Monday, February 20, 2012

Clutter Free - Teacher Bag

I skipped Week 6 of the Clutter Free classroom project. I just couldn't bring myself to upcycling anything because I'm just getting good at throwing things out. Well that isn't entirely true--I asked a parent for a Pringles can (her daughter had Pringles for snack) and I'm going to use it for Power Towers a-la Teacher Tipster.

However, Week 7 over at the Clutter Free classroom project is all about teacher bags. I LOVE my teacher bags. I love buying them, I love filling them and I love carrying them. Sometimes I fill it up, carry it home, and carry it back to school in the morning. I suppose I need to change things. Here is my current teacher bag:

I got this beautiful Vera Bradley bag at the beginning of this school year. It was my first new bag in a few years, and I loved how it had a magnetic closure up top. I've since discovered that if it is too full, that feature doesn't work, and stopping quickly leads to the contents spilled all over the floor of the car. There are three pockets on the inside which hold my zip drive(s), post-its and my pen/pencil case. This is actually my 5th Vera teacher bag--I worked at Hallmark from high school up until just two years ago and I couldn't resist them, especially at 30% off. However, seeing everyone else post about Thirty One bags, I'm intrigued and need to find out if those exist here in NH....

The current contents of my bag (minus papers to be corrected and a game I am currently procrastinating copying and cutting) are below:

Strategies that Work has been in and out of my bag along with my Mentor Texts
book that I used in my masters class in the fall and love. I'm hoping that once I'm done with my degree in May I will get to really sit down and plan some things out with them for next year.
I also recently got Debbie Diller's Math Workstations and am working on a few new workstations to introduce tomorrow. Otherwise, I've got my (school) ipad, pen/pencil case (a Vera Bradley makeup brush and pencil case), Teaching Tolerance, math and reading folders, and my notebook for observations, ideas, thoughts, phone calls, and whatever else comes up. My Erin Condren life planner is always in my bag, but since I was emptying what what in my bag untouched all weekend, the planner was the one thing that was taken out before hand. My husband got it for me for Christmas after a *minor* meltdown about how I needed to plan my life so I wouldn't be disorganized. It helps, but is not a miracle maker *yet*.

I need to be a bit more deliberate about only bringing home what I need and will use, and making sure the bag gets emptied at home and at school. I've always just left things in my bag and don't know how to kick the habit. Actually, last year's teacher bag is sitting under my sewing machine with things from the end of the year still in it. Hopefully I don't need any of it...

Head over to the Clutter-Free Classroom to see everyone else's bag and great ideas:

Clutter-Free Classroom

Monday, February 6, 2012

Week 5 - Storage Containers

Week 5 at the Clutter Free Classroom was all about storage containers. I love storage containers. But I'm cheap and only buy what's on sale and wait until I absolutely have to have them. Which is how I ended up with these shoebox storage containers that I was using for Math Stations.

But I had no real good place to use store them. So they were cluttering my classroom tabletops. I'm trying to become clutter-free and I was forced to purge and (re)discover a great storage unit.

When I first got my job and inherited my classroom I spent many hours going through the different shelves and units in the room and trying to get organized. I hadn't revisted this one until recently, my amazing rolling cart of drawers:

Its amazing for storage reasons but also because the top is just the right height for students to work at while standing, which first graders love to do.

I took the contents of my Math Station containters and created tags for 10 station drawers for Math. The top 5 drawers are indoor recess activities - blocks, magnetix, clay, etc. The crazy part was that I didn't have to get rid of much to accomplish this. It was all about condensing what I already had, donating some things and tossing the old stuff that I knew I didn't need and would never use. Ahhh.

I'm loving tacking the clutter. I just wish there weren't so much of it. Head over to the Clutter Free Classroom for more fabulous ideas and inspiration!

Clutter-Free Classroom

Week 4 - Teacher's Desk

Week 4 over at the Clutter Free Classroom was a challenge to show us your teacher desk. Becuase my teacher desk always ended up being a hazard of about-to-fall-over piles that could crush my first graders I decided to ditch it this year. It is still in the room, just used as the students' computer center. They love sitting at the "big desk"! I spend a good deal of time with my kids at the kidney bean table so I created a little teacher area behind it to store materials I need for the day/week/reading groups and hoped it would work.

This is what it looks like in the morning once I plop all my bags on the table and floor:

And by the end of the day a bomb has somehow gone off and it takes me a good half hour to straighten piles and create some feeling of organization and preparedness for the next day:

I like having my area at the small group table because my supplies are right there and I'm not running around the room trying to get papers off my desk or find supplies. At least in theory that's what I would like. At this point I've become disorganized and am searching aimlessly and losing things.

I've got Mon-Fri shelves on the bookshelf behind for papers and supplies for each day. I think I need to add a "to-do" or "next week" on top of it because it's a flat surface that whatever is in my hand keeps landing on...and getting lost.

Unfortunately I haven't made any changes yet as part of the Clutter Free Classroom project. Actually I did...I looked at what is on the bookshelf because I plopped those things there in August and except for two binders I haven't looked at them yet. So I'm sure I can purge and/or relocate things I might need.

As you can see from the end of the day tips, I've got no advice on keeping a clutter free workarea. Looking at the picture and what is on the table, I realize I haven't trained this class quite well enough to put things where they belong. Because half of their things from Workshop are on my table!!!

I was able to purge two giant bags of felt and this box of red wooden tile things. They were mixed in with Math color tiles, but not the same size! We have a nearby college holding one class a week in our teacher's lounge so I put them in there before class and they were gone by lunch.

One thing I did a decent job at organizing this summer was a drawer in my teacher's desk. Even though the kids use it for the computer I get to keep using the drawers, Organizing drawers with baskets was a great idea I got from Debbie Diller's Spaces and Places. The random 4 packages of post-its are for a teacher RAK. My school needs a pick-me-up big time right about now!

Hopefully I will attack the area behind my teacher's desk soon. I think I will be clearing off the bookshelf behind my group table and when I find the right containers they will hold work for my reading and math groups. Hopefully.

Head over to the Clutter Free Classroom for more great tips!

Clutter-Free Classroom

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Week 3 - Let the Purging Begin!

Week 3 at the Clutter Free Classroom project meant purging. And though I didn't get much out I did get started! I knew I wanted to start with my two rolling carts, one that has my math items scattered all over the top. I'm hoping to eventually have all the math organized by concepts: measurement, geometry, patterns, number concepts, place value, etc.

My rolling carts are full of drawers which I somewhat organized when I started four years ago, and have tried to eliminate bits and pieces since. I have way too many linking cubes though! I have unifix cubes, snap cubes (at least that's wht I call them) which connect every which way and 'snap' together, and more snap kind of cubes that have a skinny nub that connects them. I'm very technical in my naming of manipulatives! I like using unifix cubes for math the best, but my kids love using the snap cubes for indoor recess. I had two drawers of them so I eliminated one. And during indoor recess this week (rain on top of snow turned the playground into glaze ice) I noticed that as usual no one way using the K'Nex. I don't think anyone has used them in four years. So I purged these:

I also got rid of two bingo games, addition and subtraction, that weren't great and I hated to use. One of our subs who is looking to get into a classroom picked those up in case she can use them in the future.

For now that is all I have done. Because during this week I was also prepping for Monday morning. I am in the last semester of my masters program and Monday is the beginning of a six week Action Research project. I've got a sub coming to teach while I gather data on my students' phonemic awareness and I needed everything ready to hit the ground running!

Hopefully I can carve out 5-10 minutes a day each week to keep purging. Head over to the Clutter Free Classroom for more inspiration. It's keeping me going.

Clutter-Free Classroom

Week #2 - a plan....

So the week 2 challenge over at The Clutter Free Classroom was to share your plan. Which is why I didn't really share. I can't think of a plan.

And now a week later I'm looking at the questions:

What do you plan to do with your "stuff" that you no longer want?
I know I will have lots of papers that will be recycled, some stuff will head to a landfill, but most of it will be donated: to Goodwill, the teacher's room with a 'free' sign, and to my husband's cousin who is just graduating and looking for a job. So if she can use it I will be happy to donate it.

What are your rules for purging?
This is where my plan just falls apart. For many reasons, the first of which is genetic. I think hoarding is in my genes. Second, in college my education professors made us memorize the phrase "free is for me." I haven't forgotten it. But the biggest thing is my first teaching position was in a Catholic school. I was there for four years and I learned there is a use for everything and nothing gets thrown away. My paychecks were put in one of those envelopes that comes with a credit card offer. NOTHING went to waste. But in that school I had the luxury of a large closet to store many of those things. Now I've been in public school for 4 years teaching first grade like I did in the Catholic school. So I know I can use the rule that if I haven't used it in 1 (or 2?) years it should go. But sometimes I come across those things, and think maybe I haven't used them because I forgot I had them. In coming to this school I also replaced my own retiring first grade teacher. She left everything, and was an amazing teacher so I'm afraid to get rid of things she left behind! But I'm trying to commit to this purge so here are a few rules:

1. If I can borrow it from someone else, I will eliminate it.
2. Will I ever use it? If I haven't and don't even know what it is, then it is out.
3. If it is outdated (like addition bingo that I may have used in 1987) and I can recreate it on the computer or smartboard, then I'm tossing it.
4. Go through areas twice. If I don't toss things the first time, I know with a second purge (or once I get on a roll with this) I can eliminate more of the clutter.
5. Is it something I even need to teach? Check the standards!

What have you gathered to make your decluttering task easier?
I picked up one copy paper box from the copy room to transport items to donate to the teacher's room. I hope to do just a few minutes a day so I don't want to bog myself down with any more boxes in the room. Even for the purpose of donating, recycling and trash!

Now I just need to stop picking up things that other people put out for "free" when they declutter....

Monday, January 9, 2012

Clutter-Free Week 1

The first challenge for the Clutter-Free classroom was to take pictures of the clutter.
I do not normally invite people into my classroom. I'm paranoid they will judge (hate) my teaching style. And it's a messy room. I call it organized chaos but it isn't so organized. I hate having substitutes unless I know ahead of time and can neatly pile things. Despite all that, welcome to my first grade classroom, my home away from home:

Notice those big beautiful built-in closets? That was my organizational task this summer. The before picture on this one was bad. And I know I can purge more.

My library/whole group/calendar area:

There are currently some empty book crates on my book shelves. And a pile of books in the back corner of the room that I can't figure out just how to organize. I love books, they are hard to purge:

And I've got an amazing Math cart full of manipulatives that are fairly well organized in the drawers below but the top level seems to be a landing ground:

And I've saved the messiest for last. My teaching table, though this is the state of it at the end of the day:

This year to keep it simple and keep from creating piles I decided not to use a desk. I have it but it is the students' computer area. And because of that I end up with piles on my table!

So the questions to think about were: What were your thoughts when you took your before pictures? Was your "current state of affairs" better or worse than you thought. What are you most excited about tackling?

I was pretty much thinking I can't believe I'm taking these pictures to share with the world. But I also knew that by doing so I would be held accountable to clear the clutter. I'm excited to tackle the bookcase behind my teaching table because I've got many SPOTS: Something Pretty On the Shelf. You know those books you HAD to have, the helpful handouts from a workshop, the collection of whatever that you might use down the road.

Thanks for sticking with me through all this mess!!!

Clutter-Free Classroom

Taking on a HUGE challenge

Its a new year and as usual I would like to get organized. Again. I hope this year will be different though. Last week I discovered The Clutter-Free Classroom. And here I am creating a new blog to (hopefully) follow my neverending journey to be clutter free. Finding out the day before that I should expect to change grade levels at least once, and maybe twice, in the next 5 years helped, too!

Here goes nothing...

Clutter-Free Classroom