The DIY Classroom: Classroom Organization and Decoration On a Budget

I have been a public school classroom teacher for 15 years.  My experiences range from 5th grade, to 3rd grade, and now to 6th grade.  I have taught every subject (self-contained) to science/social studies, to science/math, and now to just science.  One thing is for certain, no matter what changes are made from grade-level to subject, the public-school budget is always tight.

Does having a tight budget mean that you have to sacrifice functional decor or live in disarray?  Of course not.   It is a commonality among public school teachers to spend a significant portion of their salary towards their classroom needs and for the students.  Nothing new there.  But to save, there are certain measures that can be taken and that's called DIY!  So let's get started. 

Students sit in small-groups of 4 or 5.  Desk arrangement will vary throughout the year, but they will remain in groups for most activities.
Each group is given a bin to organize materials that are shared:  glue sticks, sticky notes, scissors, colored pencils, big erasers, mini pencil-sharpeners.  Each group must organize the bin before they leave for the day.  Refills of materials can be obtained from a central storage location in the room or they provide them from home.

This is a corner of my back countertop area for teacher-organization.  The bin is for items that come in regularly from the school mailbox or from students or parents that need to be sorted, filed, or discarded.  The letter sorter is filled with a file folder for each day of the week.  Copies of work for the week will be placed in each folder.  You already have what you need in advance.  This is helpful for students who tell you they are going to be out for a few days or if you suddenly have to be out.  The work is already there.
In this magazine sorter, I have my roll book, my calendar for the year (which will include all school events like meetings, game duties, parent meetings, etc), my school calendar (I take the small calendar to my meetings and then transfer it to the larger one later), and my journal for note-taking in meetings.
{Mesh bins and storage containers - Ollie's Discount Store}
Inside my desk drawers, little compartments that snap together are used to sort and organize those materials that tend to fall out in the drawers.  It saves time to have a place for everything.
{Snap Drawer Organizers [6-part] - Wal-Mart, $5}
Little containers are used on top of my desk to separate materials I use most frequently.
{Mesh containers - Dollar Tree, $1 each}
I am also a co-sponsor of the Beta Club.  Students from other grade levels often drop by to turn in community service logs and their report card.  To keep from interrupting me, these folders are taped to my cabinets so that they can turn in or take the appropriate forms.
A section of my magnetic chalkboard is used to display pertinent items like the date, the schedule for electives, the learning targets for that day's lessons, current vocabulary, and the agenda for the day.  The sections were sectioned off with black electrical tape.
The headings were made from sentence strips.  I typed and printed the topic, cut them in cloud shapes and laminated the pieces together.  On the back I used magnets with sticker-backs.
These magnets are large stones with magnets with the sticker-backs.  They can be used to keep the learning targets on the board or as bullets.
{Translucent stones - Dollar Tree, $1/bag}
{Magnetic Buttons - Wal-Mart, $1.97/pk of 18}
This is my word wall.  Instead of using the typical bulletin board paper, use fabric to cover bulletin boards.  Broadcloth is a great choice.  The fabric lasts longer and fades less over time.  (Tip:  If your board is near a sunny window, at the end of the year, cover the boards with that bulletin board paper to preserve the fabric from fading over the summer.)
{Die-Cut Letters - Dollar Tree, $1/pk}
This is a student work station.  Materials are left here for them.  They do not need to ask to use these materials (i.e. pencils, extra glue sticks, notebook paper, stapler, hole punch).  My materials last longer if I am the only one using them.  Let the students have their own and be responsible for their own.
When students are absent during the week, they can go to the day of the week and retrieve any handout from that day. 
Study folders are used in two ways - to act as a partition between students working close together and to study by.  These are two file folders taped together which make the folder like a trifold.  Inside will be a running vocabulary list and other strategies needed to master science content.
{All fabric - Wal-Mart, purchase the most inexpensive broadcloth}

If you're wondering why I don't have a whole bunch of pretty thematic "stuff" up in my room, let's just say I'm past that.  I did a lot of that in the elementary setting and it was fun.  But now I go for color.  Bright color.  And clean spaces.  I let the students' work become the decor throughout the year.

If you stick around this week, I'll share a video of my classroom space to give you a more cohesive look of what my space is like.

Whether it be in a traditional setting or in homeschool setting, how do your organize your teaching space on a budget? 

{Blog Series:  August 26-August 30, 2013}

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  1. Hoping your new school year brings many smiles your way. Hugs!

  2. Wow Libby! Very impressive how organized the classroom is! I am sure the organization makes everything go much smoother. I hope you have a great school year!

  3. I love how organized your classroom is! You make it so easy for the students to know exactly what to get and where. I bet that really helps you throughout the year. I have our homeschool really well organized as well. That way my girls know exactly where to get things and put things away and can be independent more often. Yay for that! I wrote a post about it recently if you want to see it.
    Take care,

  4. This is so cleverly and neatly organised. It's good to always be able to know where staples are!! My kids are continually losing their things and taking mine from my craft table. I'm trusting that when they're a bit older they'll keep their work areas looking like this!

  5. Thank you, sweet friend, for the many helpful tips :) I hope this school year goes well for you. Hugs!

  6. I miss those days. Your students are fortunate to have you as their teacher

  7. What a beautiful idea to arrange the classroom :)

    15 years? it surprised me! You must an amazing teacher.
    Thanks for sharing Libby, I love the pictures here.
    Have a beautiful day



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