It. Is. Winter Break! It’s been a long haul since August 8th to get here, but we made it! In our district, winter break marks the end of the first semester, so our year is officially halfway complete! In my mind, this also means it’s time for some classroom organizing and cleaning to end the first semester.
Winter break is the perfect point in a teacher’s year to make changes and reevaluate the classroom. January is a time for a classroom refresh! Things that haven’t been working so great can get a facelift after the holidays, and things that have been going well can be amped up a little! Here are some classroom organizing tips for not only your room but your management, tasks and other aspects of teaching.
Organize things you’re not using anymore.
Don’t wait until the end of the year to organize all your master copies, file folders, and themed units for the whole year. At the end of the school year, when sunshine abounds and we can taste summer, I’m so excited!
And I totally don’t care about organizing the stuff I don’t plan on looking at until school begins again! Right now, at the midpoint of the year (or close enough to it), we have the best opportunity to put away, organize, toss out, and sort stuff. This list includes holiday craft templates, beginning-of-year files, materials that we have completed, and themed units that are finished.
I use a three-part process to do this now so it’s ready for next year. First, I toss out the things that I didn’t use because odds are I’m not going to use it next year. I toss out all of the activities, master copies, and file cabinet clutter that I didn’t use up to this point and I know I won’t use next year. Some projects I’ve replaced with newer alternatives, some I received from other teachers but never used…so it can go.
I also organize the materials that I am keeping so they are set to pull out and use next year. I keep my files organized by standard and subject. I also hole-punch or file away the pile of things I’ve meant to get to for a long time (you know you have one of those piles too!). Put everything in its place in order, so it’s all sequential when I pull it next year. The last step is sorting the things that don’t yet seem to have a home. They need to go somewhere! Find them a home or toss them out. Channel Marie Kondo!
Reflect on your classroom management.
By this point, some of the tricks that kids loved in the beginning of the year are wearing off, and some others never really worked. Here’s that chance to change it! When those kids walk in the door on January whatever, you can have some new strategies lined up to introduce. My big change: I’m totally revamping the way my students go to literacy centers to make it individual and not partner-based (more on this in a couple weeks!) Why? I want each kiddo to take ownership of their work and not rely on who is around them. It may work or it may not, but if the old way wasn’t working you’ve got nothing to lose! Make a plan.
Rearrange some furniture.
Fix the flow of the room, switch up a couple centers, or just make some changes for the fun of it! This is my favorite task in classroom organizing.
Since I have changed rooms every year, I always tend to rearrange a little (or a lot) after Winter Break because something’s not flowing well. Maybe there’s a “runway” (you know…where ALL the kids have the space to take off) that I need to block. Maybe I just thought of something better. I love doing this so much because the students come back and look at the room like it’s brand new. It just enhances that “let’s start over” feel and lends itself to changing some classroom management methods too.
Dust and sanitize.
This seems like a no-brainer in classroom organizing and cleaning, but this is SO easy to forget at the end of the day. Grab your Swiffer duster and dust the computers, shelves, tops of cupboards. A quick five-minute loop around your room will make a big difference. Take a couple Clorox wipes and sanitize doorknobs, faucets, fountains, tables, chairs, and all the other things that aren’t cleaned as often as they should.
Get a game plan.
Look over your long-range plans for the rest of the year. This will help you et a picture in your head of what it’s going to look like in your classroom. The worst feeling is walking in unprepared because you don’t even know what you’re doing next. Write down some ideas you have for standards, holidays, themes, units, whatever it is you use. Put that list where you can review, add to it, and change it often. Highlight standards or units that you think you’ll struggle with so you can target them ahead of time. To clarify, don’t plan weeks of instruction, spend $720 on Teachers Pay Teachers, and make 3,480 copies. Just wrap your head around what it is you’ll be teaching, and start gathering ideas.
I hope my list helps you have the BEST rest of the year! Happy New Year, my friends!