Classroom Clean-Up Tip Organizing Unit Bins: If you are a hands-on teacher or a teacher that has a lot of engaging activities in the classroom, you face one big problem. You have a lot of stuff. Some people may call it trash, but I prefer the term teaching treasures. I have a lot of teaching treasures.
Organizing Unit Bins
In fact, when I present to other teachers about how to make their teaching more hands-on, I am commonly asked… do you have a lot of stuff? Yes, I do. Another common question I get is… how do you store it all. Let’s tackle those two really good questions now on organizing unit bins.
Do You Have a Lot of Teaching Treasures?
I have a lot of teaching treasures. I am mean, a lot. There is some good news about this. If anyone in my school needs anything, I pretty much have it. I am known to have almost anything. Additionally, I share everything and anything I can. I will lend activities, projects, and supplies to anyone in need. Having a lot makes organizing even more important.
But all this stuff takes up a lot of space. So, I have more stuff than most teachers. I would say I have more things than the rest of my Kindergarten teaching team combined. We laugh about it. It is important to stay Organizing because it doesn’t matter if you have it if you can’t find it.
How Do You Store Your Teaching Treasures?
Just because I have a lot of things doesn’t mean that I am unorganized. I have everything organized and ready to go pretty quickly. The key to this is storing items in small 16-quart plastic containers or bins. I have a bin per week of school, meaning I have around 40 bins in total.
Next, I make sure to label each bin for that specific week. It is labeled so I can read it from the outside. A big tip I have is to not write on the actual plastic container, but instead to label it with paper or tape or something less permanent. This allows me to change bins as needed or to repurpose bins with ease.
Additionally, I like to number my bins with the number of the week whenever possible. Our curriculum map and pacing guide are fluid so labeling a piece of tape on the bins that I can adjust makes since. Additionally, I store each bin in order so they are easy to grab when I return the bin from the week before.
Where Do I Store My Unit Bins?
Here is a big blessing, I actually store these bins in a storage room at my current school. You can see from these pictures that they use to be stored in a small hallway/bathroom area at my old school.
My school doesn’t have that option. Additionally, my new school doesn’t provide cabinets or a sink in my room so my in-class storage options are limited. Because of this, we actually have a dedicated storage area central to all the Kindergarten classrooms that we can use. It isn’t perfect, and it has bugs in it. But as long as my items stay in sealed plastic containers, I am fine.
This also means that I do not have direct access to these bins during the school day or while I am teaching. I grab the needed bins during planning time and keep one in my room during that week. I often have the next week’s bin in my room to plan with for the following week. This makes having smaller bins so important.
Do Your Unit Bins Stay Organized?
No, they absolutely do not stay organized. When I loan items out, the items don’t get returned when I have that bin out and ready to put it away. I often have a pile of things that I need to return to bins that build up since I can’t access these bins during the normal school day. This is why it is so important to take time every year or so to for organizing unit bins.
I try to sort my bins the best I can during the week I am using them, but things happen and I can’t promise you all items get returned properly.
Do You Do Clean Outs?
Once a year I do a huge bin clean-up and clean-out. This is a time I put my hands on every single item in every single bin and decide if I need it or not. I purge, organize, sort, and return items to their proper home. I try to do this during post-planning. It is hard because I really want to be done for the school year, but I know if I just do the work, it will pay off for the following school year.
How do I Organize Bins?
I start by grabbing all my bins and laying them out. I prefer to lay them out in the order in which I use them, hence using the numbers on the bins. I look at the upcoming year’s curriculum map for big changes and make those changes now.
Next, I open all the bins and start laying the materials that are out of place on top of the correct bin. I continue by going through EACH bin and returning it to the way it should have been. Because I add new materials all the time, I have to adjust the content of my bins. This is one reason I always start at the beginning of my year.
If a bin is too full, I know I might need to purge materials because I most likely won’t be able to use all those materials in one week. As I build and purge content, I have to redo the labels. In the past, I used full-page labels and placed them inside the bins. Notice the changes I made on some of the sheets.
Once EVERY SINGLE BIN has been sorted through, purged, and organized, I can print out new labels and lay them on top of the correct bin. I have to do this every few years. I do not put the lid on the bins until absolutely everything has been returned to its home.
Organize Your Bins
I put the new label inside the bins and place them in order on my shelves. I put these on the SIDE of the bin instead of the front to make it easier to find the content. Here are some more bins.
Needless to say, I am so glad that I am so happy these bins are completed and organized. This saves me a ton of time during the school year when I am planning hands-on activities for my students.