Everything looks pretty on Pinterest and Instagram, but pretty doesn’t always equal functional! This post shares easy to implement classroom centers organization tips that actually work! That may be a mouthful to say, but at least these ideas get a check mark for pretty and practical.
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One of the frustrating things about having small groups and center rotations is keeping everything organized!
Imagine hundreds of papers, tons of manipulatives for math centers, stacked boxes, on and on…I bet I’m preaching to the choir here.
Teachers get it! We want classroom centers organization tips that will really help keep everything running smoothly. This curated list of ideas from fellow teachers will help get the ball rolling on that goal.
Classroom Organization Supplies
Although you often see classroom centers in boxes, that’s not your only option. If you’re space for storing centers isn’t that big, consider organizing the supplies for your classroom centers with these options.
This clever teacher not only uses Ziplock bags for her centers, but she also uses them to keep her centers organized. Such a creative way to use your drawer space with an inexpensive item to keep your supplies for centers organized.
For my 4th Grade Literacy Centers, I use large manilla envelopes with the outside clasp. I laminate the envelopes for durability because, over time, the constant use makes them rip.
Then I glue the student directions and title of the center on the front of the envelope. This makes grabbing the correct center much easier for my kids. It also helps when it’s time to put the centers back in the correct location!
This organization hack works great if you don’t have the classroom space for “fixed” workstations. With portable organization options, your students can take their “center” anywhere with them around the room.
I absolutely LOVE these rolling carts! They are great for organizing all sorts of classroom supplies. Every year, I stalk sales on Amazon and at Michael’s so that I can get another one.
If you are looking for an easy way to organize supplies for your classroom centers, this option works for the following reasons:
- The cart can easily be customized with classroom center labels.
- Since the cart rolls, it can be moved around your class when you need it.
- With training, your students can access the centers inside the drawers very easily.
This is a win-win because it gives the students responsibility for gathering and cleaning their own supplies during center rotation time.
Not only do you need effective ways to store your center supplies, but you also need a way to display your student groups.
When I’m not using slideshows on my Smartboard, I like using heavy duty pocket charts.
In fact, I use pocket charts to keep all my teacher paperwork organized too.
The reasons I recommend using these for classroom centers organization are:
- Your students have a visual reminder of their groups and rotations.
- If your admin needs a display of your objectives or lesson plans, this can show what your small groups are working on for the day.
- They can be set up ahead of time so that you’re not scrambling at the last minute.
And honestly, if you are running low on bulletin boards ideas or energy, just put your biggest pocket chart up with a nice label and you’ll have a ready-to-go board!
Categorize Your Digital Files + Make Your Icons Look Pretty
Let’s face it, since we were all forced to teach everything online in 2020, we now have lots of digital literacy centers and online lessons that we don’t want to get rid of!
But we also may be drowning in icons all over our desktops or laptops.
If you have lots of digital activities that need to be organized, this video from my YouTube channel will help you:
This is a classroom centers organization tip that will definitely help you be more productive and save time on lesson planning!
When you have your digital centers scattered all over your devices, it makes it harder to quickly get what you need for different lessons.
Plus, you run the risk of buying something similar to what you already have because you can’t find things.
So follow those quick tips to get your icons in order my friend.
Color-Code Your Google Drive and Dropbox File Folders
Since we’re on the topic of digital organization, another tip is to color-code your Google Drive folders.
The same steps that I shared in the video for making your desktop icons pretty are similar to the steps you will use to change the colors of your Google file folders.
This also applies to Dropbox file folders.
As a recap, you will:
- Right click on the folder
- Click “Change Color”
- Then select the color you want
This works especially well if you have multi-grade classes OR if you teach multiple subjects.
You can make all the digital centers for a certain grade or subject area the same color. For instance, all your Math can be Orange, and all your Language Arts can be Purple, etc.
That makes it visually faster to locate everything you need.
Task Card Organization
Many teachers use task cards for their classroom centers. Check out these clever ways to keep your task cards organized!
File Folder Crates with Poly Zip Pockets
Traci from The Bender Bunch has this genius idea of using poly zip pockets and file folder crates for her larger task card center activities. I’m sure you could use this for other classroom centers too! She makes everything look cute and functional.
These little storage boxes of wonderfulness have become a top favorite for me and so many other teachers who like classroom center organization tips!
I have several card-based games for my literacy centers.
I even designed the student response sheet to fit inside the box with the task cards.
Using these boxes to store your task cards is easy for you and your students.
Shoe or Jewelry Holder
If crates and tiny boxes aren’t your thing, you might like this classroom center organization idea from Teaching with a Mountain View.
She used a shoe/ jewelry organizer to hold her task cards.
These organizers can easily be found at The Dollar Tree, Wal-Mart, and other retail stores. If you have an extra door in your classroom, just attach the top hooks over the door and you’re done!
I love how she added the same green label to each clear pocket, making it easy for her students to identify.
Easy-peasy task card organization idea.
All Other Learning Centers in the Classroom
Color-Code Your Classroom Centers and Materials
Since I am a visual learner and most of my students also learn best with visuals, I love color-coding things in my classroom. There are so many ways to organize your classroom centers and supplies by color that the only real limit is your imagination.
For years, I’ve been able to keep things organized in my classroom using a mailbox cubby.
There are so many ways to use these for a clutter-free classroom:
- You can add sticker labels with your students’ names and store papers that need to go home to parents.
- When you grade papers that need to go home, you can store them here.
- Any small gifts for holidays or students birthdays can go in their mailbox slot.
- Cubbies also make a good place to store any unfinished work the student needs to complete.
- Use them to store literacy center materials like game pieces, task cards, no-prep printables, etc.
Honestly the only issues I’ve had with them is 1) they take up counter or shelf space and 2) sometimes students grab someone else’s papers.
Which is why I color-code their slots by adding alternating sheets of colorful construction paper.
With time, students get used to going to a certain color to retrieve their items and since I don’t put the same colors beside each other, this keeps from on track.
Other than those small issues, I highly recommend using classroom cubbies for classroom centers organization.
What NOT To Do For Classroom Centers Organization
Assume Your Students Will KNOW How to Keep Everything Organized
Yes, it might seem like a “duh” thing to put things back where and how you found them, but this isn’t something we should assume our kiddos can automatically do.
Maintaining classroom organization requires direct training. Teach your children HOW to keep the classroom tidy by modeling and practicing classroom procedures.
Introduce Too Many Centers at Once
Rome was not built in a day. Slow and steady wins the race. Do these cliques ring a bell? Well, they certainly apply to managing and organizing classroom centers.
When you try to incorporate too many centers too soon, it only leads to overwhelm for both you and your student.
Instead, use the K.I.S.S method: Keep It Simple Sweetie!
Spend Tons of Money on Organization for Your Centers
All the items shared in this post can be found at affordable prices. I do not believe we have to spend all our hard-earned teacher money buying supplies for the classroom.
You can make your class look organized and luxurious on a budget!
You can also get others involved by starting a Donors Choose project, set up an Amazon Wish List for your classroom, or ask people to donate organization items to you.
Stress Yourself Trying to Change Your Classroom Centers Often
There truly is no need for you to switch out your centers every single week. Depending on the type of classroom workstation, you may not even need to switch them out every month.
Decide on a stretched out schedule to introduce new learning centers into your classroom gradually. This will not only help keep your classroom organized, but it will also save you tons of stress and time!
Staying on top of classroom centers organization can make a huge difference in your center rotations going smoothly.
Please let me know in the comments which ideas was your favorite…
…OR which area do you need the most help with in organizing your centers?
Then help spread the organization love! Share this post with your friends!