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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Optimum Organization (Center Materials)!!

 Organization is something I strive for, however no matter how hard I try, there is ALWAYS something new to organize!  Whether it is new materials or old materials I didn't take the time to put away properly, I just can't seem to keep everything exactly how I want.  Maybe that is a good thing because my materials are always changing?  Yeah, I'll go with that one:)

Today I am linking up a little late with Fun in Room 4B and Ladybug's Teacher Files for their Optimum Organization linky.  There will be a new linkup on Saturday (their LAST one of the summer!).  Be sure to check it out if you strive for organization like me!
This year I started using task cards (see post here) for the first time and placed them in this cart for student access.  I placed reading and writing task cards in the bottom four drawers and math in the top four drawers.  I would really like another one of these from Lakeshore Learning but I don't think they sell it anymore!).  
At first, I placed each center in its own drawer.  The drawers filled up too fast and I needed more space!
So, then I put each center in a folder and taped the laminated cover on the front of the folder.  All the task cards, game materials, directions, answer keys, and student recording sheets go inside.  
This system worked well for keeping everything organized and there were only a few times the students didn't put the items back where they needed to be.  I always pointed it out to the class and made them accountable if they put something back incorrectly to come back and fix it.  This might have taken more time initially than it would have taken ME to fix it, but I think it pays off in the long run!  It is kind of like with my three year old and six year old at home.  I teach them how to "clean up" and this can take a daunting process at times, but in the end I hope that they will learn how to take care of their own belongings and it will become second nature. :)
I like this system rather than storing the small task cards in a separate small container because everything is in one location.  The recording sheets and directions often are full size sheets of paper and I didn't want to have students go to two different locations to find the materials for a center activity.

So, what did I do with the folders once I removed them from the cart?  Nothing other than lay them flat and unorganized in my file cabinet!!  It was a MESS by the end of the year!  So, needless to say, this was my number one item on my to-do list this summer.
I found these beauties in the clearance section at WalMart for $.25 each!
I went back and forth about storing all my center materials in a binder labeled for each section or using my file cabinet.  I thought I could use these binder pouches to store the task cards.  In the end though, 
I decided to store the folders with the center materials in my file cabinet using hanging folders.  
I had a file cabinet that was basically unused once I cleaned out all my old materials from when I taught 6th grade.  I could also have stored the binders in the file cabinet but I wanted the fastest way possible to access my center folders when it was time to make lesson plans and change folders out.  When I use binders, I find that I often place papers near the binder or on top of the binder because it just seems like so much effort to take the binder out, open the binder, find the section, open the binder rings and place my materials in the binder. Then, I have to close the rings, close the binder, and place it back in the file cabinet.  I would have also had to 3 hole punch my materials or use plastic sleeves to organize them and then take the materials and add it to my folders with the cover.  
Whew!!  Yep, I am a little lazy in the binder department:)  
Kudos to all you binder lovers who keep everything organized and put away!
So, for now I have divided the math drawer into sections labeled by each core domain.  
I can already tell that I am going to have to divide it up further into separate standards because I am running out of room quickly.  I will probably label the folders by specific skills rather than 4.OA.A.1 because I do not have all the separate standards memorized (go figure!).
I left all the covers taped on the front so they are ready to go next year and I just pull them out of the hanging file!
I place small task cards or items that all fit in a bag in the $.25 binder pouches.
Shown in picture: Holiday Hoopla math centers by 4th Grade Frolics 
and Fact or Opinion Task Cards by Minds in Bloom

I also started organizing the ELA drawer and labeled those sections by skills for center materials.

I'm sure this system will be tweaked over the years and I still have a lot left to organize, but I am happy with the start I have made.  If I can get everything organized to START the school year, it will make planning and getting those materials out so much faster during the busy year!  

Don't forget to check out Fun in Room 4B's giveaway for $100 in materials from School Outfitters!! Wow!


  1. Holly, this is a great idea! Thank you so much for sharing. I too have such a hard time keeping up with a binder and of course I want every sheet in a plastic sleeve which ends up getting EXPENSIVE. I still have files in my file cabinet from when I taught Kindergarten 10 years ago. I've weeded out, but I need to just start ditching stuff. Maybe I'll go back in my file cabinet!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  2. I really like the binder pouches you found - that is a great way to store all the extra bits. I am making the switch to binders but I am not sure how I will store centers and games yet. The binder method is pricey but I feel I am in too deep now and have to keep going. I love how you are labeling your file folders with the expectations - that is a great idea.

  3. I know what I will be looking for at Walmart. I love those pencil pouches. Thanks for sharing a great organizational idea.
    Grade School Giggles

  4. I love your idea for organizing your centers. What a great way to know where to turn when a student needs extra support in a skill!