Organizational Systems that Work for Us

Students can swap out a dull pencil for a sharp one.  It's a class job for one student to keep them sharpened.
Organization is my love language.

If that's a thing.

I just really, really, REALLY love when things are arranged in a systematic way that makes sense.  Bonus points if it's pretty, too.

For me, being organized helps my brain feel clear and it makes me feel empowered.  I want that for my students as well so I do pour time and energy into systems that allow for streamlined organization.

And so with that, these are a few things that really stand out to me, as far as helping achieve that goal.

We are lucky to have these built-in cubbies!
We don't do community supplies.  I've tried, I've wanted it to work, I've tried it again, and it never works for me.

Instead, students have their own extra long pencil boxes (like THESE), which families donate.  If they don't have one, I always stock up when they're on sale at Walmart or Target.

Anyway, if they run out of supplies or just need one, they can visit these baskets.  It's a nice way for them to quickly access supplies and it's a great visual for me to see if we are low on anything.

I love these baskets from Big Lots; they're SO durable and that's saying a lot because they're slid in and out by fifth graders all day long.

This is how it looks before they leave or before they enter.  In other words, not DURING the school day!
They keep their pencil boxes (and text books) in their cubbies, which are part of these built-ins.  On top of the long counter, they store their book boxes.  During the day, this counter is used as seating but after some training and practice, they learn what the expectations look like and what needs to be done before they leave.

Because my students don't have desks (you can read more HERE), these cubbies, book boxes, and pencil boxes are an important trifecta. 

This is a two-tiered tray from Ikea.
Now for student work, we have systems, too.

Each student has a "Work in Progress" folder (we call it their WIP folder) and that's where they store unfinished work.

Once it's done, they turn it into the In Bin, on the top part of this tray.

When I have graded and recorded it, I put it in the BOTTOM part of the tray.  We do something called Take Home Tuesday, where all paper communication from the school and graded student work goes home only once a week, on Tuesdays.

By Tuesday, that bottom bin is FULL but I love that parents know to check those backpacks or ask their students only ONCE a week.

This tray is also Ikea.  I love Ikea.  They make life great.
If students need reading logs or publishing paper or vocabulary sheets, there's a tray for that, too.  I love THIS one from Ikea because the trays slide out.  This is ALWAYS on the side counter (with the In Bin) so students can (and need to) help themselves if they need one of these things.

I always keep the top loaded with reading logs but will swap out the bottom two trays, depending on what we are working on or if we are publishing any writing pieces.

In fact, I try to keep as much as I can easily accessible to students.

Increasing independence and autonomy by having everything out and available to THEM.
Each month, my students are required to complete one assessment, based off the novel they're either currently reading or recently finished.

This file box stays on the countertop so they can grab one whenever they have spare time.

You can grab the assessments HERE.

It's rare that this is empty; I must've had an ambitious class librarian at time of photo!
Here's the way I see it: If we can have enough systems in place to encourage autonomy and independence, I can spend more time teaching.

Done with a book?  They know to drop it in the book return cart.  

I promise you, it makes SUCH a huge difference.

Hello Fifth Control Center
I also strive to keep MY area streamlined and organized.  This is a table top from Ikea, paired with expandable legs (also Ikea).  I have them raised to the max height, which makes it standing height for me. 

If you ignore that storm of cords, it's a most perfect set up for me!

The cube system that flanks my table is from Target and it holds our picture books.  I like that it kind of boxes in my little area without taking up too much floor space.

I try and really only keep the necessities around and displayed.  Everything I need and use daily is at my fingertips.

When I need my OWN supplies, I keep them all in this toolbox.  Years ago, my husband painted it white and this thing has traveled to many rooms with me!  It now sits near my teacher table.

You can grab the adorable llama labels HERE.

And so, there you have it.  Organization is important to me and with each year, it evolves.  We find systems that work really well for us, tweak ones that don't, and establish high expectations that things are maintained.

It really does make a positive impact on our classroom environment!


  1. Where did you get that adorable pencil holder with the plant?!?

  2. How do you deal with missing or late assignments? Not necessarily the grading part of it, but keeping the students accountable and learning responsibility and time management. I remember you asking this on your insta-story but can’t remember what you do. Thanks!

  3. I've never liked community supplies, so I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one. I've just never found a system or storage solution that works. You mentioned pencil boxes. Is that merely for extra pencils? Or do you use them for other things too? Are the other baskets filled with boxes of markers or crayons, etc. Names on everything?

  4. Where did you get your book boxes and what size are they? I found some on Amazon that I love but wanted to get ones big enough to hold folders and books. Thanks!

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