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5 Valuable Tips For Organizing Supplies In The Classroom

organized classroom full of tables and chairs

Many years ago, I had the option of switching from desks to tables in my first grade classroom...and I JUMPED at the chance! (Now when I say many years ago...I LITERALLY mean MANY YEARS AGO....we are talking 20 or more! (Feel free to comment on how well I look for my age...you never know when a random gift card will be thrown into the mix for best comment from a reader...:) just kidding!)  But I really did jump at the chance, and I will tell you why...
I hated that they NEVER stayed in one place. I hated that the kids ALWAYS had the lids up and their heads inside of there...as if looking for some long lost treasure...that didn't actually exist! I hated that things went into those desks...NEVER TO BE SEEN AGAIN...ALA THE BLACK HOLE! And I absolutely hated when I would have to GULP...stick my hand inside of one of those "disaster zones" to help a student look for something important because LORD ONLY KNOWS WHAT SLIMY, WET, STICKY SUBSTANCE then was stuck to the side of my hand.

overwhelmed teacher at desk

GasP  sHiVeR  aCcKk  BLeeCckK

So we started using tables and I never turned back. The main questions I get when I tell people I LOVE tables instead of desks are these:

1. How do you keep the kids from talking?
2. What do you do with all their stuff?

Well...the answer to question #1 is....

that's funny...I'm a teacher..not a magician

laughing emoji
But the answer to question #2 I can give you in 5 easy steps

Table Crates

crate on floor next to table to collect student supplies

Each table is assigned it's own table crate. You can get these crates from lots of different places in lots of different colors, especially in the summer when college students are getting their dorm rooms set up. I will just caution you that in this case...CHEAPER IS NOT NECESSARILY BETTER. I realize you may not have a lot of money to spend on things like crates and bins, however, having done this for so many years I can tell you for certain...when you go with the cheaper version of storage items that the students are going to be using daily...they WILL NOT HOLD UP WELL, and you WILL IN FACT be buying new ones again next year. So, paying double the first time just may save you time and money in the end. The crates I ended up settling on came from Big Lots.
The crates are where my students keep their take home folders, their journals, math books, science books, and any other items that we use repeatedly throughout the day/week. Each crate contains an expandable file. 
expandable file to collect extra papers and folders to keep them organized

This is to help the students further organize their materials. So, all of the journals and/or morning work booklets are kept together in the expandable file where they can easily be found and easily accessed when needed.
 Take Home Folders

inside of take home folders to reveal labels placed on pockets...papers to leave at home, papers to bring right back

I provide each student with a sturdy folder at the beginning of the school year which will be their take home folder. *This is something that does not have to be provided by the teacher, but could instead be asked for on a supply list sent to parents at the beginning of the year. I label the pockets of the folder to help keep the lines of communication open with families and students. Then, when I pass back papers or when we pack up our things at the end of each day, we take time to talk about which side of the folder each paper belongs on...Leave At Home, or Bring Right Back **Teacher Hack...Papers to be LEFT at home go on the left side of the folder, and papers to bring RIGHT back go on the right side of the folder...a-ha! A teachable moment! #youarewelcome
 Table Baskets

Table basket showing table number 2 label

Each table has it's own table basket. I have tried many different shapes and sizes of baskets over the years, but the ones I have settled on, that have held up the longest have been these caddies from WalMart. Each section is labeled, to help the students stay organized. This is important, because little kids are not naturally going to organize and compartmentalize their supplies on their own...they just aren't. So expecting them to, and then getting frustrated when they don't really isn't fair....is it? 
In the baskets I use in my classroom there are three compartments, so they are organized simply: 

I provide each student with TWO sharpened primary sized pencils labeled with their
name. **Teacher Hack- Print out several sets of labels with students names on them. These can be used for SO MANY different things throughout the school year.

table basket showing pencil compartment label

Each student has a 24 pack of crayons. I always label these with their name and tape the bottom of the box shut to avoid "crayon catastrophes" as the weeks go on.

box of crayons being taped shut on the bottom with cellophane tape

table basket with crayon compartment label showing

learning tools
Each basket has two sets of learning tools so that they can be shared by
the students sitting side by side. *More information about how and when we use learning tools in our classroom will be coming in a future blog post!
You can click HERE to check out the learning tools in my TPT store.

table basket with learning tools compartment label showing

table sign freebie product from One Giggle At A Time

***If you would like this set of table signs for your classroom...which includes table crate signs, table basket signs, and matching signs to hang above the tables....
 you can download it HERE  

 Community Supplies

10 drawer colorful cart from Michaels knobs removed

labels for 10 drawer cart crayons, post it notes, scissors, glue sticks, etc

All other supplies that the students need are kept together in a cart with multiple drawers that I purchased at Michaels. The students can access the supplies in this cart whenever they need them (glue sticks, scissors, extra crayons, markers) I kept the knobs off and just added these labels to the fronts of the drawers.

 Clear Expectations

inside of take home folder showing examples of  papers to be brought back to school and papers to be left at home

But in all honesty, the only way to get this to go smoothly...to work like a charm...to make you sit back proudly and say "wow"...is to give your students clear expectations. That's right...no matter how well you think it all through and no matter how beautiful you make it look, if you do not clue those kids in on what you expect, clue them in on EXACTLY what it is you want them to do with those supplies and how you want them to do it....
it will still look like a DISASTER ZONE!
 So show them how to use the crates. Model how to use the table baskets. Act out how to put papers in the take home folders. Read specific social stories to help explain the expectations you have...In this can I use a Social Story all about Respecting Property.




Click HERE to learn more about this Social Story.

 And do these things over, and over and over again
It may take a little extra time, and it may seem a little redundant...
but in the end
you will be so glad you did!

Are you ready to get your classroom supplies organized and your room running efficiently? Your students are so lucky to have a teacher that takes the extra time to help them understand the importance of taking care of their things. If you have any questions I would be glad to answer them, and I look forward to hearing from you about your room set up...tables? desks? Have you tried any of these things already or maybe have some great ideas of your own to share.

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    20 Must Have Read-Alouds For Your Primary Classroom

    Read Alouds, Primary Classroom

         Read Aloud is one of my ALL-TIME FAVORITE parts of the school day. This isn't really surprising though, since I myself am an avid reader, and always have been. Some of my fondest childhood memories include summertime trips to the library with my mom, where she would let me check out STACKS of books to bring home, and then spending hours upon hours lying on my bed surrounded by those books caught up in all kinds of imaginary tales. Even now, as an adult, I always have a good book (or two) with me, because honestly, reading soothes my soul.

         That being said, I have several "go-to" read alouds in my first grade classroom that I sprinkle throughout my school year for those times when one or all of our souls in the classroom could use a little soothing. Many on this list are just plain laugh-out-loud funny, most of them are thought provoking, and all of them leave my students asking for an encore EVERY SINGLE TIME!!!

         Here is a list of some of my ALL-TIME FAVORITE classroom read alouds, in no particular order. (Book list contains affiliate links.) *As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

    Read Alouds, Primary Classroom

    We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins Penelope Rex cannot wait to meet her classmates on the first day of school, but she soon finds out the importance of treating others the way you want to be treated. You see, Penelope's classmates are humans...and they sure are delicious! However, eating your classmates certainly doesn't make you the most popular kid in the class. Penelope learns how to curb her appetite when she gets a taste of her own medicine!

    Read Alouds, Primary Classroom

    The Recess Queen by Alexis O'Neill Mean Jean is the Recess Queen and nobody will DARE tell her she isn't. Until a new girl moves in and teaches everyone a lesson or two. My students and I especially love the rhyming text of this one, and the fact that the teeny, tiny new girl becomes the hero in the end!

    Read Alouds, Primary Classroom

    Ralph Tells A Story by Abby Hanlon Ralph finds writing time one of the most difficult times of the day. He can NEVER think of something to write about, because NOTHING ever happens to him! (Sound familiar??!!) His classmates soon help him understand that stories can be about anything, and he really does have LOTS of stories to tell! Young students can really relate to this book! I use this one over and over again during writing conferences!

    Read Alouds, Primary Classroom

    Finklehopper Frog by Irene Livingston This is another rhyming book that my students fall in love with EVERY YEAR! Finklehopper Frog wants to try jogging, but when he does, all the other animals tease him and make fun of him. He meets a rabbit who teaches him that the perfect thing to do is to be himself and to do what he loves! It is a great reminder about individuality, and we revisit this one often throughout the school year. 

    Read Alouds, Primary Classroom

    Night of the Veggie Monster by George McClements Talk about a dislike for vegetables!!!??? One touch of a pea to his lips, and this guy turns into a VEGGIE MONSTER!!!! He puts on a dramatic show at the dinner table for his parents EVERY SINGLE NIGHT!!! Prepare yourself for the most entertaining, best vegetable hating, food-boycotting stories from your students after reading this one!!!! (Seems lots of kids can relate! Teachers too, honestly...peas???? GROSS!!!!) This is another of my favorites to use during writing conferences to remind students that everyone has something to write about!

    Read Alouds, Primary Classroom

    Officer Buckle & Gloria by Peggy Rathmann I feel like I have been reading this one since the beginning of time, but it never gets old! It is a story about a police officer who comes to Napville School to give safety tips. The problem is, his presentations are a snoozefest, and no one can stay awake long enough to listen. That all changes when he brings his police dog Gloria along with him! There is so much going on in the story as well as the pictures, my students always beg to hear this one again and again! (It is perfect to add some comedy relief when you are going over the rules for the 100th time!!! zzzZZZ)

    Read Alouds, Primary Classroom

    The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak Ok,this book is just a whole bunch of silliness and that is what makes it GREAT! The premise of the book is that the reader must read ALL the words on the page...ALL of them. Even if they are silly, nonsense words. Don't expect a quiet, polite audience for this one..because it just isn't going to happen!  

    Read Alouds, Primary Classroom

    Piggie Pie by Margie Palatini This is another one that I have been reading aloud to my students for forever and a day, and the results are always the same...belly laughs all around!!! Gritch the Witch is hungry for piggie pie, so she goes looking for the main ingredient...pigs. When she gets to the local farm though, she soon learns that the pigs there are pretty smart cookies! They lead her on a very frustrating adventure, but all hope is not lost, when she meets a surprising character at the end of the story! 

    Read Alouds, Primary Classroom

    After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) by Dan Santat So this story is just plain GENIUS! It is the story of what happens to Humpty Dumpty after he falls from the wall. I am not going to give away the ending to this amazing story, but I can tell you that lots of rich conversation is going to come from reading this book. My favorite comment ever was when we finished the book and one little guy said, "I can't wait to get home and tell my mom what happens to him, because I know she doesn't even know!"

    Read Alouds, Primary Classroom

    Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev This book teaches a great lesson about inclusion, friendship, and helping others. In the story, a little boy and his elephant are banned from a local pet club because elephants aren't allowed. They soon befriend other children with unusual pets facing the same problem, and join together to start a club of their own...one that welcomes ALL KINDS of children and pets. The natural discussions that come from reading this are so heartwarming and genuine that it makes the teacher beg to read it again!

    Read Alouds, Primary Classroom

    Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts This is another book that leads into such ENRICHING classroom conversation! (Basically, a teacher's dream come true!) Jeremy wants nothing more than to have the new shoes that EVERYONE is getting. (Sound familiar?) But his grandma says they can't afford to get them. Jeremy struggles with this hardship, but eventually realizes what is really important in his life.

    Read Alouds, Primary Classroom

    Swim!Swim! by Lerch I can't even with this one! It is a story about a lonely fish who is looking for friendship and eventually finds true love (with the help of a not so well-meaning cat)!!! ABSOLUTE GIGGLE-FEST!!!!!

    Read Alouds, Primary Classrooms

    Those Darn Squirrels by Adam Rubin This is another example where so much is happening in the pictures while the story is going on, you can't help but want to read it again and again! It's a hilarious book about a grouchy old man who hates everything except the birds in his yard, and he especially hates THOSE DARN SQUIRRELS! He does everything he can think of to rid his yard of squirrels, but they continue to outsmart him and in the end, a beautiful friendship is forged!

     Read Alouds, Primary Classroom

    Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt Scaredy Squirrel is a germaphobic, fraidy-cat who never leaves his tree. He is well prepared though for things like Martian attacks, lurking sharks, or killer bees. One day, the inevitable happens, and he finds himself out of his tree and forced to brave the unknown! (What could be funnier than a squirrel with a fully stocked emergency kit??!!)

    Read Alouds, Primary Classroom

    I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen Bear's hat is gone and he wants it back. He asks each animal politely if they have seen it, but seems to be having no luck...until he comes upon rabbit..... DELIGHTFUL giggles and RICH conversation with this one..every single time!

    Read Alouds, Primary Classroom

    This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen This one is the kind of book where the author never tells you EXACTLY what happens in the end, so you and your students are left discussing all the possibilities for days on end! This little fish steals a hat and is hoping to get away with it. All the while, the owner of the hat is hot on his trail. So much suspense, so many giggles, and SO MANY rereadings of this one!!!

    Read Alouds, Primary Classroom

    We Found A Hat by Jon Klassen In this gem, two turtles find a hat and they both like it very much. The problem is that there are two of them and only one hat. They agree to leave the hat and go on their way. But it soon becomes clear, one of the turtles may be having second thoughts.  

    Read Alouds, Primary Classroom

    An Extraordinary Egg by Leo Lionni another forever favorite of mine! These frogs live on Pebble Island and one of them discovers an egg that they are sure is a chicken egg. When a baby alligator hatches from the egg, they continue to play with their new friend the "chicken". The kids love that the frogs keep calling the alligator a chicken even all the way up until the end of the book! Another laugh out loud funny one for sure!

    Read Alouds, Primary Classroom

    The Bad Seed by Jory John This Bad Seed has a reputation that precedes him, and the kids love hearing ALL about it! (He is surrounded by flies because he never washes his hands and feet...talk about bad seed, right??!!!) He eventually changes his ways and there is lots of classroom discussion to be had about decision making, consequences and life experiences.

    Read Alouds, Primary Classroom

    Philomena's New Glasses by Brenna Maloney This is an adorable story about Philomena and her sisters! Every time one of them gets something, the competition among them begins...and they ALL feel that they need to one-up each other! The kids can SO relate to the competition part of the story, as well as the fact that Philomena needs glasses and her sisters want glasses! Great discussions and lightbulb- moments come out of reading this one!

    Hope you have a great school year, and you find yourself reading some of these "soul-soothing" treats to your students! I would love to hear all about their reactions...and yours as well!

    No Fail Tricks For Getting Hallway Behaviors On Track

    Tips, tricks, and ideas for getting hallway behaviors on track.

    Hi Friends! I have a quick post for you today, to share some tips and tricks I use in my classroom to keep my students from thinking they are part of a Championship parade every time we step foot into the hallway!


    Ok, so you CANNOT just assume that kids know how to walk quietly and with self-control in the hallways. Even if this is not their first time in school, even if you know who their teacher was last year, and you KNOW he or she taught them how to walk, blah, blah, blah... SAVE YOURSELF SOME TIME AND SANITY...AND DO NOT ASSUME ANYTHING!!! Remember, these are children. Self-control, walking, and quiet are not things that come naturally to children. Chaos, noise, running, and mayhem? NATURAL BEHAVIORS OF CHILDREN! (Do you see what I am saying?)
    Tips, tricks, and ideas for getting hallway behaviors on track.

    In my classroom I am a big believer in using social stories to help support my teaching of classroom behaviors and social skills. So, I use the social stories Walking In The Hallways and There Are Times To Talk LOUDLY And There Are Times To Talk Softly to facilitate strong discussions about proper behaviors and expectations in the hallways.

    Tips, tricks, and ideas for getting hallway behaviors on track.

    We talk, and talk, and talk some more! (Notice I said WE talk...not just I talk.) Talking together about the behaviors rather than being talked to about the behaviors is much more effective! That is why I like using the social stories. They are great springboards for discussion.

    #2... PRACTICE

    Next, we practice. We practice EVERY PART of the behaviors we want to see in the hall. We practice in the classroom first. (Walking, facing forward, hands at our sides, not talking, staying in line.) Then we practice in the hall. An important part of practicing is modeling for the students what you want to see. Show them what you see them doing right and show them what you see them doing wrong! (No names of course!) Students love to see you model a behavior knowing in their heart that they've got it right! They also love watching you model those crazy inappropriate behaviors too, like, "should we walk all the way down the hall rubbing our head on the lockers as we walk...like this?"


    When we line up to go into the hall, we have a couple chants that we use as a fun way to get ourselves prepared to leave the safety and anonymity of our classroom and enter the "real world". These chants come from our friend Emily at Polka Dots Please

    Tips, tricks, and ideas for getting hallway behaviors on track.

    We just love everything she does! (Yes, I may be slightly biased since she was once my student teacher many years ago, but once you visit her blog and her store, I am sure you will love her as much as I do!) Our favorite is the "Mirror Mirror On The Wall" chant that tells us to check ourselves in the mirror before we go out the door, to make sure we are ready to go! (It is also a great way to check our hair and teeth to make sure we are presentable for the "real world" without feeling vain about it!)
    Tips, tricks, and ideas for getting hallway behaviors on track.


    After all that talk and practice and modeling about proper hallway behaviors, it is important to then make sure you hold your students accountable for those same hallway behaviors. Stop periodically as you are walking and turn around and check on them. Walk slow enough that they can keep up with you (I am SO guilty of forgetting to do this!), and acknowledge their good behavior when you get to your destination so they know you are noticing their hard work! I have a couple other ways I hold my students accountable in the hallways. One way, is to have the line leader carry the Voice Level Indicator sign in the air for the class to see, to remind them of the appropriate voice level in the hallway. 

    Tips, tricks, and ideas for getting hallway behaviors on track.

    I also hand out Celebration Tags for good hallway behavior. 
    Tips, tricks, and ideas for getting hallway behaviors on track.

    Then there is the Secret Walker....Have you tried Secret Walker in your classroom? If you haven't, you have got to..THIS is a gem! 
    Ok, so here is how Secret Walker works...
    In my classroom, one of the class jobs is Caboose. The job of the Caboose is to always be at the end of the line when we go anywhere (we keep the same jobs all week), and to choose and watch the Secret Walker. THIS IS A COVETED JOB!!! THERE IS NO MORE POWERFUL SITUATION IN A FIRST GRADERS DAY! (wink wink!)
    So, in the morning when the students come in, the Caboose student will choose a name out of the Secret Walker envelope. (NO PEEKING! This is very important, or you will find that friends will only choose friends, etc.) The Caboose then lets you know who the Secret Walker is but is not allowed to tell anyone else. (Revealing who it is before the end of the day is an immediate loss of power for the rest of the week!)
    Tips, tricks, and ideas for getting hallway behaviors on track.

    Whenever we leave the classroom, the Caboose is then in charge of watching the Secret Walker to see if he/she is following the hallway rules. At the end of the day it is revealed whether or not the Secret Walker did well. (I assist with this process if I have a particularly difficult Caboose, or know that the Caboose may not be an impartial judge for whatever reason.) If the answer is YES, THE SECRET WALKER DID A GREAT JOB IN THE HALLS TODAY, then and ONLY then does the Caboose reveal the name! (This way we are not ridiculing anyone for bad behavior.) The Secret Walker gets a round of applause, a slip/poem to take home, and a Brag Tag for his/her necklace.
    Tips, tricks, and ideas for getting hallway behaviors on track.

    Tips, tricks, and ideas for getting hallway behaviors on track.

     That is it! My students LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, the Secret Walker routine!
    (By the way, when we pull names, we leave those names out of the envelope until all the names have been pulled. Then we put them all back in and start again.) 

    (If you are interested in trying any of these ideas in your classroom or want to learn more about them, just click on the pictures!)

    Hope this helps with your hallway behaviors! Happy traveling!

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