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 to 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.

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!

7 steps for organizing EVERY paper in your classroom!

Sign up here and get your free guide sent immediately!



  1. Catherine Stevens

    Can’t wait! Thank you!

  2. Karen Lyman

    Would love a copy of your steps.

  3. Maritza Gee

    Guilty of having papers everywhere.

  4. Jamie Maupins

    Ready for some paper management training!!

  5. Tamar Reyes

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

  6. Beverly

    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?

    • Angela Watson

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

  7. Angela Watson

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

  8. Khym spikes

    pdf please for organizing paper work 😉

    • Angela Watson

      Sure, please enter your email address in the box at the end of the post (or here: and it will be sent to you automatically.

  9. CJ

    Please send me a copy.

    • Angela Watson

      Sure, please enter your email address in the box at the end of the post (or here: and it will be sent to you automatically.

  10. Sue

    Please send me a copy. Thank you.

  11. Angie

    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.
    Angie Williams

    • Angela Watson

      Hi, Angie, can you let me know what error you are getting? I just checked again and the sign up form is working:

  12. Cathy Faulkner

    Hi Angela, Really looking forward to the pdf. 🙂 I really need it.

  13. Dan

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

  14. Tamara

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

    • Angela Watson

      It’s definitely not just you, Tamara! 🙂

  15. Kate

    I’m looking forward to getting organised.

  16. Marguerite Donaldson

    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!

    • Angela Watson

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

  17. Marguerite

    I’m doing it now!! Paper organizing.

  18. Sue

    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..:/

  19. Sue

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

  20. Donna

    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,

  21. Dene

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

  22. Brenda

    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”.

    • Angela Watson

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

  23. Mary Ellen

    anxious for help with my piles of paper!

  24. Julie

    Can’t wait for this! Thank you!!

  25. Jenny

    Looking forward to reading this!

  26. Laura Smith

    Can’t wait to read it!

  27. Angie

    Eager to clear 10 years of piles! Thank you.

  28. Debbie VanGundel

    Can’t wait to try this.

  29. Michelle

    Can’t wait to get organized

  30. Sherri smith

    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.

  31. Melody Lewis

    Can’t wait for the information!

  32. John Bullock

    Looking forward to it.

  33. Jeri Swanson

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

  34. Alanna

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

  35. Alanna

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

  36. Penny

    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.


  37. Hannah Brockway

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

  38. Jennifer Clapp

    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.



  39. Roxanne

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

  40. michelle ripps

    I am interested and excited to hear more!

  41. Deanna

    looking forward to being organized.

  42. Carly

    I am very interested in this, thank you!

  43. Aimee

    Requesting free PDF on avoiding the paper trap – thank you

  44. Shirley

    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.

  45. Kim

    This is amazing!

  46. Barbara

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


  47. Nancy

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

  48. Tammi

    Requesting free PDF on avoiding the paper trap – Thank you

  49. Mary Harris

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

  50. Nancy

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

  51. Susan Mclauchlin

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

  52. Krista

    Organizing and avoiding the paper trap please.

  53. Sarah

    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!

  54. Shellie Freeman

    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!

  55. Aimee Haecker

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

  56. Reflections after year 5 | Reporting from Room 403

    […] like having a place for every paper. Angela Watson over at the Cornerstone for Teachers has a great post/PDF to help you get started with this. Seriously life changing (and I am a pretty organized to begin […]

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