Hello, sunshine! Today’s topic is an area of classroom management that I spend a lot of time and focus on because it is so powerful in keeping things flowing and keeping the classroom under control. And that is simply just keeping the classroom tidy, keeping it clean and organized. Today I’m going to give you my favorite strategies to make sure my room stays tidy.
Tidy classroom, tidy mind. Think about those four words. Isn’t that true?
If you walk into a room and it is cluttered and messy, there are pencils on the floor, random glue lids lying around, can you really focus on what’s most important? We know what’s most important is our students and their achievements, and the things that we can do to brighten their day and brighten their life with more knowledge.
But with the distraction of a mess, it’s hard to fully focus on that. That is why I’m going to give you five quick tips today to keep your room tidy, so it flows well and you can focus on what is most important.
Before you can really optimize your classroom in this area of being tidy and clean and organized, you have to maybe make a mindset shift. Are you the one doing all the cleaning and all the organizing? Sister, in the past that was definitely me. I had this idea that only I could do it.
A big mindset shift came for me in the summer when I decided that hey, I have three daughters now and I’m doing most of the cleaning around the house. Why are they not helping me? I had a four a five and a six year old. I spoke with some friends that are great at homeschooling and parenting, and they said give those kids some chores and let them help you.
I was thinking, these kids can’t do chores. They’re too little, and if I do I’m going to spend more time cleaning up the mess they make while trying to do it than I would if I had just cleaned it myself.
Once I got them in the routine and taught them how to clean up and do chores around the house, my house was cleaner than it had ever been when I was doing it on my own. So we have to realize that our students, our kids in the classroom love personal responsibility, and they are definitely capable of helping you keep your classroom tidy. So here are my five tips to keep your room tidy.
Tidy Tip #1: Use Your Teacher Hype Language
Tip number one is to use your teacher hype language. You have to brag on your students when you see them keeping their spaces tidy. For me, it sounds like this: “Oh my goodness, Brandy. Look at your desk, it is so nice and clean your pencil is in the perfect spot. And look at the books inside your desk in a nice neat pile. Brandy, you’re amazing. You’re even better at cleaning than most adults. You look like a professional first grader.”
So you can build your students up by using that hype language. You’re so excited to see them keeping their spaces tidy. That’s a big accomplishment for a little kid.
Tidy Tip #2: Table Points
Tip number two is to use table points to your advantage. I’ve done other management posts and podcast episodes where I talked about table points. Basically you break your room into groups, and you give points based on positive behaviors.
When transitioning, I might say, “Boys and girls, we’re going to clean up and come to the carpet quietly. And I’m going to look at each table and see which table is the tidiest. Who has everything in the right place? Which kids took time to make sure there was no garbage under their tables and everything is exactly the way it should be? That table is going to get a table point.”
So it adds that bit of competition in there, and kids will go to great lengths to get that table point. So try using table points or adding some kind of competition into the cleaning up.
Tidy Tip #3: Two Minute Tidy
Tip number three is one I love. I stole it from a friend Amy Wilgus. She’s a homeschool mom, and what she does is something called a 10 minute tidy. Well, I don’t have 10 minutes in the classroom, so I reduced it down to two minutes. A two minute tidy is magical. I have a visual timer where students can see as the time goes away. During that two minutes it may get loud, but I can handle it for that amount of time.
In that two minutes students are to take everything out that does not belong, throw it in the garbage, cleanup anything they see that needs to be tidied up. It’s a clean up race and kids absolutely love it. At the end of my two minute tidy I may give out pinkie high fives to let them know that I appreciate what they did. Or I may give table points again to the table that is the tidiest.
You would not believe what results you can get from your students with just a two minute timer. You can make this two minute tidy specific to an area of the classroom. Let’s say your classroom library needs to be straightened or maybe there’s some shelves in the classroom you would like to be organized.
Tidy Tip #4: Desk Fairy
Tip number four is to use the Desk, or if you have tables, the Table Fairy. This is a simple little reward that I talk about with my students. The desk very works kind of like the tooth fairy, but when the desk fairy comes, she is looking for things to be nice and tidy. If they are, she might leave you a little treat. This could be a sticker or a piece of bubblegum, whatever you want it to be. And maybe even leave a little handwritten note: “Great job at keeping everything tidy! Love, the Desk Fairy.”
You can just randomly say at any time, “Boys and girls, we never know when the Desk Fairy will come.” I only use this fairy about once a month, but all throughout the month the students will remind me that the Desk Fairy might come tonight, we better make sure everything is tidy.
Tidy Tip #5: Garbage Buckets on Tables
And with that, tip number five is to use little garbage buckets on your tables or your pods of desks. Personally, I do not like my students to be up and down to the garbage can all day, and I also did not like them to lose their garbage on the floor or leave it lying around. So I found these little round bucket containers at the Dollar Tree. They are plastic and easy to wash.
I place those in the middle of each table or each pod of desks, and I teach students to put any of their extra pieces of paper in little balls and to put them in the garbage buckets. Wadding them up in little balls keeps it from overflowing and getting messy looking on the table. I’ll have one kid from the table dump it out at the end of the day, and maybe wipe it out with a wipe if needed to keep it clean. I also teach my kids that no food or sticky things go in here.
What tips do you have?
So those are the five tips I have for you today to keep your classroom tidy, but I’d love to hear what it is that you do. Do you have any tricks you would add or would like for me to share with other teachers? If you do please post them in our Primary Teachers Facebook group. With that I’m going to bid you goodbye, but have a wonderful rest of your week. And don’t forget to spread the joy you have for teaching to those little people that are in your classroom. Until we meet again, go make a difference, teacher friend.