Classroom organization can be a struggle for many people. I know when I was completing my student teaching and just had papers to manage, I was a HOT MESS! A whole classroom wasn't something I could even fathom at that point. There's even an embarrassing story to tell about me and a paper clip, but that is for another day. Suffice it to say, I had to do something radical upon getting my own classroom. Somewhere along the lines, I found the key…COLOR!
Classroom Organization in the Elementary Classroom
When I initially began teaching, I innately began using color. Back then I was teaching sixth grade in an elementary school setting. Largely self-contained, we only rotated for history and science. Color became my friend to help me quickly and easily discern one week from another. Most of our subjects had a repetitive weekly component. There were weekly spelling lists, weekly logic packets, character ed. concepts for the week, etc. I began to use colored paper to help me identify week one from week two from week three and so on. I used that paper in what I thought was an easy to remember and logical sequence, RAINBOW order.
Copied on pink paper was everything for week one. This included spelling words, lists, tests, math worksheets, logic packets, the Friday homework letter, etc. (I used pastel colors because they are cheaper than bright paper and my school stocked them more readily.) The next week, it was salmon, then yellow, and so on.
It was very easy to see when a late paper found its way into the “turn-in basket.” It was quick and simple to sort papers for storage, grading, or return which gave me back time for grading, lesson planning, or just time to be with my family. Overall, the use of color just clicked in my brain. Things became more organized & simple, and my mind felt calm.
To read more about my use of color in an elementary environment, don't miss my Simple Guide to Classroom Setup at Sixth Grade.
Middle School Organization
Eleven years into the teaching journey, I transitioned to middle school. Yet, I wasn't about to let my love and use of color just fall to the wayside. It wasn't hard to find a quick and easy way to use color throughout my daily life.
Middle school saw me teaching sixth grade yet again. This time I taught four core math classes per day. Additionally I taught one class which was essentially a remedial test prep class. To continue to use my love of colors, each class was assigned a class color. Period 2 was red (I had period 1 as a prep.), period 3 was yellow/orange, (period 4 was for meetings), period 5 was green, period 6 was blue, and period 7 was purple, proceeding in RAINBOW order throughout the day.
Everything for that class was done, prepared, or colored in their class color, just as I had done in elementary school. Portfolio folders I kept in the front of the room for them to store their work in were red, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Their absentee board was in these same colors. So were their reward jars, homework board, handouts, homework graph, and more.
Again, this use of color easily and quickly helped me discern period 2 work from period 4. It also allowed me to see when something was turned in later in the day than during class as directed. It helped me to sort and organize papers rapidly. And it eased my own levels of chaos and anxiety by creating a system of organization and structure that I could easily manage, and that my brain instantly enjoyed. Classroom organization became so easy when I let color into my life.
Give it a Try
I happen to function well and enjoy seeing things in color; maybe you will too. Give it a try! See what structures and functions in your classroom would lend themselves well to a color-guided system. See what dividends come from using color in your room. Then come back and let me know how it goes in the comments. I can't wait to hear.
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