I just love linking up with The Clutter Free Classroom to discuss organization. After all, it gives me my OCD fix for the day. This weeks challenge was to discuss how you organize your thematic units (an area that I think I need some updating).
So here goes...
About 10 years ago (when they remodeled our 50 year old classrooms), I decided it was time to do an organizational makeover. It was then that I splurged and purchased 26 of these plastic Sterlite green bins and 26 of the smaller clear Sterlite bins (yes, the lady behind the Walmart counter thought I was crazy coming through her line with all those bins).
Why 26 you ask? Well it just so happened that I discovered that 13 bins could fit across my shelf at the back of the room and then I could stack another one on top of each one equalling 26 total. Then, I realized that I could even stack 2 smaller Sterlites on top of that (the fire marshal loves me). Also, it just so happens that there are 26 letters of the alphabet. So here is where my thematic organization began.
The clear Sterlite bins are labeled according to the letters of the alphabet. We still pretty much do a letter of the week, eventhough we don't do as much with that letter as we use to. Now we let our Social Studies and Science curriculums dictate what our Thematic units will be. Each clear bin houses anything that I use when I teach that letter of the alphabets (for example, I always read The Three Bears when I do the letter Bb so in that bin are the storytelling props, the different versions of the book, and even a video that I show for that week. It also houses any station games that may be used during that time as well. Like I said, I have one of these for each letter of the alphabet. I pretty much know what is in each one and, if for some reason, I decide I need to use something out of that bin at another time of the year, I simply remember which bin it is in and can retrieve it.
Now, the green bins are labeled according to our Science and Social Studies Thematic Units as well as certain special events throughout the year. For example, the ones in the above image say Water Play Day and Field Day T-shirts. Those just happened to be the ones I took the picture of, but many of the others say names of holidays and various thematic units like dinosaurs, weather/seasons, animals, etc. Since these bins are much larger, they can hold more. Most of these bins will have anything that I will use when teaching that theme (storytelling props, stuffed animals, videos/dvd's, books, math work stations, literacy work stations, etc.).
The only thing that I do not put into these bins are my workpapers/crafts/teaching ideas. The reason that I do not include them into these bins is simply that when I am ready to plan for a unit of study, I need these more easily accessible; therefore, I keep these in the file cabinets located behind my teaching desk. Here is an image:
In my file cabinet, I have one drawer for each of the following:
* letter of the week files
* monthly files (Jan, Feb, Mar, etc).
* math files (organized in order of topics taught)
* reading files (organized in order of topics taught)
* thematic files (organized in order of topics taught)
The other drawers simply house workpapers from the copy center that I plan on using with the students. Our grade level orders these papers at the end of each nine-weeks (usually on a teacher duty day, when we have time to think about and plan for the next 9-weeks of instruction).
Okay...so what do I love about the way I have my thematic units organized?
- I pretty much can find anything that I need because I know how it is organized.
- It is visually appealing (accept that the bins are green...I bought them when my classroom was themed like a garden, now my classroom theme is the beach...green just doesn't look good to me).
- Each bin has a file to match.
What do I not like about the way that they are organized?
- The green bins are heavy and difficult to get down. I pretty much ONLY get them down when I need one. So if I have something that needs to be filed in that bin but it isn't down, I simply place that item on a shelf in my girls bathroom (kind of like a "catch all" shelf that eventually will get put away).
- I really do hate that they are green! Remember, I am OCD!
- This method has to be updated whenever our county changes our Social Studies and/or Science curriculum. Every so many years, the county decides to change our SS or science series and, thus, changing the order of the curriculum map. Sometimes this even changes the themes taught (deletes/adds new ones). This is frustrating because then I have stuff that never gets used or themes that I need to go buy/find more to help instruct.
Well, that is pretty much how I organize my thematic units. I know it's not perfect, but it seems to work for me.
Thanks for reading my LONG post. Not only am I OCD, but I am a very wordy writer (I think that is called long winded).