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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Classroom Supply Organization for Departmentalized Teachers

Back-to-school time is always a little crazy, but a few of my upper elementary blogging friends have teamed up to share some of our back-to-school tips and tricks!

Last year, I moved into a departmentalized 4th grade classroom for the first time. I love getting a chance to really focus on teaching science, but seeing 125 students instead of 25 really changed the way I set up my classroom! Today I’m sharing supply organization tips specifically for departmentalized teachers (although many of them would work in any classroom!)


I set up these Sterilite drawers at the end of each table, and they are a lifesaver! Everything my students need on a regular basis is in these drawers. Because they switch classes, it’s really helpful to have the glue, scissors, markers, and crayons here (rather than having them carry their own). The bottom drawer holds our science textbooks (the drawers struggle a little with that much weight, but we don’t actually get them out much), and the top drawer holds small whiteboards, dry erase markers, extra pencils and erasers, and sets of markers.

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Having the markers in individual “sets” made it so much easier to find text evidence in the passages from my Text Detectives (for 3rd grade and now 2nd) and Colorful Close Reads. This year, I’m keeping an eye out for travel soap containers so I can store my crayons in  similar way. I love Crayola, but those boxes just do NOT hold up!


Last year I used shower caddies instead of these smaller craft caddies. They held a little more, but they hung over the sides of the white drawers and sometimes my students would bump them… and of course, everything would fall all over the floor.

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My solution this year was smaller caddies and Velcro on the bottom. (I start with both Velcro dots on to make sure they will line up.) I’ll keep you posted how it works!


My kids have science notebooks that stay in our classroom, and sometimes last year one was left behind. Despite sticker labels, it sometimes took a little time to figure out where it belonged- so this year, I’ll be using duct tape on the spines to help easily see where it goes.

I can use the same color-code for almost everything in my classroom, too!


I store my notebooks in these Dollar Tree bins. The same color of duct tape helps students identify the correct bin quickly, and once the school year gets started, I’ll write the homeroom on the frog, too. All of the bins sit on the floor under the whiteboard, in the order of when I see each class.

Since my students come in and start their day with a Science QuickWrite, I have a couple of students pass out the notebooks at the start of class. As I dismiss groups at the end of class, each group can drop their notebooks in the bin on their way out.


With 5 classes of science and 1 class of social studies, I occasionally struggled to keep up with make-up work. While my students were supposed to come pick up their work independently, it rarely happened- and then I spent time later trying to figure out what was missing.

Putting these open folders up on the cabinet in the back of the room helped me so much! As my students get started on their QuickWrite, I take a moment to catch up with any students who have papers here- whether they are absent work, papers to re-do, or pages I kept aside for reteaching.


Being a science teacher, I could spend so much time handing out materials. As much as possible, I try to keep common supplies at the supply stations and any special supplies (such as those for a lab) in a bin at the front of the room. I can simply call up one student from each group and most materials are ready within a minute!

This also helps because I see my classes every other day. (Our kids go to reading and math every day, but during their third block, they alternate between science and social studies.) This means that I teach the same lesson for two days in a row- so being able to keep all materials in a bin makes for easy clean-up at the end of the day, too!


While the “stuff” can be overwhelming when you see six classes, the paperwork can be even worse! The students each have a binder with tabs for each class, and my teacher binder has tabs for each of my classes, too.

Once the papers are turned in, I group them together with Clip-Rite BinderTabs (shown above). I use a small class checklist to mark off whose I have, whose I’m missing, and what the scores are. (Makes it so much faster to put grades in the computer!)

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As soon as I have copies made, I keep my papers that I’ll need for teaching in the purple, blue, and green plastic drawers. (I love that they’re the 12x12 size so I can put one stack horizontally and then the next vertically!) I use the top black tray for the kids to turn in regular work, and the bottom tray for the kids to turn in anything late (make-up work, late work, redone work, etc.). I love having a central spot for any other supplies a kid might need (stapler, tape, hole punch, etc.) so they don’t have to ask me!

There is so much to do this time of year- but hopefully these tips give you some classroom organization ideas! For more tips on starting the year off right, I hope you’ll check out the rest of the Back to School Survival Guide.

back to school survival guide

And to thank you for checking out our blog hop, we’re EACH giving away 2 gift cards to TeachersPayTeachers. If you could use $25 to spend on back to school goodies on TpT, be sure to enter the giveaway below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you’d like a few more Back to School ideas (and more chances to win $25 gift cards!), please be sure to check out some of the other blog posts. Good luck as you start another school year!

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  1. I really enjoyed your post. I am departmentalized as well. I think I will color code my notebooks this year, as well. What a great idea! I tried to enter your giveaway by signing up for the email but the link won't work.

  2. Wow! What great organization ideas! I love how you used the velcro under your containers so that they don't get knocked over. I am going to have to do that this year. Thanks for sharing! Kristi
    Teaching Little Miracles

  3. What a fabulous back to school blog post - love it :)

    Teaching Autism

  4. Thank you for this! I am moving to a new school and will be departmentalized for the first time. Not as specialized as you, only two classes for ELA. Thanks for the helpful tips! I have been on the hunt for those half sized pencil boxes...

    1. Good luck! I think I found them at Wal-Mart last year, but they have been lifesavers!

  5. Such great tips!! Thank you for this great post!!

  6. Thank you for the tips! I love the velcro idea!

  7. Tell me more about these Clip-Rite BinderTabs. Is that like a tiny sticky note? Or is it a piece of plastic sticking out from the binder? Do you make them? Buy them?

    My Bright Blue House


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