A colleague of mine once came n my room after school and said, “HOW does is your room always look so organized and clean after school!?!?”
I had to laugh.
Because it really wasn’t. I just faked clean and organized really well!
I had a handful of daily rituals that really helped keep the mess under control, or at least just hidden! These daily rituals can be done WITH students, because many hands make little work. They also take just a few short minutes!
We did these activities, in this order, every day before buses. It took all of maybe 5-7 minutes.
Clean Out Supply Tubs Daily
If you students work in table groups, you may have a tub or bucket of supplies. I don’t know about you, but some of my students treated it like their personal trash can.
To keep it clean and tidy, table groups worked together every day to clean out the supply tubs. Just put the dull pencils in the sharpen-me-please cup, clean out the trash, and put the same supplies together.
It was VERY fast- especially because we made it a race. Kids love races!
We almost ALWAYS stacked our chairs every night. It was easier for the custodian to vacuum and made the room look tidier. I liked to make our custodian’s life as easy as possible.
We stacked our chairs in different ways each year. Some years we stacked ALL the chairs in the carpet area. Other years we made several small stack right next to our table groups. I liked this best, because it was easier and safer for younger children to get their chairs in the morning since the stack was smaller.
I have written about this trick before. At the end of the day, the kids played Magic Trash. I learned this from an art teacher at a previous school.
I tell the kids I spot ONE piece of magic trash. Whichever student picks up the magic trash (OR I added this one in a spur of the moment sort of genius- something out of place, like library books or pillows), gets a piece of candy. The kids love it and my room is clean.
I tell them I can’t announce the winner until the room is clean and I never reveal WHAT the magic trash. Truthfully, this is usually because I am not paying attention to what the kids are picking up, I just want a clean room! LOL! I try to randomly rotate through the winner so the same kids don’t always win!
We did it daily, so I was happy because my room was clean and my kids were happy because they had a chance to get a treat each day!
Clean My Junk
At the end of each day, my small group table looked like a bomb went off. No matter what I did, it was always a hot mess at the end of the day. As much as I hated it, I tried to clean it off every night.
Coming in to a clean table every morning made my day run so much smoother the next. It also gave me a space to work after school. For some reason, a clean table makes the room looks so much neater, too.
I tried to clean up my table while the groups were cleaning out their supply tubs, stacking chairs, and playing Magic Trash. I usually didn’t finished because my table was always THAT BAD, but it gave me a good head start.
Let Them Help!
Some kids are natural helpers. It took me a long time to capitalize on that. Some kids could care less. So instead of assigning tasks, I just asked for volunteers. Everybody was happy- and I was able to keep cleaning of my table.
While most the students were in line for the buses, or sitting and watching a movie waiting for second load buses, I had kids help. I had kids wipe down table, file papers, changing the schedule for the next day, changing the date, resetting behavior charts, and sharpen pencils. They could get tons of those tedious tasks that I hated, but my future little teachers ADORED.
It was a win-win!
What routines do you do to keep your classroom organized? Any tricks I missed?
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Mandy Gregory is a 2007 and 2012 Teacher of the Year. She has taught Kindergarten- 4th grades in both the general education and inclusion settings. She is currently a 1st grade Special Education teacher. She is the owner and creator of Mandy’s Tips for Teachers website (www.mandystipsforteachers.com) and has over 13 years of teaching experience. She is married with two beautiful children.