July 27, 2014

Smooth Sailing Back to School Tips

Hey everyone! I hope you've had a chance to sail over to my friends' blogs and read their advice for smooth sailing into a new year. We want to share our tips and tricks to get you on your way to a new (and smooth) year!


For my school year to get off to a smooth start, I always need to have everything ready to go and at my fingertips, so I don't have to lose a moment searching for anything. Here are some of the best ways I have been able to have everything ready and instantly accessible for those beginning weeks:

1. Make Student Supplies Easily Accessible
I like to have all the supplies my students will need during the day right at their fingertips (no roaming around the classroom!!). So last year I tried Student Toolboxes:

These toolboxes hold everything we normally use in a school day and worked like an absolute dream! No supplies were lost, no supplies were put in the wrong places...everything was right where we needed it:

With all student supplies are easily accessible in one places, activities and transitions run more smoothly, leading to increased instructional time. 

2. Number Student Storage Areas
Those of you who have read my blog over the years know I like to use a numbering system. This is an organizational technique that has helped me in so many ways--especially on the first day of school.

My class list tends to be in flux during the first couple of weeks. Students move away over the summer, newcomer EL students arrive in those first weeks (and not necessarily the first day).

With numbers, I am able to set up the whole classroom in advance, without any names, until my students arrive:

This allows me to have all my students' materials right at my fingertips...actually, at their fingertips!
If you are a fan of the numbering system, pre-numbering student areas will allow you to have all student materials and paperwork ready to go for those first days, before your students even arrive.

3. Label EVERYTHING!!!
This probably sounds like an obvious statement, but I have learned over the years that the more I label every single thing in my room, the less I misplace.

This is the case with my teacher toolbox:


Subject area baskets:
and so many other parts of our classroom.

If something is labeled, you will always put it back where it belongs and be able to find it at a moment's notice.

4. Get Ahead on Copying
This is something I have started getting better about more recently, thanks to the incredible units out there on Teachers Pay Teachers. With so many in-depth and long-term resources, it is possible to prepare units well in advance.

I will be copying numerous resources to get my students and I set up for the month of September, allowing me to have all the papers we need at our fingertips.

Here are just a few of my favorites I'm already prepping for September:
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Interactive-Math-Journal-315177
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Calendar-Math-for-the-Upper-Grades-5th-Grade-Starter-Kit-776253
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Spelling-with-Morphology-An-Entire-Year-of-Differentiated-Spelling-Lists-1233025

The more you have copied and right at your fingertips, the more time you will have to focus on building those crucial classroom routines in the beginning weeks.

5. First Day Organization
And then there's the first day itself.

No matter how long I've taught I still get those jitters...and that leads to a scattered "Um, where were we? What are we doing next?" feeling that I just cannot have on that first day.

So I made a first day of school sheet to keep track all of the important things I would like to remember for the day.

There are places to record the activities and routines I'll cover for each subject, any important notes from parents I meet that morning, dismissal notes for the first day, things to prep for the next day, and more. I'll be keeping this sheet on a clipboard with me throughout the first day.

Please click on the image below if you'd like to download a copy for your big day:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2ARzMSbNzXNWDFjSjlnRmJpMEU/edit?usp=sharing
Keeping all important information for the first day of school at your fingertips will keep you on track, allowing you to focus on the most important thing--welcoming your students to a new year!

To help you sail smoothly into a new school year, please visit my friends' blogs to read their tips and tricks...

441 comments:

  1. Kristen,

    I absolutely love your blog! I've downloaded about every freebie you've offered--thank you! It's my first year teaching and your resources will make it a little easier to decorate and be prepared :) I was wondering if you would be willing to make your wednesday folder sign a printable? I would love to incorporate that into my classroom this year. Thanks again for all your wonderful posts!

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    1. Hi Marquie, thanks so much! I will try to do so in the future...thanks for visiting my blog :)

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  2. I LOVE that toolbox for supplies! Not only is it great for staying organized, but it's so bright, too...I've been inspired! Thanks so much!
    ~Deb
    Crafting Connections

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    1. Thanks so very much Deb--those seriously are my favorite pieces of organization in the whole room! :)

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  3. I keep a draw for every student's number too. I love using numbers to keep everything at my fingertips as well!

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  4. Thanks for this! I really appreciate all you do. Being a new teacher, these materials are very helpful. I hope I could win something. I never seem to get lucky. Either way, there are a few things I'd like to purchase.

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    1. Thanks so very much!! Best of luck to you! :) :)

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  5. I have professional development meetings almost every morning (district wide initiative). I get agendas for all of the meetings the week before via email, so I print them out and put them in a brightly colored file folder that I have labeled "NEXT WEEK". I also add in any other notices, schedules, parent notes, etc that have to be attended or dealt with the next week in that folder. On Friday afternoon, I take 30 seconds to organize the pile in date order and binder clip it - Each day when I come in, all of the important paperwork is right on top of my planner and I am not fumbling for where I put whatever piece of paper I need. Sounds silly, but so helpful to me!

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    1. Oh this doesn't sound silly at all!! What a smart way to keep track of those important papers--thank you so much for sharing with us!

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  6. This will be my first year in my own classroom and I am so excited to try out a teacher toolbox. I want to stay organized, organized, organized!! I think I have already spent $500 on bins and tubs. :)

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    1. Congratulations on your new position!! Best of luck :)

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  7. I (try to) keep the kids desks' organized by using a 3 shelf book shelf at the end of each team of 5 students. We keep dictionaries, journals, workbooks, hands-on manipulatives, team supplies in the shelf to keep their desks and desktops organized and clutter free. It works great. I also choose one student at each team to be the shelf manager to keep the shelf organized. The kids like to "shove" the materials in.

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    1. I like this method Amy, I bet that works like a charm! Thank you for stopping by :)

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  8. This is my first year back teaching after staying home with my children for 9 years. I would love to get my organization tools.

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  9. My favorite tool to keep things organized is to keep everything labeled and have a place for everything.

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    1. Thank you Jenny, I agree wholeheartedly!

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  10. Number systems are great for organizing....number it once and done for years to come!

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    1. That's the best part about them Jennifer! Thank you for visiting!!

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  11. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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    1. Thank you Kelsey for stopping by!!

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  12. Your blog is absolutely fantastic!!! My favorite way to keep everything at my fingertips is lots and lots of colorful storage containers!! I also have my own personal teacher tool box.

    Thanks for all the wonderful advice!!

    Ashley
    Coffee and Lesson Plans

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    1. Thank you so very much Ashley!!

      I love the toolbox, it has been a life saver for my scattered self :)

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    1. The toolbox really is my favorite of all Misty :) :)

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  14. Like you, I LOVE LOVE LOVE organizers and tubs. One way I keep everything at my fingertips: I have hanging files for each day of the week and when I make my copies (usually on Thursday for the next week), I place the copies (and any children's books I plan to read with the lessons) in the correct "day" folder. Then, the following Monday, I just pull out the papers and books for Monday, and I'm good to go!

    ~Jessica
    Joy in the Journey

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    1. oooo...I like this idea Jessica! I love getting that jump start on copying, it makes me so zen on Monday mornings ;)

      Thanks for visiting!

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  15. Honestly, I start out organized, but tend to become somewhat unorganized as the year progresses. I really need to get an easy and uncomplicated system in place!
    karen
    Smarticle Particles

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    1. I understand that so much Karen. It has taken me years to really get all my systems in place so I can maintain my organization...it can be really easy to get disorganized in our field! Thank you for visiting!

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  16. I love any kind of organizing tubs that make things easy for the kids to see and find themselves! Independence is my favorite thing! :)

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    1. Organizing tubs are the best, aren't they? Thanks for stopping by!

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  17. I'm moving to Second grade and thinking of starting a numbering system. I have a question (or few) about the student toolboxes. Did each student have their own or was it in groups? Did you find that they held an ample supply for everyone if they were shared by a group?

    Primary on the Prowl

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    1. Hi Crystal,

      I have tables in my room, so there is a toolbox at each table. They hold coloring materials (for students who may not have their own). Then I stock them with enough scissors, glue, highlighters, and pens for all of my students. We do a lot of notebooking, so I want to be sure everyone has those items each day.

      I hope this is of help! Thanks for visiting today!

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  18. I make sure I put everything in its place, and for those times that I misplace things (I really need to make a teacher tool kit) I pray to St. Anthony (he always helps me find the things I misplace).

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    1. You will love the toolbox, it has helped me so much! :)

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  19. I would love my classroom to look like yours! I label everything but my students still don't put things where they belong. My goal is to teach them to keep organized this year.

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    1. Hi Heidi, thanks! It takes me a lot of modeling in those beginning weeks to ensure they put everything in the proper place. Best of luck with your next school year!

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  20. Oh goodness, I wish I could keep everything as organized as you do! I like to try to label and color coordinate them but sometimes it doesn't go as great as I would like for it to! LOL

    kellybrown28021@gmail.com

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  21. I label everything too. Assigning student numbers is a favorite of mine and using the homework hangout from YoungTeacherLove is a dream!

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    1. Yes I love Kristine's homework hangout!!! Thank you for visiting!

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  22. I Use Colored folders to keep track of different classes and I also use bins and storage boxes for my centers.

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  23. I have bins and baskets that are labeled. The students know where everything is located. Thank you for all your wonderful ideas!

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    1. Thank you so much Marge, what a lovely thing to say! Love those bins and baskets!

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  24. This past year was my 2nd year in the classroom after having spent 8 years in ESL and Library. Binders definitely helped me to be much more organized this year. Had one for math units, each reading group, ELA, etc. Bins for materials like student readers and manipulatives were super helpful too!

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    1. Thank you Jaclyn! I love your idea of having a binder for each reading group, thank you for sharing with us!

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  25. I label everything. Everything has a place. And I try really, really hard not to allow piles to accumulate!
    Lynn

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    1. Oh my gosh, those piles are my downfall Lynn!! I have to really work at not letting them get out of control!

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  26. A numbering system helps with everything– attendance, homework, grades, supplies, line order, and general organization. My teacher toolbox is another fave, the labels of which I downloaded from you (thank you)! Absolutely love all of your "brights" products!
    Liz

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    1. Thank you Liz!!! I agree, the numbering system helps in so many ways. Thanks again!

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  27. I love your colorful organization.

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  28. umm AMAZING giveaway!! I also have a supply toolbox within reach of my desk :)

    Katie
    Dirty Hands & Lesson Plans

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    1. Thanks Katie!! I'm so glad you like it! Thanks for sharing your tip :) :)

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  29. I use file organizers at my guided reading table and desk so that I always have everything I need!

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    1. I like that idea Ashley! Do you use a folder for each group or for levels?

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  30. I have to have everything numbered, labeled, and super organized.

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  31. I have the teacher toolbox as well and love it. I also keep a small group basket with all the materials I will need. I use wall pops on my table as dry erase boards. They clean easy and are always there!

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    1. Thanks Samantha! I've toyed with the idea of the wall pops but haven't tried them yet--you're convincing me to do so!!

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  32. I do a lot of the same things that you do. I number and label EVERYTHING. I also keep a clipboard with me at all time during the first week of all the important info (schedules, students' dismissal info, papers to collect, etc.).

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  33. I am NOT at all as organized as you. I will definitely be reading more of your blog for tips and ideas. Thank you!!

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    1. Thanks so much, I hope it can be of some help!

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  34. I have a teacher toolbox that helps. Otherwise, I am still trying to find a system that works for me.

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    1. It's taken me years to get things to a point where they work really well for me Sara, I think it's an ever-evolving process ;) Thanks for visiting!

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  35. I love the teacher and student organization bins!

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  36. I keep drawers at my guided reading table, a basket near my teacher chair/carpet, and anywhere else I am going to need instant access to materials. Same for students. All of their materials are organized and easy to access.

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    1. That's an excellent point Michelle--having those items right there for instant access! Thanks so much for sharing with us :)

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  37. I love everything about your website from the cute graphics, the spelling morphology journals, to the student toolboxes. Where did you get the smaller ones? This year, I'm focusing on slowly remodeling my classroom and containing the chaos before it begins. I'm tired of getting to the middle of the school year and not being able to find things! So, starting out early and beginning with Project Organize Chaos :)

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  38. I don't have a favorite way yet so I have been enjoying all of the ideas everyone has shared!

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    1. I'm so glad Lori! Everyone has shared wonderful tips!

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  39. I have a student desk in the front of the room that I use. I have a mug with Expos, pens/pencils, scissors, glue stick, and Popsicle sticks to draw numbers. I keep my weekly lesson plan on this desk with my needed copies and books for the day.

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    1. I like the idea of using a smaller desk to hold those essentials--thanks Shavon!

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  40. I use student tool boxes, too, but I am so inspired by all of your tips! Thanks!

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    1. Thank you Rhonda, I'm so glad to hear it! Thank you for visiting and commenting!

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  41. I use a teacher's toolbox and Sterlite drawers.

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    1. My personal favorites!! Thanks for stopping by!

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  42. Amazing! I definitely need to label more! I am going to look into yours: so bright and colorful! I love your first day papers. At the end of the first day I am often thinking "Did I cover that?" Now I'll know for sure:)

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    1. Thank you Sarah! I'm delighted to hear you like the first day sheets as well :) :)

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  43. I have all of my supplies organized in labeled bins so my students can borrow them and return them to the correct places

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  44. My toolbox and labels on everything!

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  45. My kids have round tables and I have a 3 drawer rolly cart for each table. The carts contain manipulatives, pens/pencils, scissors, journals, and anything they may need to get through the day. I add a small basket to the top for recycle.

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    1. How nice Jeanie to have rolling carts! I really like the idea of the basket for recycling too, that's something I need to add this year!

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  46. I admire your bright colored labels and bright bins. I also label everything; it is so much easier to clean up and put things away when they have a "home".

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    1. I agree completely Carey--thanks so much for sharing your tip!

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  47. I wish I could be at least a third as organized as you are! Thanks for an amazing post!
    Monique
    More Than Math by Mo

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  48. I moved my files from the filing cabinet to binders.

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    1. I like binders better than the filing cabinets myself--that may be because my old cabinet was in such bad shape!

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  49. My favorite way to keep everything at my fingertips is to have it labeled, organized, and set up BEFORE school starts or it gets chaotic!

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    1. I agree Allison...everything seems to start somewhat calmly in those first couple of weeks, then chaos ensues! It's nice to have it all organized and ready for the real deal ;)

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  50. I love your labels! I label everything too. I also use lots of plastic bins for storage. It's saves my sanity!

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  51. I teach students in k-5, so I keep things in labeled bins. BTW - I LOVE how and am so impressed by the way you've responded to every comment! You are amazing :-)

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    1. Hi Christy! I appreciate your comment but I don't know that I can take full credit--I try really hard to comment back sometimes and other times I fall completely behind in doing so!! The intention is always there!!! Wow, k-5 would require a lot of organization!! Thanks for visiting my blog :)

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  52. I just keep everything sorted and organized in folders, tubs etc

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  53. I used a numbering system last year with my kids, and it was a dream.

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    1. I agree Amy--I can't believe how much it helps organizationally!

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  54. Tubs are my friends...lol! I love how you organize everything!
    Curls and a Smile

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    1. Hahahaha Lynda!!! I think we have mutual friends!! Thanks for stopping by :)

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  55. I'm with you - label, label, label. I'm excited to be mostly self-contained next year, which means I can go back to my numbering system. So much easier!!

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    1. We do love our labels, don't we? ;) Thanks Diane!!

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  56. I would love to see more on the draws you have with student notebooks in them!

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    1. Hello Shelly! I am going to be setting up my classroom in August and will be sure to do a post on my student drawers once they are set up for this year. Thanks!

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  57. Tubs, labels and folders! Love organizing!

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  58. Thank you for this fabulous opportunity!

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  59. Your labels are so cute! I am so jealous of your amazing classroom and all of your supplies!

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  60. i am horrible at organization, so it is my vow to do better this year! I am planning to gather student supplies for groups/tables, rather than student have them individually in desks, to help clear some of the student clutter and messiness!

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    1. You know what's funny Sara? That has probably made the biggest difference in my room's cleanliness. Half the mess used to be in the student desks. With everything out in the open and organized, it's much easier to keep sorted and neat. Believe me, it's taken me a long time to get really organized and I could still use a lot work in different areas! Thanks for visiting, best of luck this new school year!

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  61. Organization is my number one growth goal for next year. One thing that really helps me color coding

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    1. LOVE color coding DeLaina, I just got really into it last year and it helped me a lot. Thanks for sharing this!

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  62. I do a lot of the same things you do! A number system is so helpful and I label EVERYTHING!!

    Rachel
    A Tall Drink of Water

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  63. Each kid has a dedicated "math kit" with everything they need for interactive notebooks. That way, we dont have to have them out all the time, but when we do need them, they don't have to search for anything, they just pull out the box!

    Kelly Christensen

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    1. ooooo...I LOVE this idea Kelly!!! Thank you for sharing with us!

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  64. I'm still trying to get good at it...thanks for the tips!!

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    1. Thank you Michelle...there are tons of great tips here in the comments section too, it's been great to read all of the wonderful ideas!!

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  65. I love all of your products! I have gotten so many ideas from your blog on how to use different strategies in the classroom and also posting my objectives! Thanks!

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    1. Thank you, I'm so glad some of the posts have been helpful! :)

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  66. LOVE your site and organization!

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  67. I am drooling over your organizational skills. I agree with you on labeling EVERYTHING. It really helps! Your labels are so very cute! I was glad to see that they were a part of the giveaway. If I didn't have my labels for this year printed already, they would be an immediate purchase. Have a great beginning of the year!! :)

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    1. Thanks Jessica!!! Have a great beginning of the year too!!

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  68. Could you provide links for where you purchased the toolboxes? The only ones I've found aren't deep enough to hold pens, highlighters, etc. Thank you!

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  69. Wonderful organizational tools. I'm working hard on that this year. LOVE the first day plan--the first few days never fit on my regular lesson plan template. Thanks!

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    1. Thank you!! Isn't it funny how much you write out in those beginning days?? Glad you can use it!

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  70. I struggle with organization because I travel from class to class and will be 4 different classrooms. I'm not sure how to make sure I have everything and still keep my sanity. Thanks for advice

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    1. oh that must be so hard Amy!! Does anyone have advice for Amy for working in different classrooms? I know for me I would have to find some rolling storage :)

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  71. Thanks for the organization tips!!

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  72. I decided this year to get rid of my teacher's desk, so.....I went with a toolbox. I think I will love it since the desk was just a pile accumulator.

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    1. One of the best decisions I ever made was to get rid of my teacher desk. I used to keep SO MUCH!!! inside of it and it was a disaster. I was amazed when I managed to whittle everything down to fit in my toolbox. I think you will love it this year!!

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  73. Your organization is amazing.
    http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/2553877/one-extra-degree

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  74. Thank you for all your great ideas and products!

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  75. The best way to keep all of my stuff at my fingertips is to stay organized by labeling everything!! Just like you mentioned - it is so vital to staying on top of things!! Not only do I know where everything is, but I end up "working smarter, not harder" which is one of my goals for this school year.

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  76. Labels! Its so helpful, and I always have parents comment on how they can tell "how on top of everything" I am based on my labeling (even though it is NOT always the case!)

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    1. Haha Amie!!! I know exactly what you mean, but it certainly is great when everything looks so organized thanks to those labels :)

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  77. I have tables in my 5th grade classroom and at the end of each table is a 3 drawer bin (the large ones on wheels). Since I teach 2 classes of ELAR/Social Studies, there is one drawer for each class with their journals and the third drawer (top one) has two large pencil boxes with table supplies in them. One student from each table in each class is responsible for making sure the boxes are full of supplies and organized (there is a picture included to help them) before the end of class. I also have a supplies folder for each subject/class in that drawer that has all handouts for our Interactive Notebooks for that day. It also is a great help if students are absent because the table leader will put their name on the handouts and they will still be in there for the next day :)

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    1. Wow Marcie! What a great setup! I especially love the idea of the picture so the students know where to place everything. Thanks for sharing this!!

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  78. Been following you for years - thanks so much for all the great ideas, tips, and shared items!!!

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    1. Thank you Mamie, that means the world to me!!

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    1. Me too! Thanks so much for entering our giveaway!

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  80. I also label everything. It looks nice and there is no guessing!

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  81. File crates are my go to. There's so much paper work to keep up with that these are great to organize and they don't take up too much room.

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  82. I keep all paper files in large binders by subject and all electronic files organized by using Evernote!

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    1. I've been working on electronic files on my computer but still haven't tried Evernote. Thank you for sharing this Mallory!

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  83. Thank you so much for the first day pages. We always have a half day and I struggle with how to keep track of everything that needs to be done that day. You just took some of the major stress out of my first day with students!

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    1. I'm very happy it will be of help Kathy :)

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  84. I love your classroom organization ideas. And thank you for the first day planning sheets.

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  85. I love your ideas and everything looks so NEAT and COLORFUL! Thanks for sharing. This year I'm planning to adopt a monthly filing system. I'll have 31 file folders labeled for each day of the month, and 10 folders for each month. Everything that needs to be done during the month goes into the appropriate date. If it needs to be done later it gets filed into the appropriate month. At the beginning of each month you file the pages for the appropriate day. I think it will be very helpful in reducing lost papers and forgetting things. We'll see! :)

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    1. Oh wow! Will you be blogging about this? I think it will work very well, what a great idea!

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  86. I just love your blog! I'm so inspired by all of your wonderful ideas. One of my favorite organizational tools is my teacher toolbox...such a lifesaver to have all of my supplies right at my fingertips. I would love to have student toolboxes at each of my tables...that's on my wish list for sure. Thanks for sharing so many excellent tips and resources! :)

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    1. Thanks so very much Kristen! I am in total agreement on the teacher toolbox :)

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  87. This is one of my favorite blogs to follow! So many elementary school blogs focus on the lower elementary grades. As a 5th grade teacher, I am excited to hear all of your tips and tricks for the upper grades.

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    1. Oh thank you Misty!! I hope you have a chance to check out the other blogs in the linky too--they have wonderful intermediate ideas! Thank you again, you made my day :)

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  88. Wow! This blog post was amazing! I clicked on all the links and ended up exploring your blog for a while. I love your ideas and I will be regular reader now! My favorite organizational tool are the folders on my computer. I have them all labeled and organized and I can always find what I need! And, because I am paranoid, they are all backed up on google drive!

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    1. Hahaha Becca, I am always paranoid about that stuff too but I haven't been as smart as you when it comes to backing them up--thanks so much for sharing the brilliant idea! And thanks for the kind words about my blog :)

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  89. I'm making my own teacher toolbox for this year. Hoping that will help keep me organized! Thanks for the tips and giveaway!

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    1. You will LOVE it Megan, I promise! Thanks for stopping by, best of luck in the giveaway!

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  90. Such great tips! Can't wait to get started

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  91. I just recently started getting organized (I'm going into my 3rd year teaching). I love binders! For some reason I am much more organized with binders. I absolutely hate file folders because I feel like there isn't a way to keep them as organized. With binders, I can add tabs and organize sections of the binders. I use binders for my students' reading journals, also! They love them and we just put everything we need in there!
    I also love your system for putting things in different bins. I would love to do that if I had the space, but my space is pretty limited for storage. I am working with one filing cabinet and a huuge built in wall cabinet.
    I use a number system in my room, too! I love that I can just maintain everything year to year instead of starting over and relabeling things with students' names.

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    1. Binders are great! The bins I have are for the kids work and go on top of their numbered drawers, so it doesn't take up too much space. But I have a lot of baskets and bins and they can quickly take over the room if I'm not careful! :)

      Thank you for sharing your tips!!

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  92. I love all of your organizing ideas!

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  93. You have such great ideas! I just bought a teacher toolbox, and I can't wait to organize it! Thank you!

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  94. Absolutely love all of your creations. Thanks for the tips!

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  95. I love the numbering system, too! It is so much easier to order papers by number than alphabetizing.

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  96. I do not think I can aspire to the level of organizing you have....but I sure want to try! Thanks for the tips!

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  97. I like the toolbox idea! I'm doing something similar and labeling all my supplies this year :)

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  98. I use tubs for everything but I need to label more!!!

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  99. I label everything so and I organize by categories. It helps so much when things are organized.

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  100. I just created a Teacher Toolbox! I'm hoping that will help me from finding a black hole for them all to disappear into. :)
    Steph
    Simple Insights

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  101. Organization is ALWAYS an issue and does not seem to get easier the longer I teach. I seems crazy how important it is to label everything, not just for me, but for the functionality of the room for the children. Thanks for the creative reminders. I LOVE your blog!!

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  102. I love the bright colors and black you use! It perfectly matches my room decor. :)

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  103. Organization has been a pitfall of mine (and I have been teaching for 12 years). I know where everything is but it doesn't look that way. Not this year! I have bought 3 drawer rubbermaid tubs for each of my tables. The students will keep their notebooks, journals, math manipulatives, etc... in them.

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