacher said...

I've been trying to "handle" each new piece of paper I receive before I leave. So far so good.

Another idea I had this week is to go through my mail in the teacher's lounge where my mailbox is located. I stand next to the trashcan and pitch what I can. If the office needs something signed I walk the paper right to the office and give it to them right then. That way those things never make their way to my desk.:)