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We've all had one or two or three in our rooms. Those pesky, paper eating desk monsters!
You know them well I'm sure - they are those desks that just seem to scarf down student assignments so that they are hopelessly lost, never to be seen again (or at least until the student spends 10 minutes of precious learning time searching for it to find it in a crumpled ball).
So what can we do to assist our students in slaying these "desk monsters"?
1.) First, start the year off with some expectations and explicitly lay out with your students what an organized work space looks like. (Note: Even if you didn't do this at the beginning of the year, it's never too late if you feel there is a need!)
To start the process, I like to get the students thinking about what an organized vs. disorganized space looks like. I did this concept attainment with one of the classrooms in our building this year, and it was a wonderfully, easy way to get their wheels turning. To begin, I simply had the columns titled "yes" and "no". I then slowly began adding pictures to the columns as an example of each category. When I finished adding the examples, I asked the students to discuss what they thought the photos represented/what may be a good title for our poster. "Organized Desks" of course!
After the sort, we began to discuss some of those ever-so-key expectations for an organized desk and worked through this diagram. The students then set off to organize their desks accordingly, and the diagram can be hung in the classroom as a constant reminder of our expectations!
2.) Students shouldn't keep everything they brought with them day one in their desks.
It's too much stuff!
If your students' "desk monsters" are having trouble closing their mouths...it is probably because they are being asked to keep too much inside them. Find alternate and purposeful spaces around your room for some of their supples. For instance, in our building, we have cubbies for each of the students in all classrooms. This is where I had my students keep art supplies like crayons, markers, glue, etc. This eliminated a lot of those little items floating around in their desks and they simply grabbed their cubby and brought it to the table whenever we were working on a project and all of their supplies was there at their fingertips.
I also recommend either collecting and storing or having your students place extra pencils and erasers in a space like a cubby too. Otherwise, they begin floating around in the abyss, and really, they aren't going to use them all at once anyhow. My students kept 2 pencils in their desks and one eraser and when one was gone, then they could go their their cubby to grab another.
Furthermore, I recommend having some sort of book boxes or book bags for students to place books they are currently reading. Particularly in the upper grades as their books get a bit thicker, I start to see the desktops rise, as they just can't seem to fit them all! My students used numbered book boxes I purchased at Ikea that we had lining one of our counters to store books they were currently reading. It was handy, because they could pick it up and take it with them easily to another room too! One of our teachers even created these boxes out of cereal boxes this school year, which was a great green way to get them together!
3.) Storage baskets are your friend.
Now while I know many student desks are equipped with that lovely little pencil ledge, I have found that to be not quite enough to keep the little things together. One of my colleagues shared this idea with me a few years ago, and I have never looked back. My kids stored their nametags, scissors, post-its, and other items that we used all the time in these lovely little finds. They fit perfectly in the left over open desk space too! I got them at Big Lots for $1.20 for a 3 pack and can reuse them from year to year! (Note: They aren't added to the diagram above, as it was done with a class this year that did not use them...but it was always a part of mine :)).
4.) Don't assume your students will put things away in their proper place. Every single time, without exception, that I asked my second graders to put an activity in a folder to save for later, I specified which folder and monitored to see that it went in there. It saved us a lot of time waiting for students to hunt for missing papers later.
5.) Hold your students accountable to the expectations set forth. While it is all fine and dandy to organize and set expectations at the beginning of the year, it won't be worth the time if your students are not held accountable for them. Think about it - when you set classroom rules, there is a system in place for making sure all are following them, is there not?
Same should be true for staying organized.
I have seen so many great ways teachers have positively reinforced this student resposibility. The infamous "desk fairy" is always a hit. I have used this before and my students loved the unsuspected surprise when they opened their desk tops in the morning. If you have a PBIS type system in place in your building, you may be able to tie it in to that as well. Our building uses something called an "honor badge" that students can earn for displaying a variety of positive behaviors- one of which being responsibility. Thus, my students would receive an "honor badge" from the desk fairy for demonstrating their responsbility in staying organized!
Did you know there is even a book out there for intoducing this organizational pixie?
Alongside the positive reinforcement, I may suggest having your students also self-reflect on how they are doing in this area. If your students keep data binders, have a page in there for them to highlight how they did with staying organized each month and create goals for improvement and/or create a class "Way to Organize - Wall of Fame" and highlight student accomplishments! The possibilities are endless!
What do you do in your classroom to help your students slay the "desk monsters"? I'd love to hear from you!
Next up on the hop is Stacey from Funky Fresh Firsties. Stacey has a great post for you all about how to organize students with classroom numbering! Just click on the button below to check it out!
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