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Classroom Organizing Challenge: January, Week 3: Student Desks {Table Supplies}


We're slowly expanding our focus from student pencils, to name tags, to seating. Today, I'd like to zero-in on table supplies.

These are *not* general classroom supplies- we'll get to those soon- these are just the supplies that students use at their table spots.

If your students have desks, this would include their personal supplies.

If you are new to this monthly challenge, welcome!

There is a new focus each month and we're starting small with student desks/work spaces and growing from there.

Be sure to go back and reread the work we've already done so you're all caught up.

Here is our 2019 organizing plan:


January: Student Desks 1, 2, 3, 4
February: Teacher Desk
March: Visible Storage
April: Hidden Storage
May: Technology/Digital
June: Classroom Library
July: Student Life
August: Class Routines
September: Teacher Life
October: Home-School Link
November: Mom Life
December: Maintenance

. . .

Week 3: Table Supplies

We have all of our supplies as community supplies, which is both easy and daunting.

Because students don't have their own personalized set of markers, for example, it can be difficult when we are all trying to color something like the globe and need 26 green and blue markers at the same time.

On the other hand, it is so much easier to keep track of things and know that we can quickly begin a project because there are 26 sets of scissors and glue sticks all available and ready to go.

I'm going to begin my focus on this system, since that is what I use and know, but I will be offering some desk suggestions as well. Please include more in the comments if you have anything to add!

As with any organization project, I have found it to be all about having a specific spot for each specific supply.

This does require six sets of any bins, cups, and tray that I purchase since I have six tables in my room, but the uniformity doesn't just look nice, it ensures that every child can put supplies back where they belong now matter what table they are working at or what project they are completing.

Labeling is also key, as well as teaching how and where to replace items into the bins.

It may seem redundant and silly to be teaching such specifics at first, but it ensures that *you* are not the one organizing and redoing these supply baskets throughout the year.

That responsibility falls to the students using them, so explicitly laying all of this out at the get-go is crucial.

To begin, I try to get supplies like scissors, types of markers and colored pencils, and glue sticks, as identical as possible.

This is to make it as quick as possible to clean up, as well as replace old items without stress.

Some of my favorite supplies include:


Take a look at my Table Supply Bins post HERE for detailed information and visuals about these bins in my room.

If your students have desks, you will need to measure to make sure, but the white Sterelite bins linked above fit into many desks and can hold students' individual supplies without the mess.

They can just pull it out like a drawer and even bring it with them around the room if they are working elsewhere.

For organizing papers, these bins can stay on the other side to hold notebooks, folders, packets, and more:


These two bins together can not only keep your students' desks organized, but prevents everything from sliding out of the front.

They also prevent the dreaded shoving-into-the-back-of-the-desk solution that can be a form of "cleaning up" for some kiddos.

We worked on Student Numbers in Week 1 and it would be so easy to continue this to students' individual supplies.

A Sharpie number covered by a small piece of Scotch tape on the end of markers, color pencils, and on the handles or blades of scissors (without the tape) can make lost supplies simple to get back to their owner.

No matter what table supplies system you have in place, ensuring that they *stay* clean is another job of the students.

There are a variety of ways to ensure this, and I recommend a combination of several that work for you and your classroom needs:

  • Anchor Chart of expectations
  • Poster with photo or drawing of a clean desk/table supply bin
  • "Supplies Manager" in Classroom Jobs who will inspect bins for neatness
  • A Desk/Bin/Cubby Fairy who stops by unannounced and gives rewards to those with clean desks/bins/cubbies. Read more HERE.

. . .

This Week's Think Abouts:

  • Where do my students go to get markers, scissors, glue, etc.?
  • Are supplies communal or individual?
  • If supplies are communal, how can I create uniform bins with necessary supplies? 
  • Where will communal supplies reside when not in use? Will they stay on the table or be moved to another dedicated location?
  • How will students know what is "clean"? 
  • How will tidiness be reinforced (class job, Desk Fairy, teacher inspection, etc.)?
  • If supplies are individual, how can they be stored in a tidy way? Can they be labeled?

* Would you like these Think Abouts in a handy PDF? Click HERE.



Be sure to follow along with me on Instagram @3rdgrthoughts on both my feed and my IG Stories throughout the year.

Tag any of your before & afters, progress, or projects using #ClassroomOrganizingChallenge. Together we can finally tackle the visual clutter and stressful spaces!

Join me next week when we dive into the final part of January's challenge!

Happy organizing,





My Favorite TED Talks for Educators

One of the big items on my Bucket List was to be a part of a TED Talk audience. I am fascinated by every single speaker I have seen on the TED website and knew I wanted to be a part of that energy.

Two years ago, I got my wish at TEDxMileHigh in Denver. It was the greatest way to spend the weekend; I left intrigued, inspired, emotionally exhausted but also uplifted... it was perfect.

If you ever get the chance to go to one near you, bring someone you can process with. There are so many layers to each talk, it is worth revisiting over and over again!


If you aren't familiar with TED Talks, they are short (less than 20 minutes) lectures on a problem, question, or possible solution to a problem or question in our world. Speakers range from scientists, researchers, poets, teachers, religious leaders.... you name it!

What I love the most is how much of a punch these speakers can pack into such a short amount of time. Nearly any of these speeches you can watch over and over again, always gleaning new information or a different insight.

I have my favorite go-to TED Talks and wanted to share a few of them with you: both the tried-and-true, as well as some of the newer ones I'm still digesting. I hope you'll enjoy watching these for inspiration throughout your week and my fingers are crossed that you can experience one of these events live!


Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability



If you know me at all, you know how much I love and adore the work of Brené Brown. I first watched this talk back in 2012 and sobbed and laughed (often at the same time) through the first hundred times I watched it. It was transformative for me, and if you haven't seen it, please, please, please do. It not only will impact your teaching, but personal relationships with others and, most importantly, yourself. Then head over to check out each of her amazing books. My favorites are Daring Greatly and Rising Strong. She is a treasure.


Rita Pierson: Every Kid Needs a Champion



I recommend watching this after a bad day at school when you wonder if you're making a difference or if it's even worth it. Rita Pierson was a lifelong educator and a phenomenal speaker. She speaks the truth about the not-so-great parts of being a teacher, but directs her focus on how we positively impact students every day. Mixed in with the realities of teaching and some laughs, she describes how she inspires and leads from the classroom, changes the perspectives of students, and leaves a legacy of love. Grab some Kleenex and have a watch...


Linda Cliatt-Wayman: How to Fix a Broken School? Lead Fearlessly, Love Hard



Wow, what a principal! She is dynamic, fearless, inspirational and not afraid to do the hard things to ensure that all of her students benefit. You have to love a leader who is fiercely honest and has a clear, precise vision, especially when the students are her driving force. As a principal of a very low-performing, high-poverty school, she shares three slogans that guide her leadership. They will make you laugh, give you hope, and bring tears to your eyes. She leads with love, purpose, and pure authenticity-- you will love this one.


Carol Dweck: The Power of Believing You Can Improve



Carol Dweck is the guru behind Growth Mindset: knowing that the process of learning is more important than the product, and she champions the power of thinking "Not Yet" instead of "Can't". In such a short TED Talk, she packs in lots of research, strategies, and think abouts that will challenge your thinking, the words you use in the classroom, and how you can start to enact change tomorrow with your students. I love how she breaks down Growth Mindset and proves that it is something you can teach and develop. If you are in need of a mid-year pick-me-up, I recommend watching this and then reevaluating your next unit to see if you can implement just a strategy or two she suggests. Then, look to see how your students react to these small, but powerful changes.


Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts




How many of us are extroverts? Introverts? What about our students? And how have we constructed our classroom environments for both? I am slightly more extroverted when it comes to teaching, but introverted at home and in life outside of the classroom. This TED Talk is a beautiful explanation of life as an introvert, and how we as teachers, admin, and policymakers have typically created classrooms and learning environments geared toward the more extroverted students. I appreciate all of her research and the real-life strategies we can implement to ensure that every student, whether they be extroverts, introverts, or ambiverts, can thrive in our class.

. . .


Those are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to inspiring TED Talks, believe me! My original list had over twenty and I struggled to narrow it down to only five. I highly recommend visiting the TED website and clicking through the thousands of talks on every topic you can possibly imagine.

What is a TED Talk you would add to this list?

Happy viewing!



Classroom Organizing Challenge: January, Week 2: Student Desks {Name Tags & Flexible Seating}


How did your first week go with organizing student numbers and pencils?

These small steps will add up to long-lasting benefits as the rest of this challenge and your school year continues, so be sure to read January's Week 1 Challenge HERE if you haven't done so already.

Today we'll be building on last week's and laying the groundwork for the rest of this month by discussing name tags and flexible seating.

You may have one, both, or neither of these in your classroom now, but hopefully you can tweak some of these challenges to fit your own classroom and needs.

To recap, here's our 2019 yearly plan:


January: Student Desks 1, 2, 3, 4
February: Teacher Desk
March: Visible Storage
April: Hidden Storage
May: Technology/Digital
June: Classroom Library
July: Student Life
August: Class Routines
September: Teacher Life
October: Home-School Link
November: Mom Life
December: Maintenance

. . .

Week 2: Student Name Tags & Flexible Seating


One of my favorite things to shop for in the teaching world pre-TpT (gasp!) was student name tags. I loved all of the choices and the possibilities that each offered.

2019 Goal: Reading Female Authors, A-Z

One of the things I love about summertime is reading non-children books. Please don't get me wrong, I *adore* children's picture books, novels, poetry... everything! But there is something freeing about escaping into a book written specifically for adults.

I've been dabbling around in WWII fiction like The Nightingale, All the Light We Cannot See, and Beneath a Scarlet Sky (Warning: I like heavy reads but these three are so good!!), but wanted to challenge myself this year, all year, with a solid reading goal. Something I realized I was not well-versed in was female authors. Many of the books on my nightstand or authors' names that come to my mind automatically were male. Therefore, this year I want to delve deeper into the long list of accomplished female authors of both the past and present.



Classroom Organizing Challenge: January, Week 1: Student Desks {Student Numbers & Pencils}


Welcome to the first month of my Classroom Organizing Challenge!

I can't wait to dig in each month this year to a specific part of our classroom to get rid of clutter, organize, streamline, and make our classrooms more stress-free!

Below are the list of topics and months, so you can join in and/or catch up anytime.

If you haven't read the Getting Started post, I recommend reading that first for some simple tips, a fun playlist, and a big-picture view of 2019.


February: Teacher Desk
March: Visible Storage
April: Hidden Storage
May: Technology/Digital
June: Classroom Library
July: Student Life
August: Class Routines
September: Teacher Life
October: Home-School Link
November: Mom Life
December: Maintenance

. . .

Student Desks/Work Areas

While I don't have student desks in my class, I wanted to think of this first challenge as the area where students spend most of their work time and the spaces where they keep most of their supplies.

Classroom Organizing Challenge: Getting Started


Happy 2019!

I'll be honest, I usually don't make New Year's resolutions because, after thirteen years of teaching, January always feels like mid-year with August being the first day of my new year.

That being said, I am challenging myself this year to do something a little different and I hope you can join in and follow along.

Attention-Getters In The Classroom



In my opinion, one of the most important management strategies in our classrooms is getting everyone's attention in a quick, efficient, and low-impact way. I try to change these up every year, since I am always learning about new and exciting strategies. Plus, I have found that the novelty each year makes it more effective for both me and my students.

For example, when I first came across Whole Brain Teaching, using the call and response of "Class? Yes!" was highly effective and completely new for all of us. Fast-forward five years and the kids have all used this before (for years and years) and I was ready to try a new strategy.

One of the other traps I am wary of falling into is the "shh"-ing routine. It is the default response to noise in our world, but I have found that it is not only ineffective, it can be downright aggravating when used too much. Have you noticed that? I find myself "shh"-ing from time to time and realize I am falling back into lazy habits and need to reinforce the strategies and routines I use for my classroom.

In case you're like me and like to switch things up, or if you're looking to add to your bag of tricks, I want to share some of my favorite ways to get your students' attention in class:

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