Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Supplies and "How-to" on Organization - Part One

Sorry - wedding things have sort of taken over my life.  It's taken me a little over 3 days to write this...sigh.  The response however from some of you out there really makes me smile and thanks so much for reading :)  It's pretty cool!

It's that time where we see all the lovely ads for back to school supplies.  We're just getting into August and things have been on sale pretty much for the past month.  Most schools in my area get out in mid June, so it's a little much to see this in my face at the stores.  I find this to be one of the reasons why I can't shut off  what I call "teacher brain".  The supplies constantly make me think of what I can do to make my classroom better.  Yesterday, I went shopping for the wedding - I spent most of it on school supplies (my usual MO).  Target and Staples are the worst because the sales are sooooo good.  Michael's, the craft store, might become my newest obsession as they give teachers 15% off with proof that you are a teacher - just a little fyi there.  Anyway, over the years I've found that a few items here and there that have made my experience in the classroom a lot easier when implementing the use of the ISN.  I'll start off with the supplies you might like and then how my class is organized so you'll see how easy it is to make the most of your supplies.  I wish I had pictures of my classroom to show you, but at least for now, you'll have a nice idea of what I do :)


1)  I love composition notebooksI HATE binders because I find them big and bulky and a pain in the neck for the kids to keep.  Honestly, they will tell you that they aren't a fan of carrying them or having them in their locker.  I find it paper of other classes everywhere in my room.  When the kids come into my room, their binders are alllll over the place - it's annoying to the kids and it's annoying to me.

I'm going on year 5 with the composition notebooks.  They are small, easy to carry, and once you get the hang of it, it becomes so easy to put your worksheets in.  When I let the kids decorate their books, I ALWAYS laminate their books with packing tape as it helps make the book stronger.  I've also seen contact paper used which is just as good.  It makes them more durable to last throughout the year.

Now I may love the composition notebook it doesn't mean that a binder or a spiral won't work for you.  They can work if you feel more comfortable, but I've just seen more success from the other notebooks because it's a lot harder for things to fall out.

2)  TAPE, TAPE, TAPE!  You will need tape during this endeavor of using the ISN.  Obviously, the best kind of tape out there that I've found is Scotch but Staples is just as good.  Having tape dispensers is always a plus as well.

Some schools might provide this to you.  Jump on top of it they do!  If not, I've been looking to try a Donors Choose project.  You might be able to get it funded for you! If that still doesn't work, I did a tape drive with my kids.  Every little bit helped, and the kids won little prizes as well.  I did ask for some on their school supply list.  Some kids brought it in and some didn't - I was ok with that and very much appreciated what my kids could bring in.

Sales wise - right now staples has that 15% off card where you can get 15% off your order once a day until some point in September.  It's $10, but I overheard the cashier say that if you spend $67 dollars, it pays itself off.  I did that in one stop yesterday, and if you have the rewards card, you can get them back at a later date.  There is also my favorite sale of half off Sctoch tape during December/January.  It's online and worth it.  I stock up each year!

3)  Glue Sticks - every once in while you get that kid that just can't use tape because of one reason or another.  Yes, I teach my kids how to use tape because they just feel like they can use as much as possible.  Yet, there are some that just can't do it.  Glue sticks become another option.  I like the really big Staples ones just because they last longer.  Right now, they are 2 for $3 until September - remember you can get that 15% off too :)

4)  The ISN deals with how the brain works.  Color definitely has to deal with how the brain works.  I made a map below of my classroom and it's all in color and everything had to be different colors if they were not the same as another item.  It's just the way my brain works!  Crayons, Colored Pencils and even Markers are key into having successful books.  Students need to express themselves and color allows this to happen.  We are looking for our students to "create", the color is a critical tool in allowing for this to take place.  Another way is to help the kids organize their thoughts if they are making something like a mind map.  The uses for colors are endless :)

4b)  I'm calling this 4b because it's NOT something that I find is needed, but I find just nice to have.  Colored computer paper - I love to make foldables out of this.  Again, it's a way for the kids to organize their thoughts, and I swear, they remember what pages things are on because of the color.  If you can get some from your school or again maybe a donors choose project, do it!  The kids will love it.

5) Scissors - This may seem silly to put here, but it was really important have these available to the kids.  IF you look to go the composition route, the paper obviously needs to be smaller or the kids may need to cut them out.  It just make it easier if you have enough for most the kids in the class/tables (more on that in a second).

**PS - papers you put in your ISN - it's a post to come, but to save time, shrink when you copy - saves so much time**

6)  HIGHLIGHERS - Love, love, loveeee highlighters!  It's great to have several colors available to the kids.  They are more willing to again organize via the color - such as mind mapping.  Also, if you require the kids to underline something, those kids who love color (many do) will probably want something different.  The highlighter does that for you.  It's a great little tool that helps the ISN just become a tad bit stronger and give that thing called purpose a little bit stronger.

Extra - I have little staplers around the class for the kids.  Sometimes, depending on what we do, the kids preferred the staplers.  The small ones worked out well this year.


So all that stuff above is really nice and cool to have, but I don't have these things all over the place (although, there are times where I feel like everything is everywhere!).  I have places for everything.  Below is a map of my class:

Map of my classroom - organization is the key :)
I don't have the biggest of classrooms.  I would nicely call it cozy for 24 kids, but for now, it works.  I have to make it work because I really don't have a choice :)  Having a place for EVERYTHING makes this small space work.  

1)  I find, in order to make this work, tables are the way to go.  I find that that if I create a bin for each table with the following items:
  • Tape Dispensers
  • Scissors
  • Glue Sticks
  • Highlighters
  • Little Staplers (in my class at least)
These are what I call my ISN bins and it is shared with 4-5 kids.  I don't have to worry about passing out materials, passing back materials, or individuals going around the classroom to grab materials around the room.  The bin is right there and the kids learn how to work together as a group.  I love groups, and I and really NOT a fan of rows.  From my perspective, where is the learning taking place in rows?  Who knew having a little bin could led to lots of learning :)

Now, I saw this idea on Pinterest a few weeks ago (if you're not on Pinterest, get on there, explore there, LOVE it there - great site for teachers).  It keeps a photo of what should go in your bins.  I think that this might work more for my kids rather than have it actually written on the bins.  I feel like kids are more likely to look at the picture rather than read what I may have written on top.  My bins are clear bins with a top on them.  They seem to bee a little be more durable, but the picture below (website is listed in the caption) will allow you to have an idea on how the bins work.
2) Keep the crayons, markers, and colored pencils separate!  As much as I love them, they can be a real pain in the butt when it comes to clean up.  I keep them in separate containers by my desk.  On top of each of the containers, I have separate bins so the kids can come up and put whatever they need in them and take the bin back to the table.  The kids use the materials and with a few minutes left in the class period, they go back to the main bins and put their things away.  It helps keep the tables clean and the ISN bins clean as well.

3)  Paper Bins - I haven't really talked about the papers that can be put in your notebooks.  It's totally up to you, but when you create papers for your ISN, you need a place to put them.  Bins are the best for that.  It's great because the kids know where to go to get them and it's less likely they will be all over the place.  As you use the ISN each day, it become routine for the kids to go up to get the papers and then go back and sit down and take them to their notebooks.  At the end of the day, you can take those papers and file them away - don't forget what about Big Thing Number Two - this is where that comes into play.  Here's a picture of an idea of what the bins would be like:

This is just a graphic, but my bins are two different colors as well.
The supplies and organization of the classroom really helps the flow of the classroom and classroom management.  I know I sound like a broken record, but it's really up to you on how you want to set up your class, but some of these little tips and tricks have helped me out over time.  Part 2 of this blog - some pictures about what I described in some of items above.  I don't have pictures of my actual classroom yet, but I have enough supplies at home to give you an idea. So...so...so sad.   I'm a beat and it's another early day tomorrow :)


  1. This is great! I cannot wait until post 2! I realize after reading this that I was heading down this same road a few years ago, then I moved schools and had to dump all of the supplies at the last minute :(

    1. Thanks so much! I hope the pictures will help. I can't get to my classroom until the end of the month, but I'll make sure to post those as well :)

      Were you going to do the ISN at your old school or something like it at your old school?

  2. WOW! Your post is excellent. I've been using the interactive notebook in math and physics for a year now and have become somewhat of an evangelist.

    The ISN bins are wonderful, especially with the photo on the side.

    Based on my experiences, I took away the markers & highlighters because they bleed through the composition book pages. Sure, markers are nice for foldables, but I found that kids were using them in the comp book and messing up their beautiful notebooks.

    My blog and IN resources: http://kalamitykat.com/interactive-notebooks/

    1. Thank you so much, and I totally agree with you on the markers and highlighters. My first year, I originally had everything together and the kids would use the markers and it would be a bit of a mess. We use markers more for foldables and projects like you said :)

      I have to model how to use the highlighters - over and over :). Many times the kids are highlighting things that have to be or are taped/glued into their books so there is a little less bleeding through the pages. I've done webs with the highlighters right on the page with the kids. It's not as bad as the markers which is a good thing and it makes the web/map stand out. Colored pencils or pens can do the same thing as the highlighters :)

      I'm totally going to check our your blog! Just saw the picture and I got excited - gotta love this notebook!

  3. Holy moly! This is some awesome information! I want to get started right away!


    1. Thank you :) I love this book - there so much that can be done with it!

  4. I'm so excited that @fouss directed me here! I'm a middle school math teacher as well and just started a notebook for the kids and foldables last year. I can't wait to implement some of the ideas that I learned here and from my dear friend Megan (above). I have also started to organize middle school math teachers so that we can network and collaborate with each other. Join us if you would like at http://ispeakmath.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/ms-teachers-survey-results-wow/. We would love to have you and it's not too late to fill out the survey. We are going to do a blog meme starting this week for #msmath called MS Sunday Funday. This week will be 1st day (or 1st week) activities. Next week we are going to focus on favorite activities for MS advisory.