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Organizing Resources Part #2

Oh how I wish I had before pictures of this one, everybody!

Yesterday, I went into my classroom for the last time *I hope* before school starts. I am forcing myself to stay home and chill out next week so that I can enjoy the last week of break with the baby Bella.

She's so cute, but couldn't be bothered to look at me because she is watching Doctor Who...

My plan was to print a few things, do some touch ups, and hang up pictures, and it only took me around fifteen minutes.

Here's my finished bulletin board! I printed out the tumblr pictures and I'm going to have students do the 6 Word Memoir about reading again from last year to put above and below. 

I GEEKED out when I found the Little Prince picture with the Tenth Doctor. Eeek!

I printed out the sign I made to go with my frequently used handouts and tacked that up as well

Here is a panoramic view
of the room
that makes it look so much bigger than it actually is :)

Since it's a 30 minute commute, I figured I should find something else to do to make it worth the trip, so I decided I would go through all my papers and sort them out. Now- there was a time where I would open a drawer and find PILES of papers everywhere. Then I would open a rubbermaid bin and it would be FILLED with file folders, teaching books, worksheets, and other stuff. Not to mention my packed to the brink file cabinet, and the tons of binders I'd have stashed behind my whiteboards. It was so overwhelming I could have cried.

Well, here's where I jump in the Tardis back to myself in May and say, "Thank you!" (Yes, I know I can't cross timelines in the Whoniverse, but go with it) :) I apparently got it into my head that I would sort and purge everything last year at the end of the year, and I don't even remember doing it! I had stuff in my classroom from my student teaching way back when, my first few years at my school when I taught all three grade levels of Drama, binders and lesson plans from my master's program that I did, plus all the ones my classmates had done and shared.

Here's what I found in my classroom:

Just a small box, in a drawer, filled with papers. Preciously simple. :)

I went to my file cabinet next, expecting a mess. Instead, I was greeted by hanging file folders in color order thanks to a student, and they were all EMPTY! There were four hanging folders with copies of "The Tell-Tale Heart", "The Black Cat", "The Lottery", "The Hitchhiker", and "Sorry, Wrong Number". *Patting self on back again.

So, with my newfound minimalist collection of papers, I sorted through them and put them in to various piles to take home and finish sorting. They all fit in my bag no problem, and I walked out feeling free and determined to organize the piles of papers I have waiting at home.

So at home, I took all my empty binders from my first organization venture  and put them away, along with the unit resource books from our literature series. Immediately I felt better. Then I carted everything downstairs so that I could sort through it.

I think it's important to set out goals and requirements when you start organizing for school, so here are mine that work for me:

  1. Resources for each class kept in one system (binder, arc, folder, etc...)
  2. Easily portable to take from work to home
  3. Limited number of professional books
  4. No unnecessary copies of things
  5. If you don't currently teach it, scan and recycle it
  6. One place for non-teaching teacher materials
  7. Have a consistent system (color coding, tabs, etc...)

Here is what I'm working with today. This is ALL of the resources I have for school that are not filed electronically somewhere. Compared to the usual piles of junk, this is not anxiety inducing!

1. Resources for each class kept in one system (binder, arc, folder, etc...)

Those are my three piles: 8th grade LA1 on the left, 7th grade LA1 and LA2 on the right, and Genius Hour in the notebook

2. Easily portable to take from work to home:

I have whittled it down to two ARC'd notebooks, two ISN's, one small spiral for Genius Hour, my Writer's Notebook, and my EC Planner I can take all or some home in just one bag without breaking my back or shoulders.

Honestly, I will probably only be taking home my planner and maybe one of the other items home each night. My ISN's usually stay at school!

My Scholastic Scope binder with copies of the magazines will stay at school, along with the giant WWTW binder.

3. Limited number of professional books
I have too many "resource" books, but I just can't bear to part with them. Instead I am limiting myself to TEN books that I use the most frequently, and these will take the place of the ones on the top shelf. 

Here are my picks!
  1. The Common Core Companion- Jim Burke: This book is GREAT for questioning and making lessons more rigorous!
  2. Readicide- Kelly Gallagher: This was the first book I bought by Kelly Gallagher. It introduces so many great ideas, including Article of the Week
  3. Teaching Grammar through Writing- Keith Polette: I saw him at a gifted conference, and this book is great for doing writing exercises with grammar. I plan to integrate it with Mechanically Inclined and Everyday Editing by Jeff Anderson. I'm a cheater, those two books are on my nook so I don't count them :)
  4. Teaching Adolescent Writers by Kelly Gallagher AND
  5. Write Like This by Kelly Gallagher: Again, he writes these amazing texts to show how to use mentor texts with writing!
  6. Igniting a Passion for Reading- Steven Layne: Absolutely, the most inspirational speaker I have ever seen in regards to reading. He makes reading so accessible to reluctant readers, and builds incredible excitement in the classroom!
  7. Deeper Reading- Kelly Gallagher: Close reading, anyone? Here you go. 
  8. Traits of Writing- Ruth Culham: THE book for middle school six trait writing
  9. Reading Reasons- Kelly Gallagher: Actually haven't read this one yet, which is why it's in the ten.
  10. Teaching Argument Writing- George Hillocks: If you teach argument writing, you MUST buy this book. It walks you through the entire process for teaching about the craft of argument writing, and I use everything in this book!

These are my beginning of the year "go-to" books for introductory activities:

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life: Create a classroom encyclopedia of your class using this as a model.
Six-Word Memoirs: I use this to inspire the six-word memoir bulletin board activity
This I Believe: This is the first writing piece for 8th graders, which they revisit at the end of the year. We use many models throughout, and I will be doing a post shortly on this activity.

You can get any or all of these books through this link, where I have conveniently grouped them using Amazon!

This shelf also has my previous Erin Condren teacher planners, along with a textbook and resources that I don't have digital copies of (Writing Coach)

4. No unnecessary copies of things

5. If you don't currently teach it, scan and recycle it

Our school copiers have a scan function, so I will take everything out of a binder, scan it in, and it's all in one file for me to access if I ever have to in the future!

6. One place for non-teaching teacher materials

This fits perfectly on my window ledge at school (I got it at target last year), and I have tabs for the following:
To Copy
To File
Department Chair
Grade Level
Professional Development
To Office 
To Complete
To Scan
Rising Star

7. Have a consistent system (color coding, tabs, etc...)

I have decided on the ARC system for my resources for 7th and 8th grade, MEAD 5-subject notebooks for the ISN's, and my Erin Condren teacher planner for planning. I'm matching the ISN color to the disc color on my ARC (which may seem like overkill, but it works) that way I can easily grab what I need.

So, in a few hours, we went from before to after:


This turned into a much longer post than I intended, but I hope it was helpful for you if you are trying to get organized before/as the school year starts!


  1. Love it. I see you've got a notebook for Genius Hour. Is that for your notes, ideas, resources for that class? How are you using it?

    I'm thinking of doing ISNs for Genius Hour. I did it digitally last year but some of that got overwhelming and I really want my students to have something they can look back at, see their journey with the project(s) they work on and what they've accomplished. I'll likely use it for planning, brainstorming, notes, etc. There's something about writing what you find and learn when you are interested and motivated because you have control over what you're learning and going to share. I'm excited about that idea and think it'll be something fun to keep them engaged in their projects. I'll be looking forward to their reflections and going through it with them too! Always a plus.

    1. I am just using it to mark down technology and research lessons I do, and I'll also use it to keep track of conferencing with students I think! I'm thinking one page for each students each quarter to track their progress :) Let me know if you decide to do an ISN for genius hour, I'd be really interested to see how it looks!

    2. So far I am planning to use half of their ISN for Genius Hour. I'm going to go through several lessons with them introducing the idea. I'm going have them research via Google what "Genius Hour" is (maybe searching Google's 20% time as well since it's what GH is based off of) and then together on "our page" write down a definition for Genius Hour. I love your 100 Things I Love idea so I'm going to have them do that activity on the opposite page to get them thinking about their interests and passions. From there...

      - We'll do a page together on Genius Hour expectations/5 things they know they will need to help them keep focus/motivation
      - A "not a box" activity to help them start "thinking outside the box" (I'm going to give them a small rectangle made out of construction paper they'll put in and they'll work to make something out of it)
      - A mini-lesson on TED presentations (to help them consider how they might present)/rubric
      - Examples of proposals and timelines to help them get started/a brainstorming page, etc.

      I'm going to have them keep their proposals/timelines in the ISN and use the pages following each proposal (for every project) for drawing/designing if needed for planning, further brainstorming and an exit ticket either every week or every other week on Fridays (when we do Genius Hour). I haven't decided but it'll be a good way to help them make sure they're continuing to make progress (something to refer to when conferencing with them about projects and what they had on timelines). Still working through it but their presentations and a good bit of research will still be on the computer. This will also help them KEEP their timelines/proposals/ideas rather than losing them (which some would last year when they wanted to take them to do something at home).

  2. Just ordered Teaching Argument Writing. Thanks for the recommendation.

    I too have started throwing away class sets that I don't find myself using. I feel guilty when I need them a year later, but I had to simplify and clean out.

  3. That's what I need to do with all my Scholastic magazines! Why didn't I think of putting them into a binder??? Duh!

  4. You have done an amazing job! I sometimes contemplate scanning my binders of materials (categorized by unit) but then I worry about needing originals. It might be time to get over my fears. Thanks for sharing and have a great year!


    1. Thanks! I had the same fear, but having it on a backup drive and my laptop reassured me. Plus, it's always in my e-mail since that's how they are sent from the copier, so I feel safe :)


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