Susan Riley | May 2014

End of the Year Integration Organization

Every year, we post an end-of-the year organization article to provide you with some quick ways that may help make this frantic time just a little bit more manageable.  There’s a reason for this, of course.  As much as we’re all tempted to just throw everything in boxes, shove them in our closets (if we have them) and skip out the hallways joyfully towards the promise of summer, there’s a price to pay for this version of organization.  When we return in August, we’ll be bogged down for days trying to get everything sorted. That leaves us feeling stressed, rather than empowered at the start of the year.  By taking a little bit of time now to organize our materials and resources, we’ll have a fresher, smoother start to our upcoming school year.

Integrating subjects requires more organization than single content instruction because you need to ensure that you’ve prepared and put away for 2 or more content areas.  And if you’re organizing integrated resources, you need to organize them in a system that will be easy to find and use when inspiration and alignments occur throughout the year.  These organization tips will help you both clean up your space from this year AND get your resources in order for next school year’s pending reality.

Classroom/Studio Space Organization

It’s amazing how much a messy space can really affect your mood, thought-process and overall perspective!  At the end of the school year, my room looks like a tornado went off.  There are end-of-year projects lining the tables, materials scattered in bins and instruments everywhere.  Taking a solid hour or two one afternoon after school to inventory and label everything cleans up my room and my spirit.  Here’s a few other ways to consider organizing your space for the end of the year:

1. Use Centers.  The end of the year is messy and often a time when we get to tackle the projects we don’t have time for during the rest of the year.  Do you best to create stations or centers for creation and exploration.  This allows students to make the mess, but contains it to a single area.

2. Put students in charge of cleanup.  Why should you do all the work?  Your students can learn responsibility and respect by being in charge of cleaning up after themselves.  Create a classroom/studio blueprint of where everything goes that students can refer to as they clean up and put away.

3. Utilize bins.  I love bins for all things organization.  By providing a bin with a label for each type of material, you’ll be able to find, access, and put away everything in an efficient manner.  For best effect, use clear bins in various sizes with lids that you can get at any low-cost retailer.  This will help you and your students to see what is in the container, along with the label that shares its category (i.e.: paper, shakers, or gluesticks).

4. End-of-the-Year Organization: Create a “Studio Opening” checklist. What will you need at the beginning of next school year?  Be sure that you create a list of everything you’re going to need in August/September and place it somewhere where you will easily find it upon your return.  Then, as you put things away for the year (this where those bins come in handy!), put those things away last so that they can be the first things that come out when you get back.

Resource Organization

1. Create a filing system that works for YOU. I know some teachers who like to organize their materials by topics. Some who prefer to use grade-level organization. Others still, by standard.  It doesn’t matter how you file, so long as the way you file makes sense to you.  It won’t do you any good to organize yourself in a way that isn’t natural to your own thought-process.  The important thing is to choose a filing system and then stick to it.

2. Go Digital.  If possible, try to choose a single digital platform and store all of your lessons, resources, and materials in this platform.  It could be using Google Drive, CloudUp, LiveBinder, or any other free digital service.  However, the ability to access all of your resources from anywhere, at anytime, can give you piece of mind.  Additionally, remember to organize your digital filing cabinet just like you organize your physical filing cabinet.  Choose an organization method that works for you and stick with it.  The last thing you want to do is dump a bunch of digital files into a cloud-service and not have a filing system.  How will you find anything??

3. End-of-the-Year Organization: Create a digital “first-week-backpack”.  Include a fresh set of lesson plan templates, blank seating charts, emergency card information, and blank grading sheets.  Additionally, include a set of lesson plans that you know will be sure-fire winners. (Make sure you include a list of materials you’ll need for those lessons!)  This way, when you walk into your classroom and open up your backpack, you’ll be all set for when your next group of students arrive.

What are some of the ways that you get organized for the end of the year?  Anything that works well for you that you’d like to share?

About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan