In September of this year I was asked to move into a trailer.  One of the conditions of my moving hinged my my student numbers.  I asked (and was given) no more than twenty students.  Twenty big fourth grade bodies can take up more room than you expect!  However, I must confess, having 20 kids is AWESOME!  They also fixed up the trailer and painted it inside and out.  It looked pretty nice!

          Moving into the trailer was an absolute nightmare.  We were gaining a new teacher and someone had to move into a trailer.  We did not want to pitch a person new to the school out in the middle of nowhere because we wanted them to feel part of our group.    Made sense to me.  So I volunteer to move (did you see the part about only 20 kids?!?!).  It was confusing.  No one really knew when the new teacher would start and when I would move AND I was to be teaching in the room pretty much up to the moving day.  Yes, I was offered a sub, but it was not a good situation for anyone; me, the kids, or the new teacher.  So I said I would do move one day after school. 

        Well, I have an AWESOME school and as I was trying to pack up boxes after school almost every teacher volunteered to come get something and haul it to my new home.  Hey, they are a great crowd and I love where I work.  Well, the problem was I never had the time to truly pack up boxes.  People just began grabbing stuff and hauling it over, trying to help.  When I finally was able to get to my trailer it was all I could do to not cry.  It was a disaster.  I had about a foot perimeter around the entire room (the walls were damp from paint).  Stuff was piled up on top of each other about 4 to 5 feet high- nothing was really grouped together, just put wherever there was a spot.  I didn't want to complain because people were genuinely trying to help (Hmm...but after reading the last paragraph maybe I just held it all in until now!!!).  I left that night (Friday) upset and stressed to the max.  How was I going to put this together in two days????!!!!!!!

         On Saturday I went in early (my choice to do it over the weekend- remember I WAS offered school time and turned it down.  This ended up being a good thing.)  My teaching partner (half human/ half angel) came in around lunch and helped me get it all together.  I was so grateful.  And all this leads me too...keeping organized in small spaces.

        Now, how do you keep organized when you are so limited in room?  It is not easy.  But, I have managed to keep at least two large areas that the whole class can meet in, as well as a classroom  library and did it in a day and a half.  Here is how I did it:

Rule #1 Get a Big Trashcan

Rule # 2 What Can You Deal With, and What You Can't

Rule #3 Store Up, Not Out

Rule #4 Follow the Room's Perimeter

Rule # 5 Find your Nooks and Crannies

Rule # 6 WAIT to Hang Stuff!

Rule # 7 Baskets, Baskets, Baskets!

Rule #1- GET A BIG TRASHCAN!  I spent the first entire half of the day just throwing things AWAY.  It was hard, but I had to do it.  I had tons of stuff I had inherited from other teachers.  My rule was if I hadn't used it in two years I tossed it.  At first it was difficult, but as time went I kinda caught the "fever!" Since I only teach language arts, I took home all my files that related to math.  I kept my Social Studies file because I thought I could tie it in to language arts.

To read about how I organized my file cabinets (and went from two file cabinets to one) click here.

 

Rule # 2- WHAT YOU CAN DEAL WITH, AND WHAT YOU CAN'T.  Group all of your like things together.  Decide what you can deal with looking at everyday and what you cannot.  For example, I do not mind looking at Kleenex boxes, the dictionaries and calculator carrier, BUT I just could not look at the board games and puzzles I keep for indoor recess.  Look for good "hiding places" for things you can't look at.  This means I have my shelf all organized with the dictionaries and Kleenex boxes and so on, BUT the games went into an old steamer trunk from a friend's college days. Now I have storage and student seating!

 

Here is a picture of the truck when it is closed.  Students sit on it when they can spread out in the room.

     Yikes!  It is a mess! But the kids know the rule," You        have to be able to close the trunk at the end of indoor recess!"

 

Rule #3- STORE UP, NOT OUT.  One of the first thing I did when I moved in the trailer was buy a very tall shelf. It cost me about $50.00 at Target, but was well worth the price.  Because wall space is so precious in a trailer (not just for storage, but also for hanging things on the wall) I try to store as much as I can on top of things.  For example, I have two tall shelves; one holds all my teacher manuals and resources and the other holds all my student sets of books for literature circles.  I also use this shelf to store other random teacher stuff like newspaper sets and so on.  On top of both these shelves and my storage cabinet I have boxes of centers, paper goods and my treasure box.

 

Rule #4- FOLLOW THE ROOM'S PERIMETER.  I try my best not to have many things that "stick out" into the center of the room.  Really, the only thing that does is the student's tables and they have to in order to fit enough students around them!  However all my other furniture is laid out flat against all the walls to leave as much floor space as I can.

 

Rule #5- FIND YOUR NOOKS AND CRANNIES-  After I set up my room I had several "gaps" between furniture.  Just a good 7 inches here, a fire extinguisher that blocked part of the wall there and so on.   I use this space too.  My bulletin/ poster box fit into that seven inch space.  The fire extinguisher?  My overhead projector cart fit perfectly underneath.  The small gap between my desk and file cabinet?  Great place to put glass vases- on the floor so the won't fall and break, shoved just far back enough where small feet won't kick them!  That pesky computer I have but have not jack for (well, I do now, but didn't when I moved in)? I hid it under a table that I made a skirt for with cloth.

How do you create a table skirt? I love this idea that I borrow from someone else!  I am not sure who, but it is a good one!   I put Velcro circle all around the edge of the table.  Then I took a piece of cloth that had been seamed with that tape that you iron.  I can't remember the name BUT you can find it at the cloth store,  I peeled of the back of the corresponding Velcro tab and stuck the tabs together so the sticky side was facing out.  Then I took the edge of the cloth and gently pressed it around the  edge of the table until the cloth went all the way around the table and was stuck to the Velcro.

Please forgive how messy things are- it is right after school has let out and I am packing up!

 

Rule # 6 WAIT TO HANG STUFF!   We have had several teachers moving into trailers this year in the middle of the year because we have added five new teachers to our growing school.  I was trying to pass along the good deed of my friend and help a few others move into their new rooms, just as my teammate helped me.

One thing I noticed is that ALL the people I helped wanted to start hanging things immediately, before even the furniture was moved around in place.  I thought about it and figured this makes sense because moving is so confusing and over whelming that easiest thing to do would be hang stuff on the walls, right?  Wrong.  This should be the last thing you do for a few reasons.

First of all, you may end up wanting to move a tall storage cabinet right in front of the great poster you just hung.  Then you will have the take the poster down, to move the cabinet.  Don't waste your valuable time redoing stuff.  Secondly, when kids are coming in your room in two days, the most important things are not what's on the walls (generally speaking).  The most important things are where are their desks located?  Can they see the board?  Do they have a place to store their materials?  Book bags?  

Think about the way you want the room arranged.  Then place the posters and wall stuff according to what makes sense( reading poster near your reading table, writing posters near the writing center, choosing books poster in the library, etc.)

 

Rule # 7- BASKETS, BASKETS, BASKETS!- I have learned that everything looks neater when it is stored in something.  I use tons of the dollar store baskets and tubs for just about everything.  My entire writing center is stored in some kind of tub or basket in a million different shapes and sizes.  To keep everything looking clean and neat I label the outside.  I have used index cards that I laminated and hot glued to the outside of these boxes, but they fell off.  This year I took printer labels and hand wrote a label.  These worked pretty well, but some of the labels tore off.

My library corner is completely organized into baskets, except for my large Animal Encyclopedias.  I leave these sitting up on the shelf.  I like having the books in baskets for many reasons:

  • It keeps the shelves looking neat.

  • It is easer for kids to flip through the books.

  • Students actually see the COVERS of the books- which usually helps them make choices.

Labeling these baskets were difficult as well so I printed out labels and clip art which I glued to index cards.  Then I laminated the index cards and punched two holes at the top and actually TIED the labels to the baskets.  This has worked out quite well!

There are DRAWBACKS TO MY PLAN. 

The one thing I REALLY miss is a "teacher table."  You know an area where I can put some of my stuff so that my desk doesn't because a huge pile.  I have no place to spread out except student tables.  This can make it hard when students are at them!!!  My desk is usually a mess all day until I clean it right before I leave.

I also miss having just a place to put supplies for students during an art project. For example when we were publishing our Poetry Anthology I had out the construction paper, the stickers, beads, sequins and so on.  I had no place to put it so students could come get it.  I had to lay it in the floor.  It worked, but it is a pain to get it all picked up!

October 2004

This is a view of my desk area.  To the right is my shelf with all of my teacher resources. On the left is my computer desk with all my paper stored underneath.  The posters on the floor were temporary; they were map projects students had turned in that I had no place to store!  This is why I need a a teacher table!!

 

What is MY SOLUTION?

My in-laws had an old, small computer table they were no longer using.  In fact it was shoved in their storage shed.  When we were cleaning it out this summer, they asked me if I could use it and of course, I said yes!  Now I have it beside my desk length-wise and it does a great job catching all the "over flow" off my desk.

I was going to  buy a SMALL card table that I could fold up when  I don't need it and haul it out when I did.  However, I think I am going to stick to this little rolling desk, since I can haul it out easily when I need to.

Click here to see how my trailer was set up.

All graphics are from