Teacher tips for organizing papers and digital files

Megan Wheeler Real Teachers Real TipsHi everyone!  I’m happy to be posting at the Cornerstone today!  My name is Megan Wheeler and I am a first grade teacher in Ohio.  I’ve been teaching first grade for 10 years!  It’s awesome!  I have a Master’s Degree in Literacy and am constantly continuing my education.  I am a self-proclaimed lifelong learner!  I spend a lot of my free time sharing ideas with others at my blog, Mrs. Wheeler’s First Grade.  I also enjoy spending time with friends and family, reading, exercising, and organizing.

And speaking of organization…today’s hot topic is just that!  I’ve always been a very organized person.  I remember loving to clean and sort things around the house as a child {bizarre, right?!}.  I always say that in my second life, I will be a professional organizer!  Over the years, I’ve come to learn that not everyone shares this love for keeping things tidy and put away.  This is why I wanted to share some of my tips with you!

Keeping an organized classroom can be a daunting task.  With assessments, paperwork, meetings, and lesson planning, who has time for such a thing?!  At the end of the day, the last thing we want to do is sift through a huge mess.  I am hoping that my tips will help you avoid this.  So let’s get started!

Task #1: Organizing Online Files

organizing digital files by subject

With all the great resources on the web and online education blogs and sites, files can get crazy town on your computer!  Are you someone that is a digital hoarder?  Downloads every possible freebie out there?  Yeah, me, too!  In order to support my habit, I keep my files organized by general subject and then broken down into smaller areas.  For example: as shown below, I have big general subject folders and then inside, smaller skill folders that fit under the subject.  My “Reading” folder has smaller folders inside like “Sight Words” and “Parts of Speech.”  This system is extremely helpful during lesson planning time because I can quickly go to the skill{s} I want to teach that week and look for activities.

organizing digital files by skill

Tip: I like to keep a folder on my flash drive that says “To file.”  This way, I don’t have to immediately file documents I may find on the internet.  About once every few weeks, I will file those items in the correct folders.

Task #2: Organizing All Those Files You’ve Printed and Laminated

So you’ve already confessed to being a digital hoarder, and in that case, I know you have to spend a decent amount of time printing, laminating, and cutting all those precious treasures you’ve found online!  Now comes the chore or storing the hard goods.  This can get out of control.  Like real quick…if you don’t have a system in place for storing it all!  I have tried various ways of organizing center materials and games over the years and I’ve finally reached a system that I think is amazing, which is why I’m sharing it with you!

monthly file box labels

To start, you will need file boxes.  Also, you will need some hanging file folders {these items can both be found at your local office supply store}.  Slap my free labels on the front of the boxes.  Easy-peasy.  Now onto the meat and potatoes of the project:  I suggest having a general holiday file for each holiday or special day inside the boxes.  Inside of the files you can keep your worksheets and center games {all center game recording sheets and pieces are in a gallon zipper bag inside the larger file so you can quickly grab them and put them out}.  All craft projects have their own file so you can quickly see what crafts you have for each holiday. I don’t recommend keeping anything bulky in these boxes, as they can get heavy.  I keep my holiday themed picture books on a bookshelf near my desk for easy access.  This system will take some time to set up, but you will feel awesome and set for the year once it’s finished!

file organization

I am glad that I had the chance to share some of my organization tips with you!  To contact me or learn more about what’s going on in my classroom, stop by my teaching blog, Mrs. Wheeler’s First Grade!!

Thank you, Megan, for sharing these fantastic ideas with us! You all can check out more Real Teachers, Real Tips posts if you’d like. And if you have questions for Megan or just want to thank her for sharing her ideas, feel free to comment!

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Angela is a National Board Certified Teacher with 11 years of classroom experience and 7 years experience as an instructional coach. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, she has created printable curriculum resources, 4 books, 3 online courses, the Truth for Teachers podcast, and The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. Subscribe via email to get her best content sent to your inbox!

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tanja Tlusty August 8, 2013 at 5:33 pm

What great organizing tips! I do that with all my clip art too!

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2 Heather aka HoJo August 8, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Great tips! I tend to start with this type of organization and then quit halfway through. I need to get better! Thanks for the reminder. :)

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3 PD August 10, 2013 at 8:46 am

Good ideas. Wish I had known about them wen I was teaching!

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4 Chava August 11, 2013 at 1:03 am

I pretty much do that for the digital files, but it gets complicated (and even more so for the printed things) because I teach resource, so I find myself going through totally different things depending what my kids need – I get them from different grades and with different special needs each year! Some things tend to come up repeatedly but basically that means no reusing monthly lesson plans each year for me! Oh, and a mountain of miscellaneous accumulated resources that I hope to use again if I can even remember that I ever had it.

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5 Erika August 12, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Like Chava I have the same problem teaching resource and my system gets knocked out of whack often. I really do like the file folder boxes vs filing cabinets! Much easier to move around! Thanks for sharing!

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6 Eric August 12, 2013 at 8:35 pm

I’ve done something similar. I have five major folders. One is named “Curriculum” and another is named “Resources & Research” Within Curriculum, I have all the subjects I teach (Gov’t, Econ, US History, & Geography), within each of those I have all my worksheets, slideshows, guided notes pages, activities, etc – all as a separate subfolder.

Within Resources & Research, I have all my subjects divided by chapter or historical time period (each being a different subfolder). Within each subfolder (which is divided down pretty far), I have subfolders for videos, audio files, images, primary and secondary sources, among other folders. It’s organized to a fault almost. But it helps me quickly find stuff and keep it organized. I keep all of this on a portable 1 terabyte harddrive.

Oh, the things I could show you with my harddrive! If I lost it, I’d be completely lost too!

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7 Mary August 13, 2013 at 5:46 am

Thanks Megan!

I am a substitute teacher at the moment, so I can have any class level from Junior Infants to 6th class (kindergarten to 6th grade, I think?!), and I am still trying to find a way to hoard all my stuff by LEVEL as well as type. It’s getting tricky. And bamboozling!

I have things in level shelves, and then sort of in groups of stuff. I organised my digital folders like you, but tried to put a level on it too. I’m getting a little freaked out heading into the new year again, trying to go through it all!!!

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