7 steps to avoiding the classroom paper trap

The amount of paper that we as teachers collect in the classroom can be staggering! And on top of everything else we have to do, organizing paperwork can feel so overwhelming that we just put it off indefinitely. Though organizing papers in the classroom may seem like an incredibly difficult task, it doesn’t have to be! All you need is a simple system that creates a place for each type of paper.

I can’t stand digging around in file cabinets, so I developed a classroom organizational system early on in my career that has helped me track and organize every single paper that came into my classroom. Over the years, I refined it and streamlined.  This system has saved me so much time, and it was such a relief to know I could find what I needed quickly in a room full of kids!

7 steps for avoiding the classroom paper trap

The idea behind this system is that there should be a one dedicated place for each type of paper in your room. I used a variety of easily accessible containers so that I only had to go into my file cabinet a few times per month. For me, it was essential that I could quickly toss papers into the spot where they belonged and not have to mess with file folders and other complicated systems that took 30-60 seconds to find and access. Teachers don’t have 30 seconds in the middle of a lesson: if a paper is going to take that much time to put away, we’ll just toss it on the desk and end up with a massive, overflowing stack that we don’t feel like dealing with at the end of the day. The next day, we keep adding to it, and before long, we’re stuck in the paper trap with stacks of materials covering every surface in the classroom.

I’m sure you’re wondering how it’s possible to break out of this trap in a classroom that is overflowing with paper: Where do I find the place for each paper? What kind of containers do I need (and how much is it going to cost me to get them?) How should the papers be categorized? Don’t worry–I’m going to spell out the answers to all of these questions and more in a guide that I adapted from my book, The Cornerstone: Classroom Management That Makes Teaching More Effective, Efficient, and Enjoyable.

The guide is called Avoiding the Paper Trap: A 7-Step System for Organizing Every Paper in Your Classroom. In this free PDF, I will show you step-by-step how I implemented the system and include photos of the materials I used. The system is pretty straightforward and I believe it can be adapted for any teacher at any grade level.

7 steps for avoiding the classroom paper trap

I’ve even broken the system down into steps so that you can tackle the paper overload in a manageable way if you begin in the middle of the school year. You don’t have to spend an entire weekend at school organizing your papers, or wait until summer to get things together. I’ll share how to get through this slowly so it’s not overwhelming.

I have already given the Avoiding the Paper Trap PDF away for free to my email subscribers–if you’d like to receive it, too, just enter your email address and you’ll get the download sent straight to your inbox. Enjoy!

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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!

{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Catherine Stevens November 10, 2014 at 10:03 pm

Can’t wait! Thank you!

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2 Karen Lyman November 11, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Would love a copy of your steps.
Thanks!

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3 Maritza Gee November 11, 2014 at 9:47 pm

Guilty of having papers everywhere.

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4 Jamie Maupins November 12, 2014 at 3:04 am

Ready for some paper management training!!

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5 Tamar Reyes November 13, 2014 at 7:08 am

Excited for this! I know this will help me with student portfolios.

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6 Beverly November 13, 2014 at 2:38 pm

I’m not receiving the confirmation email. I used the widget at the bottom of the post. I’ve requested it twice and received nothing. I really need to calm some paper around here. Can you help me?

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7 Angela Watson November 13, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Beverly, would you check your spam folder or junk mail folder for me? I bet it’s in there. You can email me at angelawatson@live.com if not. Thanks for your patience!

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8 Angela Watson November 13, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Thanks to each of you who have commented! I hope this is helpful for you. :) Let me know if you have questions.

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9 Khym spikes November 20, 2014 at 8:21 pm

pdf please for organizing paper work 😉

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10 Angela Watson November 21, 2014 at 10:46 pm

Sure, please enter your email address in the box at the end of the post (or here: http://eepurl.com/5xHWb) and it will be sent to you automatically.

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11 CJ November 21, 2014 at 9:06 am

Please send me a copy.

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12 Angela Watson November 21, 2014 at 10:46 pm

Sure, please enter your email address in the box at the end of the post (or here: http://eepurl.com/5xHWb) and it will be sent to you automatically.

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13 Sue November 21, 2014 at 10:44 pm

Please send me a copy. Thank you.

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14 Angela Watson November 21, 2014 at 10:46 pm

Sure, please enter your email address in the box at the end of the post (or here: http://eepurl.com/5xHWb) and it will be sent to you automatically.

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15 Angie November 22, 2014 at 12:45 am
16 Angie November 22, 2014 at 12:44 am

Angela,
Tried to submit my email for the 7 step paper system. It would not go through. Please send this to me as quickly as possible.
Desperate,
Angie Williams

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17 Angela Watson November 22, 2014 at 10:06 am

Hi, Angie, can you let me know what error you are getting? I just checked again and the sign up form is working: http://eepurl.com/5xHWb.

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18 Cathy Faulkner November 22, 2014 at 10:49 pm

Hi Angela, Really looking forward to the pdf. :) I really need it.
Thanks
Cathy

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19 Dan November 23, 2014 at 11:56 am

Thank you!
My desk looks like the city dump and the cabinets are dangerous!

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20 Tamara November 24, 2014 at 7:01 am

I thought I was all alone. Didn’t know it was a hazard of the trade.

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21 Angela Watson December 19, 2014 at 3:28 pm

It’s definitely not just you, Tamara! :)

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22 Kate November 25, 2014 at 5:06 am

I’m looking forward to getting organised.

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23 Marguerite Donaldson December 12, 2014 at 10:04 pm

So thankful to have come across you tonight. I know you and your gifts are an answer to prayer. Thanks for sharing! I look forward to finally coming across what looks like a “one stop shopping place” for the various skill areas on which I need to learn or improve. So pleased!!! Thank you, thank you, again!

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24 Angela Watson December 19, 2014 at 3:21 pm

That’s so sweet of you. Thanks for sharing! Many blessings to you!

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25 Marguerite December 22, 2014 at 11:25 am

I’m doing it now!! Paper organizing.

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26 Sue January 4, 2015 at 11:27 pm

I haven’t received the confirmation in my email. I checked my Spam folder…it is not there and it is not in any of the email sections Google provides :( within my inbox. Trying to be patient..:/

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27 Sue January 4, 2015 at 11:29 pm

Third time was the charm! I got it!!!!!

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28 Donna January 9, 2015 at 5:54 pm

I read Awakened and completed the workbook. It rejuvenated my career and my days with my students are pure joy!
Thank you! I would love to receive the PDF on
Avoiding the Paper Trap!

Thanks again,
Donna

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29 Dene January 11, 2015 at 11:01 am

I just subscribed and would like to get my free copy of avoiding the paper trap…. how do I do that?

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30 Brenda January 18, 2015 at 12:22 pm

I subscribed a few weeks ago, but I have never received my copy of Avoiding the Paper Trap. I go to your site often, but had never subscribed. I’m looking forward to the “New Release”.

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31 Angela Watson January 19, 2015 at 5:29 pm

Hi, Brenda! Please check your junk mail or spam folder–sometimes it ends up in there. :)

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32 Mary Ellen January 27, 2015 at 8:03 pm

anxious for help with my piles of paper!

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33 Julie January 28, 2015 at 12:29 am

Can’t wait for this! Thank you!!

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34 Jenny February 17, 2015 at 1:38 pm

Looking forward to reading this!

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35 Laura Smith February 17, 2015 at 4:03 pm

Can’t wait to read it!

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36 Angie February 20, 2015 at 11:21 am

Eager to clear 10 years of piles! Thank you.

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37 Debbie VanGundel February 21, 2015 at 11:20 pm

Can’t wait to try this.

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38 Michelle February 27, 2015 at 2:29 pm

Can’t wait to get organized

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39 Sherri smith February 28, 2015 at 3:27 am

yes! Please …help with the paper overload. This is my 3rd year teaching and I am still figuring it out. I appreciate fellow educators who reach out and lend a helping hand especially when the finances are low.

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40 Melody Lewis February 28, 2015 at 12:09 pm

Can’t wait for the information!

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41 John Bullock March 1, 2015 at 6:42 am

Looking forward to it.

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42 Jeri Swanson March 1, 2015 at 6:54 am

I can’t wait to be organized and find my desk again!

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43 Alanna March 1, 2015 at 7:52 pm

Would love a copy if this. I have been trying to organize my papers for months!!

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44 Alanna March 1, 2015 at 7:54 pm

Would love a copy of this. I need help!! Lol

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45 Penny March 2, 2015 at 7:05 am

Hi Angela,

I am very interested in your resource! I gave my email address and received the confirmation subscription. However, I don’t appear to have received a copy of ‘Avoiding the Paper Trap’. Would love to read it though.

Regards.
Penny

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46 Hannah Brockway March 5, 2015 at 11:31 pm

Hello,
I would love to receive ‘Avoiding the Paper Trap.’ This sounds like such a great resource!
Thanks!
Hannah

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47 Jennifer Clapp March 7, 2015 at 10:17 am

Hello Angela,

I am thrilled to read about your organization tips. I have signed up, but have not received anything in my email. I even checked my spam and trash. I would love to read it.

Thanks,

Jennifer

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48 Roxanne March 15, 2015 at 12:16 am

Tried to submit my email for the PDF but it wouldn’t go through.

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49 michelle ripps March 17, 2015 at 4:31 am

I am interested and excited to hear more!

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50 Deanna March 18, 2015 at 10:47 pm

looking forward to being organized.

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51 Carly March 19, 2015 at 8:16 pm

I am very interested in this, thank you!

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52 Aimee March 24, 2015 at 11:38 pm

Requesting free PDF on avoiding the paper trap – thank you

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53 Shirley April 12, 2015 at 9:18 am

Hi, could you please send me a copy of the PDF on avoiding the paper trap? I am a subscriber, but if I received it previously I can’t find it. Thanks.

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54 Kim April 12, 2015 at 11:29 am

This is amazing!

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55 Barbara April 12, 2015 at 2:27 pm

Please send me a copy of Avoiding the Paper Trap.
Thank you for that, and for all your wonderful posts.

Barbara

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56 Nancy April 15, 2015 at 6:42 am

Please send me the PDF of Avoiding the Paper Trap! You don’t know how much I need this!

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57 Tammi April 23, 2015 at 3:04 pm

Requesting free PDF on avoiding the paper trap – Thank you

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58 Mary Harris April 29, 2015 at 4:10 pm

I would like to subscribe to your email updates and paper trap info. Thank you!

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59 Nancy April 30, 2015 at 11:09 am

I subscribed because I would love to read Avoiding the Paper Trap but I have not received it. Thank you!

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60 Susan Mclauchlin April 30, 2015 at 12:16 pm

Would love a copy of the 7 steps to avoid the paper trap.
Thanks.

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61 Krista May 2, 2015 at 1:47 am

Organizing and avoiding the paper trap please.

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62 Sarah August 24, 2015 at 2:51 pm

I was able to confirm my email and received the email that should have the link to the pdf, but it never connects or opens. Would love to know how I can fix it!

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63 Shellie Freeman January 12, 2016 at 1:13 am

I was able to confirm my email and received the email that should have the link to the pdf, but it never connects or opens. Would love to know how I can fix it!

Reply

64 Aimee Haecker July 22, 2016 at 9:18 pm

I would like to read more about your ideas and suggestions.

Reply

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