Monday, July 14, 2014

Creating an Aesthetically Organized Classroom

I'm a neat freak. When I interviewed for my first teaching position I distinctly remember telling the interview committee that being organized was my greatest strength. I wasn't exaggerating. Not only does every item in my classroom have it's own designated space, but I also have a checklist for every possible situation. This is one reason that the Reggio Emilia Philosophy resonates with me. This way of teaching encourages an aesthetically pleasing classroom environment, which helps me manage the chaos that preschool materials can create.



Here are some of my all-time favorite storage solutions for the classroom. Each one of these items helps to keep my classroom organized, but they also encourage independence in my students.  With some guidance my kiddos are able to use each of these items successfully to create order in our classroom.  This means that they feel confident in their abilities to take care of our materials, and I'm not constantly cleaning!


1. Natural Baskets in all shapes and sizes.
Baskets are seriously the best thing ever.  Think about this; you probably have baskets in your own home, so you know that when you put something in a basket, you can't see it anymore.  Now imagine that everything in your classroom had it's own pretty basket. Instead of seeing all of those toys and art supplies, you would just see baskets. I could honestly write an entire book on the awesomeness of storing classroom materials in baskets, They do an incredible job of storing classroom materials in a way that aesthetically pleasing and they come in endless shapes, sizes and natural colors. The baskets pictured above are available on Amazon.


2. Metal Buckets. 
These buckets are perfect for storing small objects and art supplies - pencils, markers and crayons, glue and glue sticks, scissors, marbles or gems, natural materials, and other loose parts.  They can sit on a shelf or table, or hang from a hook.  They look cute and serve a number of different possible storage purposes.  The bucket pictured is available on Amazon, however they can also be found at craft stores and garden supply stores.


3. Ikea Bygel Rod and Containers.
I added these to my classroom this year and I absolutely love them.  I store all kinds of little things in them - loose parts and natural materials, pencils, name tags and vocabulary cards, dice for math games, stamps and stamp pads, silverware for dramatic play, you name it, I've probably stored it in one of these.  The only down fall of this set is that it has to be secured to the wall, and I love to rearrange my furniture, but that has made me get really creative about how to use these bins.  I have also removed the bins entirely and used the rods to display photos and artwork in sheet protectors, which brings me to the next item on my list... (more Ikea Bygel Storage Solutions here).


4. Binder rings.
I have yet to meet a teacher who doesn't love office supplies, I'm definitely no exception to that rule.  Binder rings may just be my favorite thing.  You can use them for so much! I have used them to display artwork, photos, and documentation, which my children can take down from a hook or bar and use in basically any way that they want.  I have also used them to put together class books, and label hanging objects.  You can purchase them at office supply stores or on Amazon.


5. Command Hooks.
These should be in the running for best invention ever.  There are so many different sizes and shapes available, there is literally a Command hook for anything that you could ever want to hang.  I use them to hold up pocket charts, organize classroom centers, keep my first aid kit close at hand, display licensing paperwork, hang documentation, display three-dimensional artwork, and for hanging classroom decorations.  My personal favorites are the hooks with different metal finishes, they look so nice, and no one would ever guess that it is a plastic adhesive hook.


6. Mat boards and picture frames.
Hanging to many pieces of paper on the wall can be distracting and make the classroom feel chaotic, but between the papers that I am required to have posted and the student work and documentation that I want to display, I need to have a lot on the walls.  My solution to this issue is mat boards and picture frames.  Putting my newsletter in a picture frame makes it look like an important piece of information that I want to showcase, as opposed to a piece of paper that I threw on the wall at the last minute.  I love to display student work, but sometimes crinkled edges and tape take away from the focus of the work.  When I put work behind a light-weight mat board it looks professional and valued.  I try to make sure that my frames and mats are simple and neutral, so they do not draw attention from the item inside of the frame. (Frame from Ikea, pre-cut mat boards from Amazon)


7. Clipboards.
We use clipboards a lot in my classroom, especially when engaged in a project investigation.  I also love to use them to keep loose paper organized in the classroom.  I try to have paper available in every single classroom center, in case the children need it for drawing out plans, creating materials for dramatic play, spelling out vocabulary words, or just drawing the items that they are using.  The clipboards keep the paper together, so it is easy to find, and I don't have to include a basket for paper in each space.  All of my classroom clipboards have the center that they belong in written on the back so that students can match the words with the center labels, and so that I can easy see where they belong.  The clipboard pictured above is available on Amazon - they also have them in multi-packs. The natural wood versions are my favorites, they are inexpensive and they match well with the natural, neutral aesthetic of a Reggio classroom.


8. Post-it flags.
I know. Again with the office supplies.  I use these to inconspicuously color-code EVERYTHING! I organize my books with post-it flag labels. I have given each center a color, and then added the same color flag to every basket, container, and clipboard that belongs in that center.  This helps my students identify where each item belongs.  When I place one of these flags on an item, I cover it with clear packing tape to make sure that it stays where it belongs.  I originally started using these because They offer the most colors in one package, so it is a better value than buying multiple packages of  labels or stickers in different colors.  I will never use anything else, I absolutely love them. (Available on Amazon).


9. Over the door shoe organizer.
You can find a million different ideas on Pinterest for using these organizers. I don't have a desk or counter, or any teacher storage space in my classroom, so I use mine to store all of those things I need to be able to have within easy reach. Mine keeps my teacher scissors, good set of markers, extra grocery bags, scotch tape, ziploc bags, sharpies, extra pens, binder clips, paper clips, and hole punches where I can get to them easily, but still out of reach of my students.  My favorite hanging organizers are available from 31 Gifts. They are durable, but still very cute.

10. Photo boxes.
Photo boxes are wonderful for many of the same reasons that I love baskets - they hid messes well, and are much more aesthetically pleasing than clear tubs.  These generally only come in one size, so they aren't ideal for all classroom materials, but they do have lids and can be stacked, which are both great features.  (Available at craft stores or on Amazon).

I would love to know how you keep your classroom organized. If you use any of these items please share how you use them in the comments!

2 comments:

  1. Wonderful! Have you done any Learning Spaces work with Sally Haughey of Fairy Dust Teaching? She is into the Reggio, Montessori, and Waldorf methods as well.
    ~Heather
    The Meek Moose

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  2. I haven't worked with Sally, but I'm looking forward to checking out her work, I'm always looking for new inspiration! Thanks for sharing!

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