The Importance of a Well-Organized Classroom

By Kathy Griffin

An important step in good math lesson planning is choosing an anchor task—a question or problem posed to a group of students to help them construct meaning. One of the most exciting benefits of an anchor task is that students don’t have to get the “right” answer to succeed or to deepen their understanding. The fact that students share, talk about their thought processes, and find their mathematical voices is what makes anchor tasks so valuable.

Teachers these days are under more pressure than ever before to teach more effectively, improve student performance, and ensure each child succeeds. That requires a high level of organization—something many teachers admit they don’t bring to the table. Why? Some teachers feel they weren’t born with an aptitude for organization and that it’s a skill that can’t be learned. Others start the year organized, but lose their way as the months evolve and the number of tasks they must accomplish snowball. Still others simply don’t know how to set up their classrooms, arrange desks and work spaces, and store materials and supplies.

In this article, we’ll examine classroom organizing ideas that will free up time and space and fully prepare teachers to manage the busy days ahead.

Reframe the situation

Change is hard. But so is staying stagnant. A disorganized classroom causes stress and frustration, eats up valuable teaching time, and creates an unpleasant learning environment for students.

Teachers who are new to high levels of organization soon discover that change can produce immediate and satisfying rewards. When the room flows better, materials are conveniently accessible, and clutter is minimal, the classroom is a happier and more appealing place in which both teachers and students function better.

Where to begin

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with paperwork, standards, assessment, lesson planning, and differentiation. Squeezing time in to “get organized” may seem impossible. Teachers need to remember that they don’t need to do a total classroom makeover. Frequently, re-organizing a work station or reading area will produce that desired effect and add a new sense of calm to the room. It’s also encouraging to realize that change can occur at any time—at the beginning of the school year as well as in the middle of it.

Where to start? A good place is with a simple question: “Out of all the areas in my classroom that need organizing, which is most important?” By thinking through what really matters, teachers can target their organizational efforts in areas that deliver the most bang for the buck.

A personalized system

Teachers often feel strapped with growing class sizes, rooms that are too small, too many materials and supplies, and too much furniture. While they may not be able to change the size of their rooms or class, they can reduce the amount of stuff they have and better organize what they keep.

There is no one “right” way to do this. Different grades require different strategies. Different teachers face different demands and have different needs. In addition, individual teachers have their own unique work habits, teaching styles, and organizational preferences.

Teachers who are most successful at organization have created their own personalized system. They focus on traffic patterns, room set-up, storage and access of materials, and supply organization. “System” is the key word—a haphazard approach will not serve them well over the long-term.

Students as helpers

An organizational system is useless if students don’t help to maintain it. Teachers must explain to students how the room is organized and how they are expected to keep it that way. Rules, procedures, and routines must also be put into place. In addition, there must be an age-specific way to enforce these rules—from a color-themed warning system for elementary students to a behavior progress report for older students.

For more ideas on classroom organization and how to take back control, check out SDE’s webinar Create More Time & Space through Organization (Grades K–2) by National Board Certified Educator and early childhood specialist Kathy Griffin.

About Staff Development for Educators (SDE)

SDE is America’s leading provider of professional development for PreK through Grades 12 educators. We believe educators have the most important job in the world. That’s why we’re dedicated to empowering educators with sustained training that is not only research-based, innovative and rigorous, but also practical motivating, and fun! For more information on Singapore Math or SDE’s award-winning professional development, call 1-877-388-2054 or visit www.sde.com. Together, let’s create extraordinary classrooms!

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