Book Boxes in Fifth Grade

You know you’re a teacher if you get really excited to talk about BOOK BOXES.  Ha!  I love book boxes and I just can’t hide it.  No shame in my game! 
We keep them stored on the counter.  These are our plastic Storex ones.
I’ve used book boxes for many years because my students don’t use traditional desks.  Granted, I have some typical school desks in our room but I actually turn them so they can’t access the desk part.

That’s not meant to be vengeful or anything.  Promise!  By not shoving every paper and scrap known to man inside a desk (and you KNOW kids do), they are a) able to move freely to work the room and b) not tied down to a specific spot.

Wait.  Those are basically the same but so important.

Which is well and good but leaves an issue of STUFF.  Spirals, novels, folders.  Our friends tend to come with a few necessities and they need a place for them that is easily accessible. 
When they need more supplies, they can come and grab from these black baskets.
Timeout: I’ve tried to store things communally and if you do and it works for you, hats off and cheers!  It has simply never worked for me.  The traffic jams, the instructional minutes spent passing things out, the “this one can’t be mine because the cover is bent” just sent me into a real dark hole of teaching.  I climbed out and am not afraid to say it’s just not my jam.

But, book boxes are!  Originally, I was buying the cardboard magazine holders from Ikea to solve the problem of stuff storage.  In recent years, I bit the bullet and bought plastic ones (THESE) and have never looked back.  They hold up so well, whereas the Ikea ones lasted about one calendar year before they couldn’t take another breath.

So what goes inside?  I consider book boxes to be the pulse of our instruction.  These are the things that must be easily accessible pretty much throughout our day.  For us, that’s our independent novels, our writers notebooks, our ELA spirals, and our unfinished work folders. 
This was taken one random afternoon.  With guidance and practice and discussion, they do a FABULOUS job keeping them tidy and organized.
When a student wants to work around the room, 99% of the time, they grab their book box (or at least something FROM their book box) before setting out.  It almost acts as an “X marks the spot” around the room.

Now, it should be noted that we also have cubbies in our class and we call those “long term storage.”  We don’t typically use every textbook everyday so they sit in the cubbies.  These COULD be communally stored but I already mentioned (in too many words) that I’m a big old failure in that area so we keep in cubbies. 
You can see the cubbies here.  We are VERY lucky to have this storage!
Students are responsible for keeping their book boxes neat and tidy.  When they leave each day, ours must be lined up on the counter.  The public display aspect will, I promise, encourage a little more thought and organization than a traditional desk.  In fact, I frequently hide class cash in book boxes that are neat and tidy.  I wait until they leave for the day and act like a giant tooth fairy, shoving paper bills into ones that make the cut.  You could also do citations (which can be a class job) but I try real hard to focus on the positive.

When students come in each day, they grab their book box, move it to their spot, and join us for morning meeting.  Before they leave each day, they move their book box back to the counter, always placed back in numerical order.  I label mine with their student number, which expedites both the arrival and departure process. 
These are the cardboard ones from Ikea.  I used the duct tape to reinforce it.
Do you use book boxes?  Paper?  Plastic?  Metal?  Is it weird that I like to online “window shop” book box options?

Don’t answer that.  


  1. I am loving all of your new blog posts! The link for the book bins you use doesn't seem to be working for me. Are they the large or small storex bins? I am moving to fourth grade next year and would love to invest in a similar set for myself. Thanks!

  2. Hi Brenna! I'm sorry the link isn't working. I wonder if they stopped carrying them. If you're willing to make the investment, Lakeshore has AWESOME ones!

  3. Hi! Th boxes can be found at school specialty. Stores large magazine... BTW do you have the numbers that you used?