Getting Ahead of the Game

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My first year of teaching, I literally lived and planned my lessons day-by-day. It was hard for me to think ahead and get ahead. I had concepts down like hey I think we'll learn about verbs this week, but I had a hard time actually planning and preparing an entire day before that day actually came. {It wasn't so much that I didn't know what I was going to teach, it was more like I didn't know what to do with all the materials/worksheets/activities that I was going to teach with.} My second year was about the same, because I started over in a new grade. Now that I am in my third year of teaching, I am STILL *trying* to get ahead of the game. I don't know if it will ever truly happen, but I am determined!! This year has already been so much better. I've worked out a system that helps me get at least one week or more ahead and I love it, because I LOVE the feeling of being prepared!!! 

In the picture below, you will see that I have a file for every day of the week. 
In each file I put the activities/worksheets for that day.

I keep all my daily files really close, in fact they are right in my desk!!
 I have a {small} filing drawer that I seriously couldn't live without.

I have separated the weeks by color, because I am such a visual person. Right now, I am on the blue week, so all of my activities/worksheets/lessons for this week are ready to go in the blue folders. I am also preparing for the red week and sometimes I put a few things in the purple week. Each Monday I try to get things ready for the next Monday, on Tuesday I try to get things ready for the next Tuesday, etc.  I love having everything ready to go and it makes me a much nicer teacher! 

I use these hanging file dividers to separate each week. 
I found them at OfficeMax {here} and I think they're pretty awesome.

I realize that this system isn't perfect and there are probably a gazillion ways to get organized, but this is how I get it done! It is so important to be prepared when you are a teacher. I find that when I am better prepared, then I have time to focus on the things that really matter!

Materials Needed:
Hanging File Folders - 3 different colors, 5 of each {click here}
Hanging File Folder Dividers, 3-Pack {click here}
Lots and LOTS of Paper Clips {click here}
File Tote {click here}

Also, with the election today, I have been reading this book to my students. 
They love hearing about our different presidents. Click {here} to check it out!!

How do you keep things organized in your classroom? Please share!!!


  1. Found your blog from Pinterest! I finished my student teaching last spring, and I had small rectangular cubbies next to my desk where I kept things at least 2 weeks ahead-books, worksheets, lesson plans etc. My mentor teacher had a calendar outline for the general topics of each month/week throughout the year. If we needed to switch something from the calendar, we easily could, but having the weekly cubbies (same concept as your folders) was SUCH a big help!

  2. Great organization! I organize daily like this too! It makes everything so much easier :) I love it when everything is in its place haha I'm very OCD when it comes to keeping things neat and organized!
    Pure Joy

  3. Love this Lindsey. I still struggle with this too, especially since it is my first year in second grade as opposed to 1st. I always feel behind even though I know what I want to teach. It's helpful to know there may be hope for next year.
    Did you ever feel like you didn't have time to get cleaned up? I get my copies back and then I never go and file my originals!

    1. I'm in my 5th year of teaching and feel like i'm just starting to get organized! I have a couple of stackable trays where the kids turn things in (top shelf) and get paper to use (middle shelf). The bottom tray is for me to stick any of my originals or miscellaneous things I need to file again later. I make a point to go through that tray once every other week and put things away. If you have the space you could also try something else I do-I have a file tub for each month of the school year. They are on top of a set of cabinets I have. Whenever I find something on pinterest or somewhere online (or when I go through my "to file" tray) I can easily file things for future use by month/theme. I am always printing off cute things that I may not remember to go back to later. The boxes have been a huge help!

  4. Oh wow, I love this idea. I use daily totes, and have them line up on the counter behind my desk.... Everything I need for Monday is in the Monday basket, etc.... And I try to have my baskets ready for 2 weeks.... I just use colored paper to divide the current week and the next week.... I find that I often need the same materials on certain days of the week, so that way they just stay in that day's basket (like spelling test papers in the Friday basket, for example).... Then I toss in my reading lesson cards and whatever else I need. Makes each day so easy.... And when there's an emergency, everything is in the tote ready to go for a sub!! I also have a "sub tub" with Rachelle's binder (what the teacher wants)... And some emergency sub plans (including many of your reading comprehension graphic organizers).

    Ps - I love that you are right here in Utah! I am such a fan of your blog!! I've been teaching for 8 years and you are far more organized than me!! (especially for being in your 3rd year). Way to go!!

  5. Lindsey, I love your system! I actually start making copies in June (for September)of things I know I will be using-for each unit of LA. Of course I am always adding new lesson materials but those basics are set to go for Units 1-6!

    Each Friday, I set out the files for the following week. But to see 3 WEEKS lined up and ready to go? LOVE THAT!

    I am definitely going to try your sysem-I love the feeling of being ahead of the game, especially when meetings or unexpected things arise.

    primary practice

  6. I love your system! I know what it feels like to plan day by day. Last year was my first year in 2nd grade after 7 years in first. I always felt one tiny step ahead... but that was it. This year is much better. I use a similar system separated by weeks, but it's with those student mailboxes. There are three rows and probably 8 different slots in each row. For my week 1, I'll have everything I need in all subjects in that first row. For my week 2, I file everything I need into the 2nd row. 3rd week, the same. I don't shift everything over, I just know to take papers from the correct row. So far it works, but I LOVE your system! :-) Thanks so much for all of your blog tutorials!! From reading your blog you would never know you're only in your 3rd year. You seem like you've been at this for years! Congrats! Keep up the amazing work!

  7. I organize the same way! :)
    BTW...I love the brick walls in your classroom. Such a much prettier background than white stone walls.

    Beg, Borrow, Steal

  8. I have been teaching for 20+ years (I know, I'm old! :) ) and I still have times when I plan day-to-day. I have a similar system to yours for organizing my materials, but sometimes you have to plan day-to-day when the kiddos aren't understanding something or you see something come up that they need more instruction and practice on. Thanks for this great post! :)

    Laurie MorningSunFirstGrade

  9. I love this idea! I might have to try it out :) Just curious... what do you use the file tote for?

    - Mary

  10. Ciao from italy! Thanks so much for sharing. It puts my organisational system of a diary & scraps of paper to shame! but it's always good to hear other idea - hopefully some of your good habits will rub off on me!


  11. organized? what's that! It's my 10th year and I still go day to day! In fact I make copies on potty breaks!
    I do love this system. I plan-but never get my copies made. I do not know why!?

  12. Would you think that I'm crazy if I told you I could CRY just reading this?! It's the best thing EVER!

    I'm a first year teacher and so very much struggling with everything. Once I feel like I have it all under wraps, everything unfolds and I manage to get "behind" again.

    I'm always ready for the day, just not as ready as I'd like to be - and it always feels so last minute.

    This type of system would honestly be perfect. So I'm stealing it because I have to...to survive at this point! Lol!

    Thank you so much and I can't wait to see what others say because I'm taking all the advice I can get!

    Exhausted First Year Teacher :)

  13. Lindsey,
    I am an avid follower of your blog and think you do wonderful things. As I am piled in my bed right now with books and papers surrounding me, I am feeling much like the beginning of your blog posts describes. I am teaching my 2nd year of a 1-2 multiage classroom in the Caribbean. Although it is my second year, I FEELS like my first year again because I have the same kids and cannot teach the same things! I am glad to hear that it is not just me to who feels behind at times and that it IS normal! While reading blogs is so inspiring, its also sometimes discouraging because I want to be as prepared and ahead as all these amazing teachers I follow!

    I just wanted to say THANKS for making me feel like it is 'normal' to feel overwhelmed and behind. Having NO colleagues down here at my grade level, and very few teachers to be around - it is often the blogs that make me feel better!

    Thanks again!


  14. Oh....organization.....after a couple decades, I'm still working on that! I use tubs for each day, but they are sitting out on a shelf by my desk. I'd rather have it tucked away and out of sight.

    Great idea! Going to think about making it work in my room. Of course, I'd have to clean out the clutter in that drawer of my desk. :)


  15. I do this too! I use "The Desk Apprentice" and my teachers manuels fit in it too! Makes it easy for subs to find my plans (although I also have a sub tub just in case!!) http://www.staples.com/Staples-The-Desk-Apprentice-Rotating-Desk-Organizer/product_597003

  16. I'm way too embarrassed to post a picture of my teacher work area! Looks good and I absolutely love the shelves. I think I might ask maintenance about hanging some on the drab white space behind me!

    You Might Be a First Grader...

  17. I always look at your blog and think WOW - How does she do it??? Thank you so much for being brave enough to share not just your amazing ideas, but your struggles as well. I am always looking for different ways to organize my materials and I just LOVE this idea.

    In my classroom, I use a set of 10 mailboxes that I've labeled with various subjects (Math, word study, reader's workshop, etc.). I also have a few extra slots that I labeled "Notes" "Extras" "To Grade". This is the first year I am using this system and it's okay, but it doesn't allow me to seperate activities by week like yours does.

    Thanks again for sharing! Love your blog!

  18. Gosh, I thought I was organized until I read this post!! Haha! I love this idea, I have to try it!!
    A Cupcake for the Teacher

  19. Hi Lindsey!
    Love your blog. I am avid follower!
    Quick question for you-- How do you get your watermark & writing on your pictures?

    K&C Love Grade 3

  20. i use this same exact system. an internship showed it to me during my cohort 6 years ago. i love it. i love when everything has a place. :)

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  22. Your blog post couldn't have come at a better time! I am just finishing my first year of teaching in Kindergarten and I'm always feeling like I'm so unorganised. I make all of my photocopies on a Monday morning but then I end up stashing them away and forgetting to use them as planned! I really like this idea and I may just have to steal it for next year.

    I have a question though - once you get through your blue week, do you move that folder to the back?

    Adoring Lilly

  23. I have one of the Sterilite 6 drawer shelves labeled Monday-Friday with the last drawer for emergency plans. I used to do the hanging file folders but after 11 years of them I was ready for a change. I am LOVING my drawers! Thanks for sharing!!!

  24. I love this idea. Often I can plan ahead for the next week activities, but I never thought about having different colored folders for the week. I just usually pile the stuff for next week in a drawer...then have a hard time finding it!

  25. I read that you plan on Monday for the following Monday, but when do you exactly plan? Do you plan on your prep time or after school or at home? Or alittle bit of all of it. I feel that I always struggled with time management outside of school. Like organizing when to do lesson planning and look for class ideas compared to fitting time to do laundry and spend time with my family.

  26. I agree idea. i love it. i love when everything has a place. gmail login


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