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Home » Blog » Classroom Setup » ELA Organization » Classroom Procedures: Organization Hacks

Classroom Procedures: Organization Hacks

ELA Organization, Math Organization, Routines & Procedures, Tips & Hacks

Written by: Katie Palmer

Most students get excited to go shopping for school supplies. They pick out their favorite color folders and choose the markers they think are just right. School supplies are FUN, but teachers have a school supply issue they must tackle. Where to keep it all? AND can students help keep these supplies organized and the classroom running smoothly? Let's find out.

This post will cover three main areas:

Organizing School Supplies

Cleaning Up Supplies

Class Helpers

AND…our bonus idea to tackle No Name Papers!

Organizing School Supplies

Tissue Boxes

Instead of tossing empty tissue boxes, cut them up to make bookmarks. Second graders are always obsessed with bookmarks! They can have as many as they want because there's a never-ending supply.


1.Pencil Wars: Solve the problem of lost and destroyed pencils in the classroom! (This tip is adapted from Mrs. Hazelton's  free resource, “Winning The Pencil War“.)

  • Give each student their own pencil pouch with 8 sharpened pencils.
  • They keep track of their pencils all week.
  • Collect the pouches on Friday.
  • Reward the ones who kept all 8 pencils in good condition.

2. Here's another version of pencil wars called “the pencil challenge”. This eliminates the need for students to have to leave their seats in search of a pencil AND saves pencils in the classroom!

  • Provide each student with a plastic toothbrush case. Tell them these are their pencil cases for the week.
  • At the beginning of the year give students one case with 5 pencils in it.
  • At the beginning of each week, pass out pencils if a child doesn't have 5 in their case.
  • Conduct a “pencil challenge check” each Friday and reward the kiddos with a small candy if they still have 5 sharpened pencils in the case.
toothbrush cases as pencil holders

Individual Supplies

Velcro cups to tables and desks to use as supply holders. This way there won't be any lost pencils or erasers… and SO much less mess inside desks!

Cleaning Up Supplies

Start a “One Scrap Club”

Teach your students how to cut around something one time around. It saves the floor and tables from those teeny little pieces that are not fun to clean up. As soon as they have cut what they need, they say “one scrap club” and put the one scrap in the recycling bin. Your custodian will love how clean your floors are AND you're teaching a type of problem solving and peer encouragement!!!

Individual Garbage Dump:

When lots of cutting is involved, tell students to put the garbage in their “garbage dump.” It’s just under their chair, but it cuts down on lost pieces and getting out of their seats after every cut. At the end, tell them to “take out the trash” and they know they have permission to move about and recycle the scraps. Also, challenge them to have as few pieces of garbage as possible, with the goal of there being only one piece. Many will figure out a way to cut so there are no pieces of garbage and they think it’s the coolest thing!

garbage dump at the desk to keep scraps to a minimum

Secret trash

At the end of the day when you want the floor left clean, announce that you see some secret trash. (Have a couple things in mind in case students find the one right away.) You'll be shocked to see kids scurry around and pick up so fast! When it’s been enough time and the floor looks pretty good, share who found it and give that person a small prize. Kids love this game and the classroom gets cleaned in record time!

Secret Trash Variations:

  • Teachers have lots of cute names for this: Magic Trash, Mystery Trash, Secret Scrap, Lucky Piece of Trash, Treasure Trash, Magic Scrap.
  • Call it “secret job,” “ten second tidy” or “Mystery Item” so they can also look for items left out like books or scissors.
  • Add “tape club” when the floor is especially dirty with pencil shavings or other small trash. Make loops of masking tape with the sticky side out and have kids put it over their hands to clean up those little bits on the floor!
  • “Find it and fix it”. Similar to magic trash but it can also be something that needs to be fixed like a desk that needs to be straightened or something that needs to be put away.

Desk Fairy/Wizard

Randomly reward your students for keeping their desks and supplies organized with a visit from the desk fairy! Have another teacher or staff member leave prizes on clean desks when the class is out of the room. This could be a small eraser, treat, or class coupon. Download these super cute free desk fairy notes.

Download Desk Fairy Tag

Desk cleaning procedure

When it's desk cleaning time, many kids spread all of their belongings all over the floor, often creating an even bigger mess that takes SO long to clean up. You can avoid this scenario by modeling a simple desk cleaning procedure:

  1. Books, folders, notebooks on your chair.
  2. Supplies box/bag on top of the book pile.
  3. Find all loose supplies and put them in your supply case.
  4. Personal items/toys that snuck into desks get put into backpacks to go home.
  5. Should just be papers/garbage left-throw it away.
  6. Anything on the chair gets stacked back in the desk! Nothing should touch the floor!

Desk Nametags

At semester, play “yay or yuck” with name tags. Take them off desks at semester, and sort them into a yuck pile and a yay pile. The yays get a small prize and everyone gets fresh nametags. Do this again at the end of the year. You'll be surprised how few “yucks” you will have in May!!

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toothy task kits

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Lost Materials

If you use some form of “classroom bucks” as an incentive, have students “pay” when they lose certain materials. For example, if they lose their dry erase marker then they have to “pay” three classroom bucks.

You can also charge fines for leaving the desk a mess at the end of the day, leaving water bottles or jackets… etc. It works wonders! Class money teaches so many skills and responsibility!

How to make classroom bucks: Shrink a dollar down on the copier and replace your picture for Washington!

classroom bucks with teachers face on the front

Class Helpers

Daily Helpers

Rather than keeping track of a dozen or more classroom jobs each day, have two students a day that do all the jobs. Display a ‘Helper Chart.’ It’s really just a list of the kids in pairs with a magnet or a clothespin used to point to the daily helpers. At the end of the day, move the magnet or clothespin down to two new helpers. Tip: At the end of the year, auction all charts created by the class (including the Helper Chart) off as prizes. You may be surprised – EVERYONE wants that chart for their own home classrooms!

Helper Chart Variation: Put student numbers on two rings (boys/girls) and flip new numbers at the beginning of each week. These students are the line leaders and general helpers all week long.

class helper bulletin board

Download everything you need for a Classroom Helpers job below!

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Table Jobs

Every spot at the table (or desk in a cluster of desks) has an assigned letter or color. Each letter corresponds to a table job.


  • A – Paper Patrol (gets the correct number of papers for their table to pass out to their tablemates)
  • B – Supply Manager (Passes out things like bottles of glue, watercolors, offices, things they don't have at their tables)
  • C – Trash Collector (in charge of the tidy tubs- table trash cans)
  • D – On Vacation (substitute)

Spill team

These are the only students that can assist with spills… water bottles, pencil boxes, whatever spills. Saves the whole class rushing over!

Top Dog

The weekly “Top Dog” does everything: lunch count, line leader, quiet game starter, pass out papers, etc. That person trains and helps the next week's top dog and is the backup.

Apply for Class Jobs

Give students the same job all quarter, semester, or year. After about two weeks have them apply for their job by filling out a form with their top 4-5 picks. Depending on how many students you have, tell them they will at least get one of the jobs on their list.

Name Stamper

When the teacher passes out a worksheet, students get a stamp if their name is on it by the time the “name stamper” gets to their desk. No more no-name papers!

Editors in Training

Keep your students from rushing through editing with this fun class job! Purchase cheap plastic glasses and lanyards for all students. Put in cards that say “editor in training,” give a lesson on what an editor does as a career, and make editing day a HUGE deal. They LOVE it!

plastic glasses and lanyards for 2nd grade editors in training

No Name Papers

Students often forget to write their names on assignments. This can be frustrating for the teacher. Many teachers in our 2nd Grade Facebook Group said their most successful strategy for this was highlighters! Placing a cup full of highlighters with a, “Did you write your name?”, next to the paper turn in spot had high success!

Classroom Procedures Series

Hopefully these lining up & hallway tips up your classroom management game! If you enjoyed this post, be sure to visit the other classroom management posts in this series:

Lining Up & Hallway Procedures

Tips for Increasing Student Participation

Managing Unfinished Work

Organizing/Cleaning Supplies & Classroom Helpers

Management of Small Groups

Routines for Those Tricky Times During the Day

May your school supplies always be clean & organized!

Happy teaching!


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