Sanity Saving Classroom Hacks

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Hey y'all! Are you ready to take back your sanity in your classroom? Here's 18 tips and tricks to get things back on track.

1. Teacher Books

Grab a few IKEA magazine files (they're 5 for $2) and label them for each month, theme, or unit--whatever works for you. I put bulletin board boarder on mine to make it match the theme in our classroom and used the circle cutouts from Creative Teaching Press as labels.

These also work great as student book boxes for reading time. Just be aware that if the kids use them daily, they will only last one school year (if you're lucky).



2. Guided Reading Books

Do you level your reading groups? Make it easy to find the level you're looking for by putting a different colored strip of duct tape on each level of book. With all the different patterns of tape available now, this organization strategy can get super fun!


3. The Guided Reading Groups

Sort your reading group supplies into different book bins. On the sticky notes, I write who's in each group (they're blank for this photo to maintain student privacy). That way I can plan ahead what books we're going to read and have them ready and leveled in advance. These book bins came from the Target dollar spot last year, but you can also find them in teacher supply stores. 


4. Record Keeping

You need a way to keep track of all of your guided reading (or math) groups--when you met, who was in the group that time, what book they read, and any anecdotal notes you may need to refer back to. This kind of record is essential for report cards, parent questions or concerns, or when admin asks to see your documentation/data. You could also have a page for each group or student, but I find that much more challenging to keep track of. One page with all the info on it has been a life saver for me. You can get a copy of what I use here


5. The Teacher Binder

Ok, I have a LOT of binders (we'll get to that in a little bit), but this one I use All. The. Time. This baby has everything to keep my classroom organized and ready to go. It has the district calendar, the pacing guides, class lists, the standards, lesson plans, guided reading notes from above, and so much more. That paper that has to be referenced all year long? Yep, it's in here. Some people call it their Pensive (thank you Harry Potter). Some just call it a life saver. Either way, you need one. (Splurge and get one you love. You'll be using it all year!)


6. The Weekly Plan

Keep your papers for each lesson organized with some kind of file system. You could use drawers like these, file folders in a cabinet or rack, or storage tubs. I used Dollar Tree tubs for years because they were cheap and big enough to hold all the supplies for the day. I moved to drawers this year in an effort to decrease the clutter. Whatever system you use, make sure it works for you and keeps your supplies ready to go.


7. Binder Heaven

Get a binder for every month and/or unit. (See, I told ya we'd come back to the binders.) You can set it up all at once, or spread it out over the year. Just be sure to label each binder with the month or unit and fill it up with things you use during that time. I put everything in clear page protectors and slide my resources right into each binder. These are just the monthly themed things I have shown here. I also have additional binders for subject specific things that can be used all year long. Does it take time to prepare? Yes. Does it save me time in planning? Absolutely. All my originals are in one place and I can thumb through quickly to find what I need to make copies of. 



8. Must Have Supplies

There are some supplies I use all the time. Pineapple pointers (a.k.a. drink stirrers from the Target dollar spot), flair pens, and highlighters are an essential part of our small group table. I pull out other things depending on what we're working on (phonics strips for reading, base ten blocks for math), but these things are essentials we use all day. A student sent me an Edible Arrangement a few years ago and I kept the vase for our pencil cup. It's cute and the kids think it's fancy, but you could use anything to hold your supplies. 


9. White Board Supplies

During back to school season, there will be all kinds of locker organization stuff. Most of it is magnetic, which is awesome! I picked up this little magnetic basket last year and it's great for keeping the teacher makers contained and up out of the reach of my littles. The kids have their own stash, so I don't feel bad hoarding a few of the pretty colors for myself. 

New teachers: if you leave your dry erase markers on the tray of the white board, they will walk away. Keep your favorites out of the reach of littles and give them a supply bucket of their own. (Please don't feel guilty for keeping some supplies for yourself. The littles have 99% of the classroom. It really is okay for you to have some pretty things they're not allowed to touch.) 


10. Returning Student Work

Get a storage crate (less than $5 at Target or Walmart) and some hanging file folders. Label them with your students' numbers. When it's time to return their work, simply file it in their file folder and they can "check their mailbox" daily or weekly, whichever you prefer. Why use their student number? Because if you make cute labels with their names on them, you will get a new student, or a student will move away, and you'll have to change the tags. Using numbers allows you to reuse these no matter how many times your class roster changes. 


11. Group Your Students 

Assign them into color groups, animal groups, super heroes, sports. music groups--whatever your theme is. Why? So you can say things like, "If you're a fox, you may go get started. If' you're a hedgehog, you may go get supplies." When you say things like, "If you're wearing blue, you may go," EVERYONE has to talk about what colors they are wearing. (Seriously, it doesn't matter how old the kids are, they all do this!) The same with, "If you're wearing shoes with velcro..." It totally slows everything down and makes the transition super loud. If you assign a group name, there's not much to discuss.


When you organize students by groups (not ability level, just teams), it makes it easy to dismiss students a few at time, keep their things organized, and make quick cooperative learning teams. On my students' supply crates, they have a picture of their animal. All of their supplies are in their designated crate. I can say things like, "Owls and hedgehogs, get your notebooks first. Foxes, bears, and raccoons, get your papers first." Then there aren't 18 kids waiting for papers or shuffling through supplies all at once.


12. Sign Up Sheets

My students are in charge of leading our math warm up and calendar time, and we have designated helpers for various things throughout the day. They have additional classroom jobs, but these are for those special things that everyone should have a turn at regularly. I print off these cute little (free!) calendars from Lakeshore and mark off any days we don't have school. Students sign up for the day they want to lead. It keeps them engaged and excited, and gives them a chance to be the teacher for a part of the day.


13. Schedules 

Most of us don't go to the same specials classes every day. To keep my kids from CONSTANTLY asking where we're going today, I used these signs from Creative Teaching Press to display our specials schedule. The little pinecone thing gets moved each day so the kids know what day of the week it is and where we're headed.


14. Paperclips

Paperclips are literally the most versatile school supply out there. You can use them as spinners for game boards, to get little pieces of crayons out of things that shouldn't have little pieces of crayons in them, to hold things together, and so much more. For our schedule setup, I use a paperclip to hold the pinecone on.


I even use paperclips to hang student work from the ceiling. They're super easy to attach a string to and slide onto the ceiling tiles. AND, if your fire marshal says you can't hang string from the ceiling, most will let you use a paperclip and plastic fishing line to hang things. Both are fairly cheap and easy to work with.

BONUS: If you use fishing line to hang things, the littlest kiddos can't see it from way down there and think the things are levitating. My whole kindergarten class thought I was magic because the drying rack looked like it was hovering above them. #kidssaythedarndestthings


15. Brag Tags

...or pride tags as they're called in my classroom, are a wonderful way to recognize student achievement or compliment good behavior. These little bead boxes from Michaels or Hobby Lobby are the perfect size for keeping them neat and tidy. You could also use tool boxes from the hardware store, but these are way cuter!


16. Displaying Tags

Remember the grouping we talked about earlier? This is how we know who's in each group. Each student has their name on an animal (you could use other things too, remember) and their brag tags hang under them. I use the old chalkboard in our room with magnetic clips from the Target dollar spot. These clips have lasted for years so they've been well worth the $1 for 4 clips investment! The tags hang on chains cut to about 24 inches. The chains I replace every year, but you can usually find them on sale for half during the summer. Two spools usually works for a whole class. I've seen teachers also use Command hooks to hang them or book rings to hold the tags. 


17. Clipboards

Not ready to invest in a class set of clipboards yet? Your school probably has a set of dry erase boards you can use. To keep papers still, attach a binder clip to the top of the board and show students how to squeeze them to put their papers in. These are way easier to replace if broken than normal clipboards.


18. The Doorbell

You may have seen the wireless doorbell start to pop up across your feed lately. They're becoming increasingly popular, and for good reason! With 50+ chimes to choose from, multiple volume levels, and the ease of taking it anywhere in the room, it's a total game changer as far as getting students' attention. No more yelling "1, 2, 3, Eyes on me!" over a class full of energized 8 year olds. One ring of the doorbell has their attention and you get to keep your voice.


I hope you found some great new ways to get organized and in control. Stay tuned for more tips, tricks, and resources to keep your classroom humming along. Have a great week and stay sweet!


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