Classroom Organization Tips for an Easy End of the Year
Closing up shop at the end of the school year can be time consuming and a bit overwhelming. However, following a few organization tips several weeks in advance can dramatically reduce and ease your workload. Here are six steps for classroom organization at the end of the year and a free printable tool to help keep you on track.
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If you take any advice from me, please let this be it.
I can’t stress enough how important purging is – not only while packing up at the end of the year but all year long. While I understand the urge to keep things you “might” need at some point in your career, you simply won’t use half of the things you’ve been storing in that back closet that are currently collecting dust.
Before packing your resources at the end of the year, be honest and reflective about their importance. Did these items help bring positive growth, build community, support independence, or inspire creativity this year? Did you actually use the fourteen bins of foam letters you have stored away – or did you really only need three?
Get rid of anything that doesn’t add value to you or your students but instead claims valuable resources such as time and space.
For more on determining importance (and a free printable resource), see this post.
Once you’ve removed anything that is outdated, unusable, or unimportant, organize what’s left. Store items in clear bins so it’s easy to see what’s inside. These are my favorites. The snap lids are easy to remove and the colored tabs help keep similar items organized.
Once you’ve organized your resources, take inventory of the supplies you have left over. This will help guide your purchases during back to school sales.
For tips on organizing your teaching resources, see this post.
3. Take pictures
Save time deciding what goes where next year by taking pictures of how your room is set up now. Download the photos to a digital file along with notes for specific things you want to remember about seating arrangements, center placements, and more.
Spend the last few weeks reflecting on your year. What went well? What would you like to improve? Spend just a few minutes each day writing notes – or keep your note sheet out on your desk to jot notes as they come to you. Remember to take your notes home with you for summer planning.
For a printable guide to help you reflect on the year, see this post.
5. Prep for back to school
Print, copy, and prep everything you need at the beginning of the year.
Let’s be real. Come August, you’re going to be swamped with everything necessary to get the year going. There's no need to add countless hours standing at the copier or sitting by the printer on top of that. So - to save yourself a great deal of time later, do those types of tasks now.
While you won’t know specifics about next year’s class, you can prep in general terms. If you typically have 27 students in your class but know the max class size is 30, then prep for 30 students. If you end up with extras, you’ll be prepared for the inevitable “lost” assignment or ready for last minute additions to your roster.
I’m not an advocate for doing the same thing year after year. However, there are some activities, lessons, and assessments that are appropriate and/or necessary to reuse each year. Especially those resources that help us learn more about our students, their learning styles, and needs.
Here are the things I prepped for back to school:
Welcome packets. I always made up a folder of important information for each child to take home during Open House or the first day of school. I included items such as a welcome letter, building information, class social media account info, technology permission sheets, student info sheets, supply lists, newsletter sign-up info, etc. Print items that need immediate attention, such as parent contact information, on bright colored paper.
Open House and Get to Know the Teacher materials. Sign up sheets, class facts, student and/or parent surveys, volunteer sign up sheets and bins and labels for parents to turn in each.
“Getting to know you” resources. What are the activities you love to do at the beginning of the year to learn about your students? Copy and/or prep those now.
Assessment materials. Prep any test you know you’ll give at the beginning of the year. These could include initial spelling tests, reading or phonemic awareness assessments, fluency graphs, writing sample pages, etc.
Other books and materials needed for your first week of lessons. Typically the first week of school is full of getting to know you activities, assessments, and lessons for learning classroom procedures. Make a tentative plan for your first week back and prep those materials now. Early weekly assignments, such as morning work and homework reading logs would be good to include.
Nameplates or labels for desks, cubbies, book boxes, or bins. While you can’t write students’ names on them quite yet, you can have them printed, laminated, and ready to go.
Place all prepped materials in one container and put it in a place that is easily accessible when you return next year. When finished, label your boxes, bins, and stacks of resources. Don’t rely on your memory to remember what’s in each box when you return to your classroom.
6. Involve your students
I think it’s incredibly important to keep your classroom intact as much as possible until the very last day of the school year. While it’s tempting to start removing items and storing materials as soon as testing is over, keeping your workspace intact is paramount to keeping students on task and in learning mode.
If you start to shut down, they’ll think it’s ok to shut down too.
Following the first five organization tips during your last month of school will help prep your classroom for closure without disrupting students’ daily routines. This last tip gets students involved but should be done at the very end of the year.
Ways students can help:
Wipe down outsides and insides of desks.
Clean out book boxes, cubbies, and any other containers or places where students stored their belongings throughout the year.
Organize the classroom library. Look for books that are in need of repair or replacing. Reshelve books that are in the wrong places.
Organize supply bins. Remove broken or unusable items (markers or glue sticks without caps) and return misplaced items to correct bins.
Remove old or student-specific labels from desks, cubbies, book boxes, mailboxes, etc.
Clean and tidy center materials, such as whiteboards, headphones, keyboards, and bins.
Sharpen colored and regular pencils.
On the last day of school:
Collect students’ personal items from cubbies, lockers, and desks to send home. I stock up on grocery bags the last month of school so I have plenty for students to carry home all of their extra belongings.
Send home summer review packs, books, and other “extra” items such as leftover copies of lesson pages and books.
Stack chairs and move to one corner of the room along with desks and other seating options.
Getting it all done
You might be asking – how am I supposed to find time to get all of this done at the end of the year?
I made it work by coming in early and staying late a few times a week during the last month of school. I used the extra time in the morning to copy, laminate, and print – anything that is best done when the building is typically empty (no long lines at the copier!). The extra time in the afternoon was spent organizing, purging, and making notes.
You’ll be amazing at how much you can accomplish by picking just one or two tasks to focus on per week. Come the last day of school, you’ll only need to take down visuals from your walls and put away all of your organized materials.
To help guide you through the process, I created this printable containing all the suggestions in this post. You can find it, along with several other tools, in The Treasury.
For additional organization tips, see my Organize to Simply series all about taking proactive steps over the summer to ensure your best school year in the fall.
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