Ever been overwhelmed by a stack of papers or a pile of math manipulatives that just can’t seem to find a good home? I’m right there with you. If you’ve been here a while, you might have noticed that I find inner peace when everything is in its just-right spot. And the classroom is no exception. I need to be strategic about classroom storage ideas, because It’s not just for my benefit: students thrive when they know exactly where to find things and where to put them back.
The Big Why
Any given day in an elementary classroom is full of highs, lows, and beautiful (well, mostly beautiful) chaos. Our days flow so much smoother when:
- We can easily find what we need for our lessons, small groups, and activities
- Our students can independently access the materials they need to be successful
- Everyone can efficiently and successfully put things back in the correct spot
When it comes to classroom storage ideas, I consider a few important questions:
- Is it easily accessible for me or students?
- Is it in a logical place?
- Can it be clearly labeled?
- Will we actually use this system?
Over the years, there has definitely been some trial and error. I’m popping in today to share the classroom storage ideas that made the final cut! Here are my favorites. I sure hope a few of them can help streamline your days!
Math Manipulative Bins
Since math manipulatives are utilized daily, I needed a simple and accessible way to organize these important tools. During math centers, I want my students to be able to get what they need without my support. Besides fostering student independence, this also means less teacher prep. Just think of all the things that we can do with our time if we’re not counting out cubes or pattern blocks for each activity?!
How do we make that magic happen? There are a few key factors for manipulative bin set-up:
- Clear bins so that students can see the manipulatives inside the bins
- Labels that include the item name and a visual so that all students can find what they’re looking for
Making the switch to clear, labeled, and accessible bins allowed my students to gather and clean up the materials that they need for math games and activities.
Classroom Storage Ideas for Word Wall Cards
Math and ELA word walls are key pieces of our learning and classroom; they are only helpful if we can find them! Fumbling through a giant stack of word wall cards during a lesson or losing a relevant card for a unit can be so frustrating. Talking with friends and colleagues led me to quite a few great ideas for sorting word wall cards.
My personal favorite option is a receipt accordion file. It’s just so handy! I keep the file right at the easel in our meeting area or at the teacher table. Since cards are organized by categories, I can quickly find the card I need in the moment. Easy to find, and easy to put away when we’re finished with the card, so it’s ready to go next time.
Classroom Storage Ideas for Math and ELA Games
With all the math games and literacy centers that we cycle through during the year, there are plenty of game boards, pieces, and cards to keep track of. What classroom storage idea could possibly contain all of these games and be simple enough to find and grab the game we need? Velcro pocket folders that fit into 3-ring binders!
Each game gets its own Velcro pocket folder. Pocket folders can then be placed into binders arranged by subject, unit, or game type. When you need a new game, simply find the right binder and you’ve got everything you need in one pocket.
Do you love printing things on brightly colored cardstock as much as I do? If your cardstock collection is vast, here’s a classroom storage idea just for you: hanging files. Use these to store cardstock by color. You can easily find the color that you’re looking for and can you tell right away which colors you’re running low on.
Drawers for Crayons
Setting up color-coded drawers for crayons (or markers or colored pencils) has really been a game-changer in the classroom. A drawer for each color means that students can easily find the color they need for a drawing. No more digging around a never-ending bin of crayons! And it is so easy for kids to put away the stray crayons they find on the floor. Everything has a home.
Bonus classroom storage idea: A set of plastic cups or bins nearby the crayon drawer also comes in handy for students to grab the colors they need and head back to their workspace.
Drawers for Frequently-Used Papers
What problem can’t clear drawers solve? So many of my favorite classroom storage ideas involve Sterlite drawers. These drawers are super helpful for the papers that we use often like math center recoding pages and writing templates. Copies fit perfectly inside these drawers! Students can access them easily and the papers don’t get all bunched up like they might in a hanging file.
Bonus organization hack: You can make a mini label by printing the page to 15% and sticking it on the outside of the drawer. Kids will always be able to find the paper they are looking for!
Student Supplies Classroom Storage Ideas
If you use tables or flexible seating in your classroom, you’ve likely got plenty of individual student folders and notebooks that need a home. Milk crates and book bins are always my go-to storage solutions for these items. There are so many options for managing the supplies, and I’ve changed up my systems year-to-year depending on the grade and the class. You could store notebooks and folders by:
- Category: all reading journals together in a reading journal bin
- Student: all notebooks, workbooks, and folders in one bin for each student
- Table or Group: all materials for a group together in one bin
These bins can be stored near tables or near center materials so that students have a logical place to look for materials.
Assessment File Folder Box
Assessment time always used to sneak up on me. I used to find myself scrambling to find the right copies of recording pages, reference sheets, and scoring guides. That was until I created an Assessment File. Why not keep all of the assessment paperwork in one place? This classroom storage idea made it so easy to pull out the box at assessment time and have everything I need right at my fingertips!
To make one, you’ll need a file box. I like the kind with a cover to latch closed. (Bonus points if it has the little compartment on the cover for pens and sticky notes!) You’ll also need some hanging files and file folders. You can make a designated spot for each type of assessment that you do during the year and all of the related papers that go along with those assessments. Now you’ve got all of your originals in one place! If you end up with extras after assessment time, they’ll be good to go for next time.
Like all of these classroom storage ideas, teaching, modeling, and practicing the routines make a huge difference. Consistency with storage and routines supports student independence in accessing materials and supporting peers when they need help.
I hope you’ve found a few ideas to contain and organize the supplies in your classroom! Do you have a favorite classroom storage idea that we need to know about? Let us know in the comments.