Classroom Management and Organization

19 August 2016

I would not describe myself as a type A teacher, I would say I am somewhere in the middle and that I work hard to be organized.   I teach first grade and I have found that when I cannot find something, which in turn makes me frazzled, I lose control over the class.   To prevent chaos, I focus on organization before the school year even starts.  Then during the first month of school, I spend a lot of time on classroom management and procedures.  The classroom runs like a well-oiled machine and substitute teachers tell me that they love to sub in my classroom.

I hope you find a few tips in this post to help you.  My tip for you is to not overwhelm yourself trying to do it all.  Do a few things well and each year add on.

My classroom discipline system has evolved over the years.  I used to strictly follow Lee Canter's Assertive Discipline.  The problem with that system was that when they got a "Warning" there was no going back.  Some students took a "Warning" as this horrible thing and would shut down after.   I needed a discipline system that would allow students to "turn it around."  Amazingly, Classroom Dojo was introduced to me by Deedee Wills.  Neither one of us get paid to promote the site; we just truly love it!  Classroom Dojo is an amazing FREE online points based behavior system.  You can create your own positive and negative points.  

On the first few days of school my students and I work together to come up with positive and negative points.  As the year progresses, we add more behavior points...notice the "bossy" negative point below.  We did not start out our year out with that one.  I also love that you can assign a zero point value to things.  This makes it easy to keep track of things like missing H.W. but the student is not penalized for it.  

A Smartboard works well for displaying the classroom Dojo website.  I like that the students can take ownership of their behaviors and click their avatars.    It also works well to give them some more movement.  After independent math work, I usually tell a each student to go up and give themselves a "hard working Dojo."  This motivates the other students still working to stay focused, so that they too can earn.    The key to this system is to find a way to reward each student in your class multiple times a day.  This is easy to do with the "reward whole class" feature.   I often reward the whole class after each center rotation.   You will find it is very easy to give out the points.  My students earn a prize for every 5 points.  At the end of the day, my fifth grade helpers, use the checklist below for students to "cash out" for a prize.  You can click below to download for free. 

Classroom Dojo has a lot more to offer besides behavior management.  It is a great tool for communicating with parents.  It has a messaging feature and whole class broadcast feature.  I cannot even count how many times a parent has come up to me and said how much they love the Dojos.  The students love them, too.   This year the site started kid friendly videos on Growth Mindset.  My students could not get enough of them!   You can learn more about the site by clicking {HERE}.

Besides using Dojo points, I like to do a Whole Class Rewards System.   I have a marble jar and we put marbles in the jar for whole class good behavior and complements from other teachers.  I talked about it in my post for Carson-Dellosa below:

My friend, Sarah Cooley, has this adorable packet for whole class rewards:

Another aspect of good classroom management is creating a productive learning environment.  Here are some routines that should be taught the first few weeks of school.  Harry Wong is the expert on this subject and you can find his book {HERE}.

I like to use hand sanitizer as bathroom passes.  How this works is, the child takes an available pass and places it on his/her desk.  Then he/she goes to the bathroom.  This gives me a quick visual of who is out of the room without them having to ask me to use the bathroom.   Hopefully, after they are done going to the bathroom, they wash their hands.  Then, when they get back to the classroom, they can give themselves a little squirt of sanitizer.  The rubber bands on the sanitizer prevents the students from squirting too much.  I tell the parents of my students to let me know if they don't want their child using sanitizer in school and I remind my students that they don't have to use it if they washed their hands.   Sometimes the freedom of going to the bathroom whenever you want is just too tempting for students and they abuse the system.  In that case, I break out my checklist and the students put a check next to their name every time they uses the bathroom.  In first grade, I don't want to limit a child from going to the bathroom but I don't mind saying "Are you sure you really have to go?  You have gone 3 times already today and it is not even lunch time.  Maybe I should ask your mom if you do this at home, just to make sure you are ok."   That usually nips it in the bud. 

You can purchase the labels and checklist above {HERE}.

For pencil management, I like to keep jars up in the front of the classroom.  One bin has unsharpened pencils and the other sharpened.   I don't let my students use the electric sharpener but I do let them "trade in" pencils when needed.

I love mini-garbage pails!  I have one for every table.  They are great for whole class crafts or for a use in a center.  At the end of the craft activity, my "Garbage Pail Monitor" goes around and collects the small bins and empties them into our large garbage pail.  (This is a very coveted job...I kid you not.)  He/She then puts them back, so that they are ready for the next time we need to use them. 

Everything has a place and is labeled!

My kiddos come to me not being able to read, so it is very important that my supplies all have a visual picture on it.  This works for them to easy find materials, it exposes them to the words, and they can use the words for search/read/write the room and for writing. 

All of my large decor packets have these visual labels.


You can find more decor bundles {HERE}.

I like to hide "ugly" or un-matching bins in my closet.  I don't want to waste those blue topped bins, but they don't match my decor.  Any easy fix was to designate one closet, my Math Closet.  The paper boxes are duplicating boxes that I store math centers in.  I like to store the center with the recording sheet.  

I like to pre-count my red and yellow chips and store in Dixie cups or snack sized bags.  This makes handing out during math time a breeze!

Using a Number System

I LOVE the number system.  It saves me from re-labeling everything every year.   The students are each assigned a number corresponding to their place on my class list.  They put their number on their work, they use the number to find their mailbox, line up, and for their classroom job.  It makes it so easy to know who is missing work. 

Classroom Library

My classroom library is labeled with picture labels on the outside of bins and matching picture labels for the backs of my books.  This makes it so easy for my students to put books back where they belong!

You can find all of my various styles of library labels {HERE}.
For the polka dot ones, click below.

I found the organizational tip above on Pinterest.  You tape a ribbon to the back cover of a notebook and it becomes a bookmark!  This helps students find their place in a notebook and prevents wasted pages. 

The tip above is super easy!  Place a lunch menu in a page protecter.  Tape the page protector to the back of a mat.  Use velcro to attach the mat to a door or wall.

You can find the lunch label in any of these packets:

In my classroom, I display birthdays on a birthday board.  The students hold up a card with the date of their birthday and then I photograph them.  I place the photo under the header.  I have seen this original idea of mine copied A LOT without credit.  I ask that if you do make your own version, you 1. Don't post it for free and 2. You credit me.  See this post for more pics of my birthday boards through the years. 

You can check out all versions of my birthday boards {HERE}. Or check out my latest version by clicking below.

Here is a little birthday freebie for you:

I use these with scented play-doh but they would work with anything scented!  Here are some scented items you can purchase from Target.  Click the images to check them out on  Don't forget to use your EBATES for 2% cash back when you order online. 
(affiliate links)

Indoor Recess

I like to have stations for indoor recess.  I find it prevents fighting and helps to keep the classroom organized.  I print up the cards below (free download) on card stock and laminate them.  The students move their clothes pin clips to the station they want to go to.  There can only be as many students at a station as there are dots on the card.  They are free to switch stations during recess as long as there is a free spot available.   *GoNoodle has a special indoor recess mixes.  They are perfect for getting the wiggles out. 

Time Organization

I like for my students to have visual reminders for the amount of time remaining for certain activities.  This really works well with helping them manage their time in independent learning centers.   The timer above is from a cute free site.  Classroom Dojo also has a timer feature that is easy enough for a student to set for you. 

Giving Students Brain Breaks!
If you don't know about GoNoodle, I suggest you check it out ASAP.  I am a huge fan.

You can read more about my love for GoNoodle {HERE} and snag some behavior coupons.

I use all the tricks for getting students' attention.  You know the clap.  The "One, two, three, eyes on me."   Lights on and off.   I recently found this soothing chime and use it to get students' attention.  You can find it on Amazon by clicking below.

Organizing Your Information
I am a big fan of using binders to organize your materials.  My plan book is in a binder, my substitute guide, my student info sheets/communication binder, my grade book, my running records, and all my miscellaneous forms. 

All of my binder covers  and organizational forms can be found in my organizational forms packet below.   My plan book can be purchased by clicking the link above.  I have a separate blog post about getting organized binders {HERE}.  This post was just getting way too long!

You can check out my binder packet below:

I hope you found a few useful tips in this post.  If you have any questions, comment below.  I could go into a more detailed blog post on one of the topics above.  


  1. Even though I teach fifth grade I feel like we are twins when it comes to running our classrooms and being organized. I have not projected my dojo before and didn't even think of letting the kids give themselves a point for something - totally stealing that idea. Thanks for all of your great ideas in one post!

    1. Haha! I know there is a way you can hide the point totals on the site. My kiddos have never been ones to get upset or brag about the number of points they have. I know first graders are just very accepting. I am not sure if the older guys would be that way, so you might want to start with points hidden.

  2. Wow-- am so impressed with your blog. Thanks for all the info and tips. I especially appreciate the gonoodle tip--- it is going to be my new obsession! Thank you!

  3. If the kids earn a negative point on the Dojo site, do you have them do it on the SmartBoard or do you do it for them?

    1. It depends on the behavior and what is going on during class at the time. I don't want it to become the walk of shame. Most of the time a behavior will occur during center time and the other kids don't notice. I also have the app on my phone. It really depends on the kid, too. Some kids are sensitive and some kids will throw a tantrum. You have to use your judgement. Each child is different.


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