Classroom Organization – School Outfitters Blog Furnishing Great Places To Learn Fri, 05 Feb 2016 21:51:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Guest Post: End-of-the-Year Storage Wed, 20 May 2015 15:50:43 +0000 This is the next in a series of guest posts from Brian Smith, an educator from North Carolina. Enjoy his tips for end-of-the-year storage and share your own in the comments.

Packing up any classroom at the end of year is bittersweet. It is sweet because you made a difference in a classroom of student’s lives and have now sent them off to continue learning and growing. It is bitter because you will miss those students and the bond that developed AND because you have to pack up your classroom, which can be a nightmare!

In the lower elementary grades, packing up means finding a way to store all the reading materials, math manipulatives, and centers that are your students used to learn with all year long.

If you are lucky, you have a closet, although it’s probably nowhere close to large enough. If you aren’t lucky, you have a classroom bathroom that hopefully smells like sunshine and lavender, but I doubt it does. I hope you aren’t one of those truly poor, unfortunate souls who have three cabinets and half a wall of counter space. My heart aches for those teachers.

Through the years, working in many different schools, with many different storage capabilities, I have come to rely on one tried and true packing-up-the-classroom solution: 20-gallon rubber storage bins.

Luckily, my wife loves these big bins and has taught me well about spending the few extra dollars to get the good quality ones. I once bought a great, clear plastic bin with a blue lid and that thing cracked like a plumber’s backside! It is barely able to store my Easter egg collection!! After of years of end-of-the-year organizing incorrectly, here are my top 5 tips for making it super easy for the end of the year and, more importantly, helpful at the beginning of the next school year.

  1. Get totes with the attached lids. This way you can always stack them because you will always have the lid for each tote. Please don’t ask how many tote lids I have lost, through no fault of my own! They just disappear (much like your student’s pencils!). These totes are also better because you can fill them a little more. The lids interlock in the middle of the tote so I am always able to gently position (cram) a few more things in each box and still get the lid on.

    Image of Akro-Mils Attached Lid Container

    Store supplies in the Akro-Mils Attached Lid Container and you won’t have to hunt down lids.

  2. Use different size totes. I find it helpful to have multiple sizes because I like to pack my teacher supplies by theme. One of the larger size totes is used for my Block Center supplies, like my marble track builder kit, blocks, Legos, etc. A smaller tote is needed for my Imagination Station Center which houses puzzles, Matchbox cars, and craft supplies.
  3. Purge when you pack. I have a one tote rule. I want all of my supplies for each center or station to fit in one tote. It may be a big tote but one tote is my goal. If I have too many supplies to fit in one tote then I begin purging until it all fits. Many schools have a designated area to put items teachers are getting rid of. This helps out the new teachers the following year. You can also donate items to Goodwill or Salvation Army. The final option is to throw it away because it truly qualifies as trash.
  4. Label your boxes. This is the biggest help in the fall when you are setting your classroom back up! I didn’t feel like labeling was that big a deal but those summer months are so full of professional development, theme planning for the following year, and trying to squeeze your nickels together to go on a small vacation, that I always forgot what is in each box. I would then end up having to open every box for the one thing I was looking for and that is one quick way to turn an empty classroom into a hot mess. Using this label maker and taping them to the ends and sides of your totes will make unpacking a breeze in August.
  5. Stack strategically. It takes one extra minute before leaving for the summer but will save countless minutes and frustration the following fall. If you have supplies that you don’t use at the beginning of the school year, stack them on the bottom or in the back. Everything is labeled so finding it when you need it will be a breeze but you don’t want to move that box around 10 times to get what you need to begin the school year.

Bonus tip! – Go ahead and have a few extra totes for the following school year because this is also a great way to store your holiday supplies with ease. When you get out all your St. Patrick’s Day supplies from their hiding places around your room, you can then put them all in one place – your labeled tote! By the end of the year, you will be super organized and you won’t have spent an entire weekend trying to get it organized. Those weekend organization plans always end with me being hungry, frustrated, and tad more disorganized anyway!

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Classroom Set-Up Round-Up Thu, 07 Aug 2014 13:40:35 +0000 Though your students’ arrival is still several days or weeks away, carefully planned classrooms are already taking shape. How is the progress in your space coming along? Are you trying something new this year that you’re especially excited about?

To help get your wheels turning, we’ve collected lots of great classroom prep tips. While most sources are elementary-focused, there are plenty of ideas here that could easily be adapted to any grade level. Please feel free to share more great ideas and sources on crafting warm, inspiring classrooms in the comments section.

The School Supply Addict has been collecting creative classrooms for several years. If you’re stalled for fresh ideas, start here to get your wheels turning.

Real teachers submitted their classroom set-ups to The Teaching Channel, and the community of educators voted on which ones they liked best. The winning submissions offer lots of inspiration in the form of varied configurations and unique themes.

Festive Classroom. Source:

Festive Classroom. Source:

(Like the rug in the photo? Find a similar one here)

Finding a seating arrangement that works for your space and your instructional style can be a challenge. These sites offer some guidance and will help you think beyond the configurations you’ve used in past years:
Affordable classroom redesign, with useful videos, from Edutopia
Ideas for integrating alternative seating options throughout your classroom
The Cornerstone for Learning offers insights on planning functional zones throughout your space

Sound Advice:
This teacher/blogger offers great insights on the lessons learned after years of setting up classrooms. This particular observation may ease unnecessary stress you might be feeling to decorate all of your wall space: “It is really hard for us as teachers to have blank spaces on the walls when the school year begins. However, if you have everything up on the walls before the year starts, it send the message to the incoming students that the classroom is yours, when you leave places blank and you put up class created work and reference materials it becomes their classroom.”

Check out one teacher’s outlook on personalizing a room in a way that is meaningful for him, and his students.

This all-encompassing guide from Really Good Stuff will be especially helpful to first time teachers.

Check Yourself:
Love a checklist? Once your prep is done, use this great one from Scholastic to make sure you have all your bases covered.

We hope you found a few ideas here to incorporate in your classroom. Don’t forget, School Outfitters offers all kinds of desks, tables, marker boards and more to bring your vision to life.

Kidney Activity Tables vs. Horseshoe Activity Tables Mon, 19 May 2014 21:20:22 +0000 Does your classroom function well for your daily needs? Setting aside a bit of space for small group learning is a design choice that can help your room better serve you and improve interactions with your students. Perhaps the simplest way to carve out this space is by adding a table that is well-suited for small groups, like a kidney– or horseshoe-shaped table. To ensure you choose the right table for your classroom, consider the factors below, along with a few tips from other teachers.

Teacher at kidney-shaped activity table with students

Kidney Activity Table – Source

Take a few minutes to assess the type of physical space you have available. Kidney tables tend to be wider (up to 72″ from side to side), but are relatively shallow from front to back. If you have a wide, shallow space available, a kidney-shaped table is likely a good choice.

On the other hand, horseshoe tables are deeper, but narrow in comparison to a kidney table. If you have a narrow, deep space, a horseshoe table will be a more efficient fit. Remember to measure the space available and compare it with the dimensions we list with every table on our site.

What sort of interactions do you hope to have with students in your small group space? Both a kidney table and horseshoe table allow the instructor to sit relatively close to students, but they function more differently than you might expect. If students will need space to have materials spread out in front of them, a kidney table offers much more tabletop space than a horseshoe table. However, if having each student at the table within arms’ reach of the instructor is a priority, the horseshoe table is the way to go.

What Teachers Have to Say
Blogger Nancy, at Teaching My Friends, offers a very thorough review of her experiences with both kidney-shaped and horseshoe-shaped tables. She ultimately prefers a horseshoe, but offers lots of insights on what works best in different situations.


Horseshoe-shaped activity table in a classroom

Horseshoe Activity Table – Source

This discussion thread from a teachers’ forum lists many of pros and cons of each shape. The original poster is unsure whether an activity table will be the right height for her students, but luckily most activity tables are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide range of ages. If you are looking for tables for elementary, middle or high school classrooms, shop for tables here. If you need tables for a preschool or early learning classroom, we have a big selection that is perfectly sized for your little learners – shop here.

Smart Classroom Tip
If your room size is especially limited, adding extra school chairs at a small group table may take up precious space. As an alternative, during group sessions students can sit on backless stools instead (click here to check out an affordable option). When you’re not using your small group table, the stools fit nicely under the table, leaving a clear, open walkway for you and your students.

Add your voice to the discussion. Share your experiences with kidney- and horseshoe-shaped tables in the comments below.

The Best of Classroom Tips, Hacks and Resources Mon, 03 Mar 2014 17:09:04 +0000 All teachers recognize the need to make the most of their limited time and money, but deciding exactly how to do that can be a head-scratcher. From veterans to newbies, teaching can be a balancing act of epic proportions. So, to make your life just a little easier, I’ve gathered together some of my favorite resources for classroom teaching tools, fun decorations and useful lifehacks.

Although you most likely know this website for pictures of cute animals and nostalgia lists, it can be a valuable resource for classroom ideas.

organization hacks

You can spend days on this virtual bulletin board and still not see a fraction of the ideas it can offer. The boards below should at least get you started.

This site deals in less tangible crafts and more in motivational ideas and inspiration. These lists apply directly to teachers, but there are countless others that work for every life situation.




Independent Sites