Information on this page provided for classroom use only; not for publication. 2003





Teacher Tips

Liquid Soap:  My very favorite tip is probably one that I picked up last summer. Wind a large rubberband around the nozzle of the soap dispenser so that when the students push it down, it only goes down about half way.  This gives them half a squirt instead of a full squirt which is too much for washing small hands.  This has saved us countless amounts of wasted soap.  Adults are allowed 2 squirts! :)

Paint:  My second favorite is adding a squirt of liquid soap to each paint container before the students begin painting.  Use the brush to mix the soap and paint.  This helps to remove paint if it accidentally gets on clothing.  It also makes clean-up easier.


Extending Paint: (Submitted by Kay)  Not only does the adding of liquid soap to paint help the cleanup, but the adding of some liquid starch seems to extend the paint's smoothness and often all I have to do is add some water when the paint runs out instead of adding more paint.  Try and see what you think. 


Paint Pans: I use left-over Lean Cuisine or Weight Watcher frozen entree pans to distribute paint to my students for painting.  We all paint at one table, so I just pour the appropriate amount of paint into each pan.  With the squirt of soap mentioned above, I simply have to rinse out the pans and turn them upside-down to dry.  Then they're ready to use again. 


New! 7.14.09

No-spill paint trays: Plastic pet food bowls with a wide base at the bottom are great for student to us as paint trays because they will not tip over.  I purchase cute inexpensive ones from the dollar store.  They work great, are easy to stack to store, and clean easy.  Submitted by Nancy Reese, PreK Teacher, Pensacola, FL


Submitted by Shannon: One thing that I use when painting are the plastic cupcake containers (the ones you get when you buy the cupcakes from the bakery) that come from Wal-Mart or Sam's (the ones with the lids attached). The paint will keep up to a week without drying out.  I like to use these when I have to mix up special colors.


Also, when you buy the really big cupcakes from Sam's they come in a box with a clear plastic insert in the lid (which is attached).  I use this as a green house when we plant seeds in class (I have no windows in my classroom).  Grass seeds will grow in less than a week!

Sentence Strip Storage:  Clip sets of sentence strips together on one end using paper clamps.  Then flip down one "wing" of the clamp while leaving the other "wing" up.  The wing left up provides the perfect hanger for hanging the sentence strips on a peg or nail.

Sentence Strip Storage II:  Sentence strips can also be stored in various types of containers.  I use the more traditional cardboard storage box that can be purchased commercially for this.  I also keep those belonging with themes in plastic storage tubs from Wal-Mart that I use to store the other theme resources.  Two more containers are florist boxes that are used for long stemmed roses and the pan that is used to apply the glue to the back of wallpaper.  I'm told that these two containers are the perfect size and convenient for storing sentence strips.

Shared by Lois: To store sentence strips I cut the bottom out of old library pockets and slip the set of strips through.  Then I label what's inside on the outside of the pocket.  Sometimes I add a large paper clip to hold the strips  securely inside.   Works well for me.

Thematic Resources:  All my resources for each theme are stored in a 3 part system.  It seems to take all 3 parts for me to keep everything organized. 

Part 1 - all hardcopy copies and printables are kept in one or more (depending on the binder and the size of the unit) 3 ring binders.  My really big units like Farm, Halloween, etc. have 3 inch binders that are packed to capacity.  Christmas has a 3" binder and I've started on a second binder.  (And you also have to remember that I've been teaching now for 19 years and I have to teach skills from pre-K through 2nd ... so that's a LOT of skills to collect resources for, plus a long time to have collected them.)  I also have my extras that I photocopied and never used hole punched and added to the backs of the binders so I won't copy them again.  I try to divide the originals into sections like:





*Emergent Readers



*Connecting Literature

* or into sub-categories ... like the Farm unit has a sub-category with Mrs. Wishy Washy


I also add (as many as needed) empty page protectors to the front of the binder.  I use these as pockets, so get some that will hold up.  This is where I put any odd sized things that can't be hole punched such as example emergent readers, models for art projects, etc.


All of the binders are kept on a shelf in alphabetical order.  It's much easier for me to plan when I can flip through the binder instead of having to dig through over-stuffed file folders.  Plus, I normally do my planning at home, and carrying file folders back and forth isn't my favorite since they are more than prone to dumping themselves out all over the place at the most inopportune moments such as when you're leaving for school and already running late or it's the windiest day of March and it's in the middle of the EMPTY school parking lot! :)


Part 2 - Because when I'm filing hardcopies into units I don't always have the time to pull down binders and hole punch and insert them into the binder, I also kept my files for each unit in my filing cabinets.  Each unit has a file folder in a hanging file and I just drop the pages down into the file folder.  Then before I take the matching binder home to plan, I empty the file folder from the cabinet, hole punch and add the pages to the FRONT of the binder.  The now empty file folder goes back into the filing cabinet.  And if you get bored, and have nothing to do, you can always go through your filing cabinet and hole punch the pages and add them to the appropriate binder. :)


If I've already organized the binder into sections, before I begin planning, I quickly sort the new pages that I added to the front of the binder into the appropriate section.  And believe me ... I don't really have very many of my binders already divided into sections.  This is definitely an on-going process.


Part 3 - Each theme/unit has their own storage container.  I started out using the cardboard boxes that our school purchased reams of paper in and am slowly moving into purchased plastic storage containers from Wal-Mart.  I think they're the 30 qt. size with the snap-on lids.  I should have all my 40 something containers converted to the new plastic containers by the time I retire!!! :)  I like the plastic containers because of course they look nicer, but mostly because they hold larger items that the cardboard boxes won't, such as Big Books and larger models for art projects, puzzles, games, etc.


Each container has all the books for that theme, videos, any manipulatives, or extra stuff that won't fit into the binder.  I don't put my resource books in there though unless it's something that I can only use for that theme.  I like to keep them handy on my shelf in case I need them.  I don't want to have to pull those boxes down looking for them.


All of the storage containers are stored on top of built in cabinets and a storage cabinet, or are stacked in a corner.  I want them easily accessible (well, as easy as it can be) but out of the way and out of sight if possible (but usually not).


Dividers:  At first, I was spending a lot of money purchasing dividers for my binders, then I came up with a better idea.  I use the papercutter to cut down file folders to 11" in length.  Then I use the 3 hole punch to punch holes in them on the fold.  Then I label the tab for that section with a Sharpie and insert the file folder as the divider.  It makes a really sturdy divider.  If you wanted, you could cut the side of the folder off that doesn't have the tab and use it for something else.  It's just easier for me to use the whole folder as the divider.  And you can probably get a whole box of folders for what you'd pay for a pack of dividers.


Mailbox Magazines:  I've recently (within the past year or so) started removing the themes, units, and pages that I'll use from my Mailbox magazines.  I started doing this with Teacher's Helper, because they so nicely started perforating their pages and not adding stuff to the back that didn't go with what was on the front of the page.  So once I started doing this with Teacher's Helper, I gradually started working on my Mailbox magazines. (I get The Mailbox K and Primary, and Teacher's Helper K and 1st.  I've also just started getting Pack-O-Fun)  I take a sharp pair of scissors and use one point to slit down the inside of the magazine binding.  I remove the units/themes and file them.  I also remove and file any skill pages.  If the back of a page goes with another unit, then I have to make a copy of that page to go with the unit.  I leave any pages in the magazine that I won't be using.  That way if I change my mind about using those resources, they're still there where I left them.  Then I file the magazines on my magazine shelf in sequential order by month and year.  That way everything is easier to find.  If I can't put my hands on something quickly, I'm more likely not to use it.  So making everything easily accessible is key for me.  I have wayyyy to much stuff to spend time looking for things to use.   And taking the units/themes out of the magazines keeps me from wasting all my time and copies copying stuff that I already have just so that I can file it.


Supply Tubs: I purchased small tubs with handles for a dollar at an outlet store.  The tubs are small enough for the students to carry, and have 3 compartments.  In the long section I have crayons, and in the other 2 sections I have scissors and glue.  These are community supply tubs.  My students are supposed to have their own supplies in their desk, but as usual you have some that don't bring them.  So the community supply tubs are for those who need supplies.  They can easily just pick up the whole tub and carry it to their seat or to the table that they're working at.  If they need just scissors or a particular color crayon, they know to go to the supply tubs and get what they need.  They're also supposed to return the supplies back to the tub when they're finished.  Each tub holds a lot of crayons, 3 bottles of glue, and at least 3 - 4 pairs of Fiskar scissors.  Occasionally I do have to have students clean out their desks and return the supplies to the tubs,


If I have particular students who can't seem to keep their own scissors and glue in their desk without misusing them, I have them place them in the supply tubs.  Then when they need them, they have to go get them.  This keeps them out of arms reach when they're not needed.


Pencil Can:  I get tired of picking pencils, crayons, and erasers up off the floor, because I have my students clean up their "area" before leaving class each day.  So any pencils that I have to pick up goes into our class pencil can, even if the pencil has their name on it.  When someone needs a pencil, they go to the pencil can and get one.  We have a ton of pencils in there, but most have no erasers left on them.  So it teaches the students to take care of their belongings. Stray crayons go into the supply tubs and erasers in our class eraser cup.


Sharpening Pencils: I have a cup at my table that students place their pencils in when they need sharpening (their name is on their pencils).  I sharpen the pencils either before or after school each day with my electric pencil sharpener and then I place them back into the student's desk.  I don't sharpen pencils throughout the day and our classroom doesn't have a student pencil sharpener.  If the student ends up without a sharpened pencil, they get one from the Pencil Can.  I try to make sure that each student has at least 2 good pencils in their desk for use (if their parents provided them with the requested pencils at the beginning of the year).


Original Reproducibles:  Always afraid that you're handing out your original master to one of your students?  This tip will quell that fear.  Use a yellow highlighter to write "Original" across the top of your original master.  When you copy it, the highlighter won't show up, but you'll be able to easily identify your originals.


In-Coming and Out-Going Mail:  I always have a problem remembering to take things to the office or other places when I leave my classroom on an errand.  So I came up with an idea to help get organized.  I bought a metal wreath hanger to hang on the BACK of my classroom door.  Then I purchased a cute basket with a handle that is large enough to hold things that are the size of a sheet of paper.  The basket is flat on the back and it hangs well on the wreath hook.  Now when I have something that needs to be delivered, I write the name of the person/place it is going and I drop it in the basket.  When the TA or myself leave the classroom on an errand, we check the basket to see what else needs to be delivered as well.


For small items that might not be seen in the basket, I tape them to the back of the door or the door frame.  Then we can't get out the door without seeing it.  This is a great idea for helping you to remember to send bus passes with your students at the end of the day.  They can even help you to remember by alerting you when they see things taped to the door or frame.


When the TA brings in in-coming mail, it's supposed to go in the basket as well until I get to it.  That saves it from getting lost or not getting the appropriate attention it might need. We're still working on this part. :)


Notes:  I mentioned above about taping small notes to the back of the door.  Well, I've now had a better idea!  My door has a window with a metal ring around it.  I added a magnetic clip to the metal strip and I clip all small notes and things to the clip.  That way we see them (hopefully) when we're coming and going.


Submitted by Sandy: My tip... I buy the larger than a shoe box size, clear in color, Rubbermaid box and store my stuffed animals for each unit.   Aug. through Nov. have to share, Christmas has it's own but Jan.-March share. Easter has it's own also. I also have this size for all my cookie cutters and cooking materials, rubber stamps for alphabet, and other things that don't fit in the shoe box size. For the shoe box size I keep my smaller type number games, rhyming games, beginning sound games, etc. that are the size of playing cards or bigger (but still fit in the box). I also can keep a copy of the original print out there just in case. :-) The original is in a notebook for centers.  I keep all my manipulatives in the shoebox size too. It works well and the kids can see through to see what's inside before they take it. 

Wal-Mart & Target have some cool drawer units that are red, green and yellow. I have several of these put around the room. I have 2 drawers for things to be filed :-) and one of my kids said it's time for a new drawer, don't you love them? (You are a big part of the reason that drawer is so full!)  Anyway, craft supplies go in a couple of these drawers, scrap paper in another couple and big stamp pads.  I'm also going to keep books/tapes for the listening center in a couple of these drawers also.


Thanks again for all your sharing.

Sandy Callahan


I e-mailed Sandy to get clarification on her tubs for her stuffed animals.  The box size is about 3 shoeboxes high and longer and wider.  I wanted to know what she did with the stuffed animals as well.  She says that she decorates with them, some go with books, and others she uses as incentives for students who are sitting quietly and listening.  She also uses them to help calm her "moveable" students.


I also use the clear shoebox size boxes for storing smaller puzzle-type activities.  The ones that I have I got at Big Lots for about $.77.


Extra Activity Sheets:  When Sandy was writing about her drawers that she has for filing it reminded me of a plastic cart that I have with bins.  In one of those bins I put all my extra activity sheets and things that are left-overs, but I don't want to save them.  I actually have students who like to go into that bin and find things to do occasionally during "free time."  One of the rules in my class is that you are to NEVER just sit and do nothing.  I want them engaged in doing something constructive at all times.  So I provide all kinds of activities that they can choose from.  But the one activity that they can not choose is to sit and do nothing.  They'll have to wait until they get home to do that.  :)


Submitted by Kelly: For the soap dispenser, I buy the Pampered Chef pump bottle and this way my kids just squirt foam out and I don't end up having liquid soap strung all over the sink or room.


Tool Box & Beauty Supplies:  For years now I've tried to have doubles of things that I just couldn't do without in any given day.  One set is at my house, and the other set is at my home-away-from-home ... my classroom.  These things are things like toothbrush/toothpaste, hairbrush, make-up, hair clips, mirror, hair spray, sinus medicine, Advil, deodorant, personal hygiene products, etc.  Some mornings I just may forget one step of my routine and not realize it until I get to school.  With the extra set of stuff at school, I can rectify that situation and not have to go through the day having bad breath or a bad hair day! :) 


Another set that I have at school is my own little tool box.  Thanks to my husband, I have a small, plastic tool box outfitted with whatever I might need.  And mind you, there's not a lot in it, because I don't need much! :)  But a Phillips screwdriver, a flat-head screwdriver, a pair of pliers, a hammer, a few nails, a small flashlight, etc. and I can handle the little things.  Plus, I won't be ruining a shoe or a pair of scissors trying to use them as a hammer! :)


Storing or Packing Bulletin Board Materials or Charts:  If you have a large box, collapse it to where it's flat.  To do that, you'll have to cut off the bottom flaps and then make it collapse diagonally.  When you have it flat, lay a strip of bulletin board paper so that it makes a small fold over the bottom.  Tape up the bottom with duct tape ... over the bb paper and stuck to the box as well.  What the bulletin board paper does is to keep your charts and things from sticking to the tape.  Cover the bottom and the paper with enough tape so that it's reinforced and the charts won't break through the paper and slide out.  Now the charts should slide right into the top of the collapsed box like sliding them into and envelope.

I hope this makes sense.  I know how to do this because a LONG TIME AGO I ordered some charts from a company and that's how they sent them to me.  Many years later, I'm still using that same box to hold LOTS of my charts and bulletin board stuff. That box has moved with me at least 3 times.  Hopefully there won't be a 4th! :)


You can also use the boxes posterboard or charts come in.  They don't hold nearly as much as the collapsed box that I described above, but they are smaller and neater. 


Another Packing Tip:  If you're having to pack up and move your classroom this tip might help you if you're moving lots of resource materials.  The last two times I've moved, I've used this system.  I have LOTS of resource books.  I store them on shelves categorized by subject and grade.  When packing, I start at the upper left corner and put those books in a box.  Then I label that Box 1.  Then I fill the next box with the next books.  It is labeled Box 2.  I continue until I have all the books packed.  Then when I get to my new destination, instead of having to go through and recategorize all those books again, I find Box 1.  Those books go back in the upper left hand corner.  Then Box 2 books are shelved.  By doing this, they go back on the shelves in the exact order they came off them.  It saves me lots of time and aggravation.


Also, you can pack your materials up by zones in your classroom.  Then label the box with the appropriate zone.  When moving, place the boxes into the correct zone and then they're where you need them to unpack them.  For instance, I might have Kitchen Zone, Teacher Zone (my desk area), Reading Center, etc.


Who’s Turn Is It?: A few years ago I read about this idea on the ‘net and it works like a charm.  You know you’re always going to have at least one student in your class who insists that they NEVER get a turn, although you know they have.  This little trick nips that in the bud!  Paint and/or decorate a soup can.  Write the name of each of your students on one end of a craft stick with a Sharpie marker.  Color the other end (both sides) with a permanent marker.  Put all the sticks with the name side up in the can.  When you need to call on a student, simply pick one of the sticks out of the can and call on the student who’s name is on the stick.  Then return the stick to the can, but put the name side down, with the colored end up.  By coloring that end of the stick, it will save you time when choosing a stick to pull out.  You’ll know NOT to choose a stick with the colored end up.  No more whining!  When everyone’s had a turn, simply reverse all the sticks and start again.


Cubby Tags:  This idea was submitted (no name) and is very original.  I don't use cubbies, but it's a neat idea.  Hmmm .... actually I do use cubbies, but not for the students.  I use them to organize my hands-on materials.  I could even use this idea, because I hate using self-stick labels because of the mess they leave when you try to change them.  Neat!  Ok, here's the idea ....  


I bought the clips (black with two hinges).  I put one on each cubby.  I use name tag labels (self -stick) and write the students name on them.  Whenever a student  withdraws from class, I just remove it.  When I get a new student - I add a new label.  Sorta expensive at first, but then you never have to spend any money on cubby tags again!


Note:  Someone emailed me for more information on this, so here's the question and my answer.


Q: please explain the clips used for cubbies, instead of labels.  I am a visual learner......I don't know what kind of clips these are!


A: It took me a little while to figure it out as well.  The clips that she used are those black metal clips (clamps) with the two wire wing looking things on each side.  You fold the "wings" down once they're clipped on so that they lay flat. 

So you've got to visualize clipping the black clip onto the actual bottom of the cubby (the wood or metal).  Then visualize sticking a label on the flat part of the clip that is facing out.  The label has the child's name on it.  Then at the end of the year, you remove the label and add a new one for the next school year.


Pocketcharts:  The perfectionist in me knows this information by heart.  A standard sized pocketchart has 10 rows and each row is 4 inches a part.  I know this from doing so many pocketchart activities. :)  And when making these activities, I try to keep them within 10 rows or less and 4 inches tall (or smaller).  I don't like having to use two pocketcharts or having things overlap from one row to the next.  I just thought I'd put this info here in case anyone's ever at home making pocketchart activities and needed it. :)


Submitted by Lisa: I have an idea that Teachers Mailbox printed that you may want to share.  At the end of the year when you have to pack up your room for the summer, as most  teachers do.  Label one box "Back to school."  In this box, place your "must haves" for the first day of school.  Such as your calendar wall items, alphabet, helper chart, nametags, deskplates, etc.  When you unpack in August you can start with that box to get well underway with "redoing" your room.


Submitted by Karen: I always love visiting your site and the great ideas and suggestions you have!  I wanted to share an idea as well!  I love to decorate and watch HGTV whenever I have free time.  One day "Decorating Cents" was doing a child's bedroom that had a great idea for storage.  I am a K teacher and made these items with a glue gun and velcro. You get the storage tubs at Home Depot or Lowes.  I will attach the photo for you to see.  I use them to store those small stuffed animals (TY?).



I emailed Karen back and asked her for directions on making the "tuffets" as she calls them.  Aren't they precious?  Here's her directions:


I call them "tuffets" for lack of a better idea.  You buy the 5 gallon buckets and lids from Home Depot or Lowes (these are the 5 gallon buckets).  I measured from the top of the bucket to the edge and added an inch.  Take 45 inch fabric and along the selvage, tear the edge to make a straight edge. Then take the measurement of the bucket and snip (I think it was around 15 inches).  Tear. Snip 15 inches again, Tear fabric.  Now you have 2 - 45" widths of fabrics for gathering the skirt that are 15 inches long (remember to measure to make sure about that! Sew the 2 widths together at the finished selvages (seam the 15" edges together to make one long length of fabric. Next serge the raw edge (the one you tore) with a serger to keep it from raveling (or just turn under and sew).  Do the same thing to the other raw selvage. 
Now you can continue making these with one of two ways:
  1. use a zig-zag stitch over un-waxed dental floss along the 90" length.  Attach sticky velcro (soft side) to the top of the bucket (It will fit exactly in one of the top grooves of the bucket.  Take the bristly side of the velcro and attach the sticky side to the fabric.  You can buy the velcro that gathers and sew it on but this is expensive.
  2. use a glue gun and glue skirt to edge of bucket.  You can do this without the sewing listed above and also without the velcro.  This is the way I did it. As I glued the skirt I hand-gathered it.  I rotated the bucket until both sides of the skirt met and overlapped about an inch.  You don't have to worry about hemming the edges that meet.
  3. For the lid, I purchased batting that was in a roll.  Trace around the lid and cut two or three layers of batting.  Hot glue to the lid.  Trace around the lid and add enough fabric (3-5 inches )all around the outline of the lid. This will give you enough fabric to wrap around the lid to cover the batting.  Place fabric wrong side up, next lay the lid with batting attached and wrap the fabric to the wrong side, hot gluing as you go.
  4. After lid is finished place on top of the bucket.  I then used the glue gun to attach rick rack to the edge to give it a nice finish.  You could use any trim you like (like ribbon, etc.) but the rick-rac attaches nicely with the glue gun.

Oh yeah, I forgot, they are round and they are all OVER home depot. They even place them at the entrance to use as a "shopping" bucket. They are ORANGE in color and the total cost of the bucket and lid is less than 6 dollars in the metro Atlanta area.

Karen, thanks for submitting this idea.  It's too cute! :)

Submitted by Krista:  I use a telephone message book, with duplicate pages to convey messages to parents.  This way I have a copy of what was sent home as well.


Submitted by Joan: I am also a special ed teacher (4-6th grade) multi-handicapped kids.  I thought I would share this organizational system with you.  Since lining up the kids can be a problem (even with only 8)! I came up with this idea.  Every week, each student has a classroom job to do. I numbered these jobs 1-8. I put the numbers (1-8) on the floor where the kids line up by the door. They line up according to their job number. This rotates every week. I put the number on a shape (last year-smile faces, or stars, apples, whatever theme you like) and use clear contact to place them on the floor. It has worked very well for several years now.


Center activities: This idea will work for letters, numbers or anything matching. Buy two coordinating notepads, one large/one small. (a large bear and a small bear) Put a capital letter on the large bears and a lowercase letter on the small bears or a number on the small bears and dots to match the numbers on the large bears. Laminate. Your Center activity is done. 

Dots:  A new pencil and a stamp pad makes perfect round dots. Use the eraser end for the "stamp".


Time Saver Tip: Have you ever been found running around your classroom like a chicken with it's head cutoff (isn't that just a sick saying .. :(~ ) looking for your grade book so that you can escort your class safely and quickly outside for a fire drill?  Well, no more.  I came up with this idea and it will eliminate that problem. 


I typed up my class roster and taped it on the back of the door that we exit.  Now when we have these drills, I just rip it off as I'm going out the door.  No more searching.  Then when we come back inside, I immediately retape it to the door.  It hangs there all year.  Then the next year, I just replace it with the new one.  I don't even take it down at the end of the year so that it will remind me to replace the old one with the new.


Susan - KK Teacher, submitted her idea for this problem as well: When we have a fire alarm we are supposed to take our roll book with us so we can call roll and make sure everyone got out ok.  I am so unorganized I would never find it in time.  I made a list of my class and  I put it in the pouch of my ID badge. (I bought it at Office Max)  It is always around my neck when I am at school.  I have even used it to make sure I have all the kids at  the end of recess.


Another Time Saver Tip: I saw where someone (perhaps it was you) has their class list posted on their door so that it can quickly be removed as you head out the door.  This year, I am at a new school and we are using a clear plastic sleeve.  Inside, there is a solid red paper and a solid green paper along with two copies of a current class list.  We receive a new list each time someone moves in or out of the room.  During the fire drill, we do our count as usual and then depending on whether everyone is present, hold up the green or the red side (class lists are tucked in between, of course).  This quickly allows the principal or office staff to determine if someone is missing.  submitted by: Krista (1st)

Submitted by Carolyn:  Here's a couple ideas I use in my home daycare to help the chaos and mess.

1.  I use painter's tape (the green kind you use to cover where you don't want to paint) to attach posters and art work to the walls.  It sticks great and leaves the paint in tact.

2. I use stackable plastic lawn chairs for children for my tables.  If a child is one, 3 stacked to together works perfectly for them to reach my table.  It pretty much takes one chair off per year so that by the time they are 3, they only have one chair to fit.  I make it a birthday ritual for them.

3.  I use a rural mail box for each family to put in anything that needs to go home.  When the flag is up, it means there is a newsletter or toy or something to take out.

4. I used the top of a portable sun canopy to cover my sand box. The kind you put together with white metal tubes and has open sides and a tent-like top.  It fits perfectly and the tent parts allows me the luxury of not having to put all the sand toys away every night...they fit underneath until the next day's play.  All that AND keeps my cat out !

5.  I use the stackable office holders [the size of a piece of paper, often used as an 'in box' and 'out box'] as a puzzle shelf.  I can keep 4 or 5 puzzles on it and remove all of them from the table and put them up when need be.

6. I use a microwave cart [without the hutch] on wheels as my open craft shelf.  Not only does it hold the materials I need [btw, I use a small plastic shelf unit inside it with markers in one drawer, crayons in one, stickers in one, scissors in one, etc so they can take the entire little shelf to the table and slide it back in when they are done] but it fits under a regular height of counter [assuming there is a space there] and can be turned around if the craft shelf is 'closed' and I have a felt board stuck to the back.


ABC & Number Lines: Place stick on desk ABC line onto a sentence strip and a number lines on the back of the strip.  Laminate.  These are very portable and handy to have.  I made several.  Good to use in the pocketchart or students can use them where ever needed.


Submitted by Rhonda: I store bulletin board sets, posters, holiday decorations, etc. in a zippered vinyl suit bag.  The last time I purchased one I accidentally bought a dress bag.  I like it, too, because it is longer and can hold taller charts.  It's easy to hang in my closet and easy to get in to since it zips.


I use a wooden hanger inside, then I just put the things I want to store inside the vinyl zippered pouch (the items inside the bag don't hang).  The last two bags I've bought I got at the dollar store.  I have a hook inside my closet that I hang them on.  I can either take the whole bag out to go through it when I need something, or just unzip the bag and take out what I want.  I've used this for storage the last few years.


Submitted by Jaci:

At the beginning of each school year I type a class list and copy it many times.  Students names on the left side of the paper of course.  Some lists are done on a chart others are not.  When I send home permission slips that need to be returned, or when I am working on a project one on one and need to remember who I worked with, I pull out a class list and check off the names.  For whatever reason, this idea has helped to keep me on track for a long time.
Here's one more:
When making anecdotal notes about children, this is what I do to keep it organized.  This is an oldie....tape index cards on a clip board programmed with each child's name on the bottom of the card.  Tape them in a flip book manner., bottom to top, exposing the bottom 1/4" of the card with the child's name ....when I need to write a quick note about a child, or record a phone call/conversations with that child's parent, I flip up the card and record the date and write what I need to remember.  Prior to conferences, I refer to the clip board.  The top card has my name on it to protect the notes on the next card.

Oh more.  so simple....

Line your paint cups with a cheap baggie...not the zip loc style. (Thanks to one of my co-teachers!)  Clean up is so easy.


Student Headbands:  If we all had a quarter for every student headband/hat that we'd made .. boy could we go shopping!!!  Here's a tip I just read about somewhere this week:  Instead of overlapping the construction paper strip and stapling it around their head, take a rubberband and slip one end of the strip through it and staple.  Then slip the other end of the strip through the other side of the rubberband and staple.  What this is doing is giving the strip some "ease" so that they can take it off and on without tearing it up.  Picture a strip around the head that's been cut too short and has a rubberband to extend the strip.


Offices: When we do activities where I want to know exactly what they know, not what they know and can also glean from their friend's paper, we all use an office.  An office is simply two file folders opened and stapled together overlapping a little to form a U (except there is no curve).  You just stand them up on their side and they form a sort of divider.  The kids put their paper inside the U and no one can see their paper and they can't see anyone else's paper.


Cleaning up in the afternoon:  I've got a new procedure in place. Since I do most of my instruction at a horseshoe table, I don't leave at the end of the day until it is in good enough shape for me to be able to sit down at it the next morning and start teaching. It may not be totally clean, but it's at least in satisfactory condition.

New Motto: Another thing I've started doing is ... Do it now! I'm so bad about putting things to the side to do later, and they get piled up. My new motto is do it now. I receive e-mails from and they're a whiz at helping you stay on track to getting more organized.


Organization: (submitted) I've found a great way to organize all those bits of paper I was inundated with each day.

When handing out notes / sheets there are usually leftovers. I bought some of the trays that offices use as in / out trays and separated them so that each is independent of the other. One I've labeled Spare Notes and the other is for Spare Sheets. When the classroom helpers are finished handing out notes or worksheets they put them in the designated box. That way if a student has been absent or lost a note, the spares are easy to find. The spare sheets come in handy for any student who wasn't present at the time the work was handed out. They can also be used as a free time activity and can come in handy if we have "split class" when a teacher is away and their class hasn't been covered.  At the end of the week, I empty the spare sheets tray into the scrap paper box for drawing on the back.

As for the return of notes to school, I usually ended up with a pile of papers falling out of my hands each morning with permission slips, absence notes, late notes etc. I bought two plastic baskets from K-Mart and put a label on the front of each. One has "Absence Notes" and a picture of a child sick in bed on it, and the other "Permission Notes" with a picture of a school bus on it. As the students enter the classroom in the morning they place the notes in the appropriate trays. Then when I am marking the roll, I can take the absence note basket and mark their absences accordingly. It also makes a great place to store any late notes that come in after I've sent the roll to the office. The same process is used for filling out info in the class money folder.  I can just pick up the basket and carry it with me to my desk or staff room without fear of dropping any one's money.


These two tips were submitted by April: 

Read the Room Pointers: Use objects created for car antennas on the end of dowel rods.

Storage: I don't have a "real" classroom.  Instead my room is two small resource rooms/office with the partition taken out.  Therefore, I have no cubbies for my kiddos; and they sit at tables - so they have nowhere to store their things.  To solve this problem I purchased medium sized storage baskets (the plastic ones with little holes in them - Sterilite brand) from Wal-mart and Target.  I also bought 14 inch zip/cable ties.  I looped a zip tie through the 2 holes at the top at the corner and then around the leg of the chair.  I did this for each corner of the basket/and all four legs of the chair.  Now my students have a place to put all of there things such as crayons, pencils, books, etc.


Alternative to Expensive Pocketchart Stands: I've heard for years about using garment racks from Wal-Mart for pocketchart stands.  Well I finally broke down in the last few months and actually took the time to check them out.  I ended up buying two of them and I plan to buy more.  They are GREAT!  I LOVE pocketcharts and I had 5 stands plus pocketcharts hanging on the walls.  The reasons they are so great is this ... they are on wheels and they are so light weight.  You can just give them a little push and they'll go skittering across the floor (no carpeting).  This makes it soooooo easy for my students to move them around when they're in the way.  The old stands without the wheels were so bulky my little ones had a time moving them and I usually ended up doing it.  I hang the pocketcharts from the top using wire shower hooks.  There's even a place across the bottom of the stand that you could use to store things if you wanted.  Oh, and as far as stands go, they're a great price .. $13.95.  The one drawback might be that they're 6 ft. tall.  That puts the top half of the chart up high and if you're using the charts for the students to interact you might have a problem.  A plus is that it puts the charts up higher for easier view by a group.  And since they are so tall, you can buy the tri-colored pocketchart from Lakeshore and it will hold a lot more sentence strips than the usual 10 strips.  This part I really like!


Organization:  I teach preschool. We have pencils, markers, and crayons in every center in my class...I have found the best way to have these out for the children and to keep it more organized is with egg cartons...not the foam kind but the cardboard type. Flip the carton upside down and poke holes in the bottom...they will hold 12 pencils, crayons or markers and can be set out around the room...these are also great for storing scissors with the pointed in inside the carton and the handle up where you can get them. Best of all they are practically free...because you can collect them from parents or from your own consumption and they are easily replaced. The children can put away supplies in an orderly fashion that will be ready for use the next day. (submitted)


Straight Desks: I teach 2nd graders and I have had the worst time keeping their desks in place.  I bought a package of 100 cable ties at Harbor Freight tools for $4.  The releasable kind offer more flexibility.  I used them to tie the desks to each other.  Now they stay straight.  This is not exactly the best thing for teachers who are moving their students around a bunch.  Make sure to buy the releasable kind.  Amanda from Texas


Command Strips: For those posters and classroom decorations that are intended to stay up all year (for example,'manners' or character building posters, classroom rules, etc.) I purchase 3M brand 'Command' strips. These sticky strips are guaranteed to hold your posters and charts until you decide to take them down (I've been in the same classroom for the past few years and my posters are still where I put them 3 years ago!)

They are kind of pricey, but they do not damage the walls or the paint and they REALLY hold. You can get various sizes to hold from 1/2 lb up to 10 lbs. The various hooks sold in the 'Command' line up are also great for holding clipboards, brooms and even my coat (I don't have a closet).  I usually purchase the 'Command' strips and hooks at Walmart for under $4.

Submitted by Amy


*I just happen to see some of these in WalMart the other day when I was there and they are just what I've been needing to hang my new apple clock on.  I purchased it last school year but it wouldn't fit on any of the hooks in my classroom, so it's just been leaning up in the corner of my cabinet.  The Command hooks that I bought have a little wire hook at the bottom that will be perfect to hang my clock.  I can't wait now to go to school ... weeellll, I guess I can wait! :) PS - the hook worked great!  even if I did hang it a little crooked :)


Clean Lamination: Need to remove permanent marker from something you've laminated?  Try Mr. Clean Magic Eraser!  The person who submitted this tip says it works better than nail polish remover and that the Targer and WalMart brands work just as well.


Removing Permanent Marker: Sue submitted the tip that dry erase markers will take permanent marker off most smooth surfaces.  Simply write or color over the permanent marker and then erase with a cloth or eraser.


More tips about Permanent Marker: Sara submitted the tip to use Static Guard to clean permanent marker from both lamination and desktops.  She says you have to work quickly though as it dries fast.


If you'd like to submit ideas for this page, e-mail me.


last updated 7.14.09


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