How To Organize Paper In The Classroom

To organize paper in the classroom it takes time and effort. But once it’s done it will make your entire school year feel like a breeze! Well, hopefully not too breezy or all those papers will blow away. Here are some tips and tricks that just might help you feel ready to tackle the new year and not see your papers floating by your window!

Administrative Papers

We know all about administrative papers as we organize papers in the classroom. It’s the paperwork that never quite feels like it has a home so it just lives on your desk or any flat surface. Sometimes you might even see paper poke its head out of your teacher bag. So the first thing you need to do is set up a paper system (in file folders or baskets). Keep it simple! I like having 3 categories: To Do, To Reference, To File. Put it in something like this:

To Do – This means exactly what it says – things you MUST DO. In order for paper to live in the To Do basket it MUST be something that is an action. This is not a magazine that you would “like” to look through. Unless you MUST order something from it, that magazine does not live in your To Do basket.

To Reference – This is where you would put that magazine. It’s papers that you MIGHT need but don’t need now and honestly, may never need. If you are not sure if you will need to reference that paper again put in your reference file.

To File – These would be papers you need to keep and use all year. Filing might be long term storage like a filing cabinet OR it might be filing it into a binder that you can refer to all year and transport to and from school in your bag.

My biggest tip is to deal with paperwork RIGHT AWAY!!! If you have a system then dealing with it is the easiest part. When you get a paper, put it one of these three baskets then schedule time each day (or every other day) to work on the action papers and file papers away. Once a week (or when it gets full) look at your reference basket and see if you need those papers anymore.

Weekly Papers For Lessons

Now that your desk is cleared off, let’s deal with the papers that you need next week. My advice to you is to always be a week ahead in your planning. You might have to tweak things a bit but to have lessons planned, copies made, projects prepped by Friday saves you time and energy. By Friday you will have everything ready to go for the upcoming week. Each day of the week (the week prior to when you need the papers) I prep a different subject (Monday = Writing, Tuesday = Art, Wednesday = Reading, etc.) and I store all the copies in my cupboard. On Friday I put the papers in drawers labeled Monday-Friday (each drawer labeled a different day of the week). Things that don’t fit in the drawer stay in my cupboard and I write a note (to put in the drawer) as a reminder. When I leave Friday I’m ready for Monday (as well as the rest of the week).

Organize paper in the classroom - this is a picture of the drawers that I used to store weekly papers

The white drawers to the right were the ones I stored my Monday through Friday papers and the drawers to the left allowed me to keep extra papers, center papers for the week and any other papers that needed a home.

Storing Papers

When I organize paper in the classroom I can’t forget about long term paper storage. As teachers we love to keep original copies but they can get out of control pretty quickly. I used to use filing cabinets BUT I changed my system to binders and LOVE it! If you have some shelving in your classroom you can keep your binders on your shelves. Make binder covers and a label for the side of your binders and they will look so pretty on your shelves.

I have seasonal binders as well as binders for themes that might not go with a specific season such as Five Senses. There are also binders to store recording sheets for my centers such as Write the Room. I have binders for everything. However, before you go crazy buying binders (which you might be able to pick up at a thrift store or yard sale), think about going paperless and storing all your original copies on your computer or a flash drive. I don’t do it this way BUT you might not be like me – you might be very different and find yourself LOVING to organize paper in the classroom by going paperless. Whether you go paperless or are FULL of papers, have a system. Your future self will thank you.

Check out this blogpost if you need to work on decluttering your classroom as you work on setting up systems for paper organization.

5 Steps To Transform A Cluttered Classroom Into Your Dream Classroom

Next week I will be writing about what to do with student paperwork such as student information, transportation, notes, finished work, unfinished work and papers to grade.

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