Classroom Organization: Tips and Supplies

June 24, 2023

Setting up and maintaining an organized classroom may be one of the most important elements of classroom management. Starting the year with good systems for storing and managing supplies can help prevent clutter and chaos during the school year. In this article, we’ll share tips to organize your classroom and products that can help you and your students keep everything in its place.

Benefits of an Organized Classroom

Having an organized classroom can really make a positive impact on both you and your students. For example, good teacher organization systems can help you save time looking for misplaced items. Just think about all the money you may save by not replacing things that were actually there all along. A clutter-free workspace may also help you meet deadlines and appear more professional to colleagues and parents.

And it's not just helpful for you. When your classroom is organized, it may be easier for your students to work independently. They can easily find the materials they need without constantly asking for help. Teaching them to put things back where they belong can also help them develop important organizational skills. This may be especially beneficial for students with learning differences who might need that extra structure and support.

9 Tips for Classroom Organization

Here are some classroom organization ideas to help you and your students get (and stay!) organized. Consider incorporating these with your class.

1. Teach Students the Importance of Staying Organized

Involve your students in keeping the classroom organized. Keeping their desk neat can help students avoid clutter-related distractions.

Allow students to clear their desks at the end of each day. Model the desired behavior by cleaning your desk completely. Let students know you expect them to return classroom materials to the right place. You can assign jobs to students that include keeping a specific space neat, such as table wiper, librarian, or board cleaner.

2. Consider the Traffic Flow of Students

Good classroom organization creates a more productive environment. The room setup, displays, and activity stations can influence students’ behavior. File cabinets and low bookcases can create defined areas and store materials. It should be clear to students where learning centers are and if they’re intended for individual or group work.

Consider arranging student desks where everyone can see you, such as in a Ushape format. If students work in teams, arrange desks in groups of four or six. Allow enough space to access high-traffic areas, such as computer stations.

3. Establish Designated Areas for Tasks

Classroom workstations let students move around the room and learn by engaging in different activities. Younger students might have stations for reading or math, and teens might use technology to learn concepts and test their knowledge.

Keep materials needed for those tasks in the work area and have students put supplies away before moving to the next task.

4. Place Storage Spaces Throughout the Room

Equip each classroom area with storage containers that include supplies for that area. Use cups, bins, caddies, and storage drawers, and label each container so students know where everything belongs.

Keep frequently used supplies near their workstation. Put seasonal materials in a closet and only bring them out when needed.

5. Use Bulletin Boards to Display Information

Bulletin boards serve many uses in a classroom. They bring in vibrant colors and display schoolwork. Here are a few ways to use bulletin boards in your classroom:

  • Classroom reminders. Post a list of classroom rules and the daily schedule to help students prepare for the next activity.
  • Handout holders. Mount an envelope or folder and fill it with information for students to take, such as checklists, task cards, or writing prompts.
  • Clothespin displays. Affix clothespins to a bulletin board and clip student work samples to the pins.
  • Post student photos. For this back-to-school exercise, have students write a few things about themselves, such as their pets, nicknames, or favorite snack, and display it along with a photo.
  • Clipboard wall. Attach clipboards to a bulletin board to easily display and switch out classroom signs, rules, and other important materials for students to reference.
  • Reinforce lessons. Create bulletin boards covering topics you’re studying. For a lesson on shapes, take photos of common items that represent each shape. For example, a computer monitor is a rectangle and a stop sign is an octagon. Have students put photos and cutouts for each shape under the word for it.
  • Learning activities. Challenge students with a word puzzle or color matching game, or post anonymous stories and let them guess which classmate authored it. The only limits are your imagination and students’ abilities.

6. Keep Writing Utensils and Materials in a Central Location

Keep writing materials and other shared supplies in a central classroom area. Store the supplies in a place that’s easily accessible.

One way to organize it is to use a large tray, then fill it with cups for each item. Students can see where to find supplies and where to return them afterward.

7. Establish a System for Tracking Borrowed Materials

You’ll need a tracking system for books, electronics, or other materials students can borrow. Without it, you won’t know where materials are, leading to confusion, loss, and disorganization.

You can make a simple paper list where students write their name, borrow date, and return date. Or create a spreadsheet to allow students to check materials in and out online.

8. Digitize Learning Materials

One way to keep things neat is to reduce the amount of paper you have to manage. Digitize worksheets and share them with students in a program like Google Classroom. You can create answer sheets and even make a self-grading worksheet.

For added engagement, the software lets you make digital games where students compete against each other. They’ll enjoy the novelty and the chance to earn digital stickers. Change the stickers each season or for each new lesson. If you create a great digital resource, share it with other teachers in your grade.

9. Establish a Daily or Weekly Cleanup Routine

Without a cleaning routine, even a well-organized classroom gets messy over time. Involve students in a daily or weekly cleanup process. Assign tasks to students like wiping tables or straightening up books.

Keep cleaning supplies handy. One way is to stock a mobile tiered storage cart with cleaners, wipes, and paper towels. Have everyone take a couple of minutes to organize their desk at the end of each day. Consider using classroom rewards to reinforce a job well done.

Supplies to Keep Your Classroom Organized

Keep your classroom organized by discarding clutter, having storage for all supplies and materials, and labeling everything so students can find it. Here are some supplies to consider incorporating into your classroom to help keep it organized.

Desk Organizers

You can keep your desk tidy with a desk tray to manage papers, and try a desk organizer for pens and sticky notes. Your desk is your command center, so contain teacher supplies to keep it tidy.

Teacher Planner

A good teacher planner can help you plan ahead to organize lessons. It’s also a journal you can review when creating next year’s plans.

File Folders

You can use file folders to store teaching materials and students’ papers. Some teachers use a color-coded system for class materials (students can take out the red math folder, for example).

Storage Containers

Go through your classroom and organize one area at a time. Try using plastic storage containers for files or other supplies. Lidded containers are stackable for extra space saving. You can also put them away intact during the summer and take them out in the fall for easier setup.

Stackable storage caddies can keep writing tools and other supplies in order and within reach. Label each container so students know where everything belongs.

Color-coded bins can simplify classroom library organization. Choose a color for each subject and store materials for that topic in a bin. For example, reading materials could be in a red bin and math workbooks in a blue bin.

Label Maker

A label maker can be helpful when setting up your room and is sure to get a lot of use. Each storage bin or container gets a label to help students find supplies. You can also label folders, storage drawers, and desks.

Bulletin Boards

Think of how you can use bulletin boards in your lessons and your planned activities. Try Bulletin board sets which include cheerful decorations and helpful teaching tools.

Other classroom decorations can add vibrant colors and support the curriculum. But don’t overdo it. Busy, overstimulating decor may distract students.

Get the Classroom Materials You Need for Success

Before visualizing next year’s well-organized classroom, think back to what did and didn’t work before. You can keep the systems you liked and improve the areas that grew disorganized over the year. Browse for ideas, then get the materials you need for success. 

About the Author

Lauren Jiles-Johnson is a tutor, mentor, and board president of Waukegan to College, a college-readiness organization in Waukegan, Illinois. Waukegan to College helps fifth- to 12th-grade students achieve their dream of being the first in their families to attend college.

All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is,” and neither the author nor Office Depot warrants the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions, or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.