Keeping Organized With Color Coding

I have mentioned this before, but I LOVE color coding!

Every subject has its own color and I have an annoyingly colorful system for every part ;)

I started this system years ago and it helps the visual part of me stay calm and collected, especially after school has been in session for a few months and the piles start to overtake me!

Here are my colors:
  • green= writing
  • blue= reading
  • yellow= math
  • red= social studies & science
  • orange= spelling & language study
  • purple= extra topics & misc. (holidays, back to school, conferences, etc.)

Material Organizers

If you decide to start color-coding, one of the most important items I purchased was this organizer from Lakeshore (Really Good Stuff has similar ones, too):
I have had mine for years and it's a lifesaver!! I organize by subjects and this set comes with plastic fike folders, but I also stock up on additional paper ones as well:
It's nice keeping upcoming activities and resources in these bins. The file folders make them easy to organize and to grab quickly for copying. The bins are nice and large, too, so they hold books and other materials easily.

Another great resource I picked up was this bin for my copies for the week:

It's marketed as a place for kids to turn in their work, but I found it hard for my kids to keep their piles neat the year I used it like that, so I assumed control and used it for me :) I *try* to make all of my copies at the beginning of the week and I will leave the stacks in these bins so they are easy to spot and pass out quickly.

I tend to make piles- lots & lots of piles- so this rack allows my piles to look nice and neat (and completely deceive those around me into thinking I am tidy)! Yay!

Now that you have places to keep your materials in their color-coded loveliness, I want to share some additional ways to take this system to an even crazier more useful level ;)

Making Copies

I color code my copies.... yes, it's that bad.... but, maybe not as bad as you're thinking. I only color-code super-duper important papers, like tests, quizzes, and reference sheets to keep in folders. Everyday copies are always made in white :) I started this a few years ago and love it- it serves three purposes:
  1. it reminds the kids that this paper is important
  2. it makes it easier for me to find/remember to grade/locate if it becomes "lost" in their desk or folders
  3. it alerts the parents that this is an important paper (like a test or quiz) when it gets sent home in their folders at the end of the week
What's great is that when I make weekly copies, it's very easy to split them up into the storage rack by color :)

By the way- I use pink paper for Science and Social Studies.

Student Folders & Notebooks

I extend this system to my students' folders and notebooks. This makes life much easier!! I simply say "Grab your Math Folder" and suddenly everything is yellow :) This has alleviated so many problems of assignments going into the wrong folder (and getting lost forever!) or notes being taken in the wrong notebook. I can quickly scan the room and see that everyone is in the correct folder or notebook. Aaaaah, the ease of it all puts me in Teacher Heaven!
How do I accomplish this? In the past, it was a lot of "musical notebooks and folders"- kids were required to bring in folders and notebooks of various colors and I could often piecemeal it all together to work. I have also made labels with colors from my system, and that helped. This year, though, our school is collecting school supply money from parents and we order the supplies we need-Yahoo! This has saved me SO MUCH TIME and energy!! I am thrilled! But, to be fair, this is not the case everywhere and I was able to use this system for many years using student-bought supplies and it worked perfectly :)

Do you color code for different subjects? I would love to hear the many ways you do- I love adding to my repertoire :)


  1. I love seeing what you write about next--I get a new idea from you all of the time! I never would have thought of color-coding copies, but that is so smart. It would certainly make it much easier to find those important papers.

  2. Stephanie-I love color coding, too! My colors are Red for Morning Work, Yellow for Reading, Blue for Writing, Green for Math, and Black for Science and Social Studies. Not thrilled about black folders, though.

    Where did you find Orange and Purple? Are they heavy duty pocket folders? I'd love to have those colors.

    I got my bins at the Target Dollar spot @ $2.50 apiece. They had purple too.{Last year at Walmart I got coordinating flexible 1 inch binders for 49 cents each!} Do you organize your bins by days of the week or by subject?

    I've never color coded copies before-I may have to try that this year!

    I have all of my (basic) Reading Street and spelling related copies done already for all 6 units. I store them in those Sterlite sweater boxes by unit on my shelves. Making those copies in June saves time for copying everything else and preparing new projects once school starts.

    primary practice

    1. Hi Patti,

      I found the different colors at Office Depot's website- our school has an account with them, so I can buy a box of 25 folders and they get delivered to school- not bad :)

      I use the bins to organize by subject, not days of the week like the picture.

      I wish I would have copied and laminated more in June- now I am in a mad dash and it would be nice to have all of that taken care of! Smart thinking :)

      Thanks for stopping by!


    2. Thanks, Stephanie-I 'll check Office Depot for those folders. :)

  3. I colour-code my students' duotangs and the homework bins match the colour of the subject. You're does feel a bit like musical notebooks, trying to make sure students have the correct colours (there's a lot of swapping going on!) and I usually buy extra copies of the less common colours (like purple and orange). But it is sooo worth it, not just for my sanity, but it makes it easy for the kids to find the right duotang (I usually post a colour-coded subject poster up on the board for the first term of school (kids refer to it often)

    I like the idea of colour-coded copies...may have to try that. :)

    As always, it is a pleasure to read your blog.

    Classroom Capers

  4. In June our school district provides students with a supply list for the grade they are entering in the fall. Over they years teachers have colored coded the required folders and notebooks as well. Last year I also color coded my teaching binders. Black binders are for reading skills, purple for writing, and blue for grammar. My white binders are used for other subjects including S.S., Science, and Math (ones I'm not teaching directly this year). This has been a huge help!

    Fabulous and Fun 4th Graders

  5. I wish we collected money and ordered what we wanted! WISH

    Tonya’s Treats for Teachers
    I’m having a 40% off sale at my TN store! Come check it out!!!

  6. I am obsessed with color-coding as well and actually ordered the binds from Lakeshore a few days ago after seeing it on another blog! I am excited to keep my stuff for each day in them! I am a first year teacher and was curious about how you have your students turn in papers? I thought about using the trays like you mentioned above, but don't want it to look like a jumbled mess! Any ideas would be greatly appreciated! I have considered using my mailboxes for them to turn in work in their box, I have considered using one bin for all papers (but that drives me insane)... what do you do?

    That's So Second Grade

  7. Wow! You are so organized!!! If you have time stop by my blog and join my "Classroom Tours Linky Party"! I would love to see your classroom!! If you aren't ready just quite yet, share a before pic and then go back and share an after pic! :)


    Brigid's Daily Lesson Log

  8. Stephanie , I love that you have a "Print" button at the end of your posts! I used it to print the WBT gestures for the rules.

    Can you tell me how you added it? I googled and there a re a few different options, but I thought you might be able to recommend your tried-and-true way. Thanks. :)

    primary practice

    1. Hi Patti,

      I use "add this" on my blog instead of Blogger's social media buttons. I love it! It's free and you just add in the HTML code as a gadget on your layout page- super easy and it offers just about everything!

      Hope that helps!


  9. Thanks Stephanie! It was so convenient to be able to print out the gestures directly from your post. I'll check out!

    primary practice

  10. I love your organization method! I especially love the days of the week boxes!

  11. I color code too! It helps SO much when making copies, getting notebooks/folders etc!

    Anisa @ Creative Undertakings

  12. I loved reading your blog and your color coding ideas. Last year I used colored duct tape to go over the spine of notebooks (spiral and/or composition). So, the notebooks the students bring in regardless of what the cover looked like I could put a red tape on the "writing" notebook and blue tape on the "math"notebook and green tape on the "reading" notebook. It helped a lot.