Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Learning Supply storage

Here's a quick overview on the storage "system" that works for me. I am definitely not the most organized person in the world and overly organized stuff doesn't really appeal to me anyway. I just like it organized enough that I can find what I need! I've refined this system over about 10 years of teaching, and of course adapted it a little bit to work for home.

So here goes:

To start with I have holiday/seasonal items organized in some cardboard magazine holders I got for a steal at Ikea ages ago. I have Christmas, Fall, Winter, Spring, and Texas (when I taught 1st grade we did a huge Texas unit at Rodeo time....). There are usually 2 holders per subject. In these holders I put the books and small manipulatives--such as song cards/poems, cookie utters, small decorations, or magazine pages with ideas for that particular subject. Larger items--such as stuffed pumpkins or dried corn for fall I keep in big plastic tubs in the garage, cataloged with my seasonal decorations for my home. I have tubs for Christmas, Fall, Easter, Christmas and Valentine's. You can see that some books don't fit in the holders so they are on the shelf next to that particular holder.

When I taught 1st grade I had tons more holders for my smaller themes--penguins, farm, family, etc. But at home I just absorbed all of that stuff into my closet and reserve the holders for the major themes.

We have a large Ikea standing cabinet in the playroom. It has two large doors on the left side, and beneath each door are two shelves. I have my shelves divided into: manipulative (basically any large toys such as the pounding bench, the wooden screws and nail set, and some other random larger objects--mostly for babies). Then comes language arts. Anything LA is stuffed in here. Beneath that (pictured below) are math and Science. You can see that the shelves don't look particularly neat. The objects are just too differently-shaped from one another to get them to fit in super nicely. Plus I dig through there all the time, so stuff gets rustled around.

On the right side is a big cabinet. I use this to hold larger objects. I rotate EVERYTHING through the playroom and try to change things out every month. You can see some dress up items, a doll stroller folded up, a little doll seat, and some large containers.

On the left side under the two big doors are four smaller pull out drawers. I have them organized by:
-kitchen items (fake food items, food containers, and play dishes)
-small stuffed animals (that I keep because they go with some of our themes)
-social studies
-fine motor and music (instruments, lacing work, lids, tweezers, etc.)
(pictured below)
On top of the cabinet I store puzzles. They are incredibly awkward to store when you throw in some knobbed baby puzzles, so they work best just piled on the top of the cabinet.
Under the big compartment on the right side is another pull out drawer, and I keep containers inside. You've seen that I always put out each "work item" in a basket, box, or tray to contain the pieces and designate the item's "home." I keep a plethora of different storage containers in here. Some are for putting out work, some are repurposed for other uses.....I like to have lots of options!There is also a matching drawer on the left side. It holds anything "pretend play" oriented. Dress up clothes (though we don't have to much of this--I prefer playsilks and a few hats), pretend phone, jewelery, purses, etc.

When I taught first grade I kept stuff more in larger containers--all my "letter awareness" items might be in one plastic tote, and all my "counting manipulatives" might be in another. However I've changed my philosophy a bit over the years--I often rob items from several different "sets" to put together to create some work that fits my little ones exactly. For example the "bakery" set I highlighted earlier in the month where I pulled all the breads out of some different playsets. Also we have a baby animals (spring related ones--ducks, chicks, lambs, bunnies) basket out for Beck right now, so I pulled from several different "sets" to make this.
So.....I really like to have ALL my stuff visible and not kept in additional storage containers.
Each month when I change out work (and note that "month" is a loose term for me--we are more rhythmic than calendar-y around happens when it happens....but usually once a month). I start by evaluating what is still being played with and should remain, and what items need to go because the kids are done with them or never became interested in them. Sometimes I will put the "done" items away, or other times I might make a little change to them and place them on a different shelf to see if I can catch the kids' interest.

Then I go shelf by shelf in the 4 main compartments of my cabinet (LA, Math, Science, Manip.) and I take everything out (one shelf at a time) and decide what I want to use. I love seeing ALL my items every month. It really doesn't take as long as it sounds, and it helps me be more creative and resourceful in how I use our items. Of course I do this when the kids are napping or in bed cause it temporarily makes a huge mess.
When I put everything back into each shelf they look really nice and organized for a bit....until I go digging around again. Too bad I didn't take my picture right after a change-out!

When I taught preschool (at two different schools) both schools organized in large closets and had shelves grouped by subject--Language arts, science, manipulative, pretend play, math, social studies, music, art......Pretty much the same thing I have now but with a much larger closet!

For books--besides the "seasony" books I already showed you stored in the magazine holders, I don't have any huge organizational system for our books. We have a gazillion books, and they're shelved on a huge bookshelf in the studio divided as such:
-board books
-non fiction
-fiction picture books
-chapter books
-nursery rhymes, anthologies, poetry collections, or anything else "different"

Once again, each month when I change out themes or when I change out the books Quinn is allowed to keep on her bedroom shelf (around 10 books) I love to go through my shelves entirely. This helps me remember books that I've forgotten that would be great for Quinn because of a developmental stage or a current interest....or often I will zone in on a book I know I need to loan to a friend because their kids are doing something related.....So I feel like it's beneficial for me not to be too organized with our books, as well, because it allows me opportunities to see books in new venues I wouldn't use them in if I had everything cataloged too much.

We keep our art supplies in the studio, with a small amount in the kitchen based on what we are using on a daily basis. For now it's one basket of watercolor paints, 2 brushes, and some paper.

So I feel like my theme in organization is to do it enough that I can find stuff easily, but not too much so that it limits my creativity in how items are used.

Also, I have really whittled down the amount of teaching supplies and toys we keep around the house. If it doesn't fit our educational philosophies or it isn't a material I love, out the door it goes to find a new home. I feel like by having less items, I can use the ones I have even better and not get too consumed by keeping the stuff organized and put away.

Also the longer I teach the more I am led to believe that less "stuff" actually requires kids to use higher level thinking skills and higher levels of abstract representation (through pretend play)......but that's a different soapbox all together I can rant about some other post.

Hope that was helpful......
I will keep thinking more and add anything else I have forgotten.
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