Thematic Lessons And Activities For Spring


Thematic Units For Spring in Primary and Elementary Education

Thematic units are a creative and highly effective way to teach lessons across the curricula. Teachers use ideas in whole group activities and in learning stations set up throughout the room. The lessons and activities are centered around a central theme. These themes can be anything from the circus to sea life.

Holidays and seasons are good themes for implementing thematic units. Seasonal changes can bring about topics in science. Holidays and other observances lend themselves well to social science topics. Literacy and writing fits just about any theme, and math and art projects are plentiful with some creative planning.

Here are some ideas for helping to plan some great spring thematic units.  Most thematic units take from one to two weeks to finish. This well take you through March and beyond. These ideas do not include Easter thematic unit ideas since Easter is a major holiday. The kids will enjoy completing these activities and teachers will enjoy implementing them. Thematic units are a strong part of a well-rounded education. These activities can be adapted to fit the learning needs of different age levels throughout primary and elementary grades.

Saint Patrick’s Day Thematic Unit Ideas

Earth Day Thematic Unit Ideas

Plants and Animals in Spring Thematic Unit Ideas

Animal Cell Diagram Project: Make An Animal Cell T-shirt

Wear Your Animal Cell Diagram Project to School!

Do you need a really cool and original idea for your animal cell diagram project? Gather some buttons, baubles, and bows and create an animal cell project that you can wear to class! Or check out making a plant cell t-shirt here.

We used craft felt, yarn, pom poms, and other sewing craft items to create our animal cell t-shirt. Just use a plain white t-shirt, fabric glue, and fabric markers and let your imagination loose to create your very own animal cell t-shirt!


Insert cardboard or newspaper inside the t-shirt first. That way the glue won’t stick the back to the front. 



We cut and glued on the cytoplasm from a piece of yellow craft felt. The cell membrane is a strip of red yarn.

11 (1)

Golgi apparatus is 5 pieces of yellow chenille (pipe cleaner) stems. Golgi vesicles are 5 tiny yellow pom poms. 
A large white pom pom encircled with a strip of green yarn is our lysosome. 

Medium-size yellow pom poms are pinocytotic vacuoles. 
13 (2)The nucleus is made with a large orange pom pom and a brown medium-size pom pom glued to the center is the nucleolus. 

Yellow yarn is the smooth endoplasmic reticulum.  Clear plastic beads are ribosomes and create the rough ER. 

9 (1)

Pieces of white pipe stems are the microtubes. Two pink buttons are the Centrioles. Nine red dots around each button form the microtubules.

13 (1)

Mitochondria is fashioned from 2 colors of felt, tan and brown. There are three layers all glued on the largest bottom piece.


Make your wearable animal cell project just like ours, or use different materials and colors to create your very own animal cell t-shirt!

 Animal Cell Diagram


President’s Day Thematic Unit Ideas


What are Thematic Units?

Thematic units are a group of lessons that incorporate most or all of the disciplines (language arts areas, math, science and social studies) into a unit of study that revolves around a single theme. They provide unity in learning as students are able to apply knowledge around a common theme into different cognitive skills.

Thematic Work Stations Using President’s Day Activities

President’s Day is a good opportunity for kids to begin building a background of knowledge in American history with fun and interesting activities. Setting up independent group activities after learning about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln In February will familiarize children with important figures in our history. They won’t soon forget our founding fathers with these fun work stations.

After reading about Presidents Washington and Lincoln (and others) and recalling and writing facts,  set up these workstations to reinforce what the students

Arts and Crafts

Place models and supplies for students to create portraits of the presidents.  Use a construction paper collage method. Provide sentences for younger students to match (literacy) and let older students create their own.

White cotton is used for Washington’s hair. Use a white napkin for his collar.



Black shapes create Lincoln’s beard and hair.

Easier Versions

Use these models for younger or less able students.

White wig is mini marshmallows.
White wig is mini marshmallows




Writing Station:

Write sentences or a descriptive paragraph of the two famous February presidents. Use work from the creation station. Have a word bank available for younger or less able students. Include words like top hat, beard , three cornered hat,  president, or whatever words are appropriate for what has been learned and discussed.


Writing Around the Room:

Give the students a sheet on a clipboard for writing words they can find around the classroom that begin with letters in PRESIDENTS DAY.




Students read and follow directions step-by-step to create a Lincoln’s log cabin snack. Have supplies at the learning station along with directions. Picture clues will help kids read directions!


 Washington-Lincoln Venn Diagram

Start a Venn diagram to compare the two presidents. Students can copy this in the writing center. Place blank Venn diagrams in center. Older and more capable students can research books or internet to add facts.






 Math Learning Station:

Incorporate this center after introducing coins and money in whole group instruction. Students will learn the names of presidents (and forefather Thomas Jefferson) and value of the coins and dollars.

Students will love using real or play money coins, tracing paper and crayons to make crayon rubbings for coin impressions. There are lots of ways to use the coins in this center at all levels.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Pre-schoolers and kindergartners can count and sort the coins.
  2. Use coins for patterning.
  3. Use pennies to show multiplication arrays
  4. Have cards with names of coins, value and president’s names for matching.
  5. Students can solve money problems. What presidents are used in coins that are the answer.
  6. Have different amounts of money on task cards.Use the smallest amount of coins possible for making that amount.  What presidents were used?  example:  35 cents is a quarter and a dime. Washington and Eisenhower.


Read or tell the story (it’s actually a fable that was made up to make the First President seem more personable) about young Washington telling the truth about chopping down his father’s cherry tree before using these two learning stations. Pass out a fresh cherry for each child to eat and have them save the pits. Compare these with a few other fruit seeds like apple, pear, watermelon.

Discovery Center:

Have students observe different seeds and compare them to the cherry seeds. View seeds with a hand lens magnifier. Draw and describe 2 or 3 seeds. Draw the tree or plant that would result from the planted seeds.


Cooking Center: 

(you may wish to do this as a whole group for a culminating activity, and just for fun!)


Kids will love this. Place 2 graham crackers in a baggie. They can bash and bang to make crumbs. Pour the crumbs into a plastic dessert cup. Add 2 tablespoons cherry pie filling. Top with Cool Whip.

Need more ideas? Make these cute President’s Day Cupcakes.




Winter Art And Learning Center Ideas To Brighten Classrooms

Brightening Up the Classroom After the Winter Holidays

The Holidays are over. Time to go back to school for the second semester. The halls and classrooms are so sad and dreary, after all, that colorful joy from October to December.

Keep everyone’s spirits up and get some winter art  posted in those classrooms and hallways. Do it quickly. Research shows that kids learn better in a colorful, attractive environment. Here are a few ideas for a quick fixer-upper to brighten up those bare classroom and hallway walls. Use as art projects or turn them into learning station activities.

Snowy Day Collage Art


Construction paper, white tempera and a brown crayon are all that’ needed for this nice collage project. Provide colorful paper for the houses. Talk about how deciduous trees are bare in winter. Kids can paint a snowy ground and some falling snow.

Learning about shapes in preschool or kindergarten? Having them identify and cut shapes for the houses is the math center

Winter Sunset 

This pretty project will belie the fact that winter is a dull, colorless season. Black construction paper trees and colored tissue bespeak of winter shadows and a colorful, chilly sunset. Add a few white paper snowflakes  in the foreground. Give them a sprinkle a silvery glitter. Combine this with learning about snowflakes shapes and formation for  a science art activity

January is not a dull, colorless month anymore.


 Coffee Filter Snowman

Young students can follow directions at a learning station to make this coffee filter snowman. Have them attach three coffee filters on a strip of paper with glue. Add buttons, an orange triangle nose,  black circle eyes and brown branches for arms. Make a

Use in a literacy center for older children to follow written directions. Use as a math center or activity for younger students for counting and shapes.

Then, brighten up the hallway by adding them onto a winter mural with blue paper,  white ground and green snow-covered trees.

winter 5

“Let It Snow!” Collage Art

This is a simple piece to make with a dramatic effect.  The kids just draw an egg-shaped face from manila art paper, cut it out and add the snowy background that they have painted onto large blue construction paper. Draw the mouth and white paper rectangle teeth. Draw hair along the bottom. Trace mittens and a sweater from a pattern.  Cut out and decorate. Add a fringed paper scarf.

As a class, make a list of things to do in the snow. Taste snowflakes, build a snowman, snow angels, etc. They can use this list to write stories in the writing center.

winter 4

Birds-Eye View Snowman

Graduating circles from white paper make a cute snowman from a birds-eye view. The next to the last circle is a colorful scarf, and the last makes the snowman’s face. This is great for teaching smaller, larger and graduating sizes in the math center.


Mittens Match-up


winter 3

Tallest Snowman


Who has the most letters in their name? This fun activity makes an attractive display for learning about measuring and comparison.

Kids will enjoy helping to create this attractive bulletin board, and it is a good visual discrimination activity for pre-reading skills. They can  cut out and color these mittens in the creation station center. 

Craft Stick Bird Feeder

After reading about animals in winter,  help students create this craft stick bird feeder. Have them glue seven wide craft sticks onto cardboard and trim off the edges. An adult will need to hot glue on the triangle roof. Kids can decorate with a white craft foam roof and a craft foam cut-out.  Glue a jar lid onto the feeder. Add a yarn hanger and bird seed. Students can draw and write about animals in winter in the science center. 

Imported Photos 00711

Five Little Turkey Rhymes With Props

Five Little Turkeys Finger Play For Thanksgiving

Make Turkey Puppets

Turn old gray, brown or beige knit gloves into neat Thanksgiving puppets to use as props for Thanksgiving rhymes and finger plays.

Rhymes and finger plays are an integral part of any early childhood program. They help teach language and pre-reading skills Creatively incorporating finger plays into the curriculum can also help teach concepts like counting, number words, addition, subtraction and much more.


And, they’re just plain fun, especially if you use props for the kids to actively participate dramatically, rather than just holding up fingers. This Thanksgiving, enhance those fun rhymes and finger plays with fun turkey puppets.


Here’s How

Materials Needed:

  • Old neutral colored knit gloves
  • Orange craft foam
  • Red craft felt
  • Small googly eyes
  • Craft feathers
  • Hot glue


  1. Wash and dry knit gloves
  2. Snip off the ends of the four fingers
  3. Insert a colored craft feather into the slot and secure with a dab of hot glue
  4. Cut red felt comb and waddle
  5. Cut orange craft foam triangle for the beak
  6. Glue on features and googly eyes on each side

Some Thanksgiving Rhymes to Use


Five little turkeys standing in a row.

First little turkey said, “I don’t want to grow.”

Second little turkey said, “Why do you say that?”

Third little turkey said, “I want to get fat.”

Fourth little turkey said, “Thanksgiving is near.”

Fifth little turkey said, “Yes, that’s what I hear.”

Then the five little turkeys that were standing in a row,

All said together, “Come on, let’s go!”


Five little turkeys by the front door.

One waddled off, then there were four.

Four little turkeys under the tree.

One waddled off, then there were three.

Three little turkeys had nothing to do.

One waddled off, then there were two.

Two little turkeys, out in the sun.

One waddled off, then there was one.

One little turkey, you better run away

Because soon it will be Thanksgiving Day!


Five Fat Turkeys Sitting on the gate

The first one said, “Oh my, it’s getting late!”

The second one said, “Thanksgiving is near.”

The third one said, “That makes me shake with fear!”

The fourth one said, “Let’s run, run, run!”

The fifth one said, “Here comes the farmer with his gun!”

“Let’s have turkey dinner,” they heard the farmer say.

So the five fat turkeys flew far, far away!

Plant Cell Cake: Make A Healthier Version

Plant Cell Model Cake with Fresh Fruit

Middle and high school students usually have to create plant and animal cell models using Styrofoam, craft items or objects they find around the house. Tastier models are sometimes created like cakes or jello and candy.

Our plant cell cake is a bit on the healthier side than those that use candies and globs of icing to model the organelles. Yes, we iced the cake with tinted green frosting and colored decorating gels, but our organelles are all fruit with the exception of  a few min-marshmallows and a little chocolate drizzling.


Plant Cell Cake Project

The other classmates will be impressed with this yummy plant cell model cake.  Bake it in an aluminum cake pan to take to school and share. It is also a great project for homeschoolers. Have your plant cell cake for family dessert. What a tasty way to learn about plant cells! Just mix up your favorite cake in a 13 x 9 inch pan.  If food dye isn’t a concern, consider making it a green velvet cake. Now gather fruit and other cake decorating  items and get creative with this healthier version of a plant cell cake.

plant cell 1

Central vacuole, Cytoplasm, Cell Wall and Cell Membrane

Dark, light and medium green tinted icing will be the large central vacuole, cytoplasm and cell wall. A little green gel or green sugar creates the cell membrane.

pcell 2

Outline the large central vacuole with decorating gel. We used yellow.


Golgi Apparatus and Golgi Vasicles

The golgi apparatus and golgi vasicles are tangerine slices and golden raisins.


Chloroplasts and Mitochondria

Our chloroplasts are kiwi slices.


Yummy mitochondria are strawberry slices drizzled in chocolate.


Nucleus, Nucleolus, Smooth and Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum and Ribosome

The nucleus is a plum half  pitted to hold a large purple grape nucleolus. We used purple decorating gel for the smooth endoplasmic reticulum and blueberries on gel for the rough er. Blueberries also create the  ribosome.

Druse Crystal


Need a tasty Druse crystal? Simply chop up green lime-flavored mini-marshmallows.



Now add a grape amyloplast and your plant cell cake and voila! Your plant cell cake is complete!

Get Creative With Science: Recommended By My Creative Palette


Thematic Lessons And Activities For Fall

Fall A Great Time for Teaching with Thematic Units

September, October,  and November are great months for inspiring creativity with all of the colors and fun stuff like pumpkins, apples, bats, owls, spiders and black cats. And why not let some of those Halloween-ish animals help teach animal facts and other concepts for early learners. Art projects and other learning activities go hand-in-hand with these Fall thematic lessons for elementary students.

Thematic units are an excellent way to get kids involved in learning content across the curricula. Lessons and activities revolve around one central theme to teach reading, writing, language arts, math and science skills and concepts. Here are a few ideas for teaching a fall thematic unit for the beginning  of September all the way to November.



Apple Thematic Lessons

Graphing Favorite Apples

The kids will love sampling apples and voting on their favorite. Have slices of yellow, red and green apples in paper cups.  They take turns coloring in a block under their favorite apple and writing their name. They can compare their responses by interpreting the information on the bar graph, an important skill. It reinforces counting, number recognition and color words. It’s a fun way to talk about the beginning of the harvest season. 020

Parts of a Plant

What better way to teach that new plants grow from seeds and are the same as the parent plant than examining the seeds of a juicy apple that you just ate? Show students the inside of  an apple with a cross section. Dissect them and remove the sees with plastic tweezers.

This is a good activity to combine with a simple lesson on the parts and functions of plants. For a math/art project to match, make apple “cores” out of small paper plates for students to color. Have them glue seeds in the middle of the cores.(Use seeds you save from the graphing activity).

They can be used with a variety of math skills from just matching seeds to numbers for PreK to multiplication arrays for older elementary students.


Reading Johnny Appleseed

Introduce students to American folklore and heroes by reading Johnny Appleseed. It will open a plethora of ideas for reading and writing activities like the following you can find at September 26 is the legendary Johnny Appleseed’s birthday and October is National Apple Month.

Fall Leaves and Creative Writing


Brainstorm phrases associated with the sights,sounds, smells and activities of the season. Write them on a chart for younger students. Have them create acrostic poetry  using  letters F-A-L-L. Make leaf patterns for students to trace and color. Display these with their poems.



Owls, Bats, Spiders and Cats Thematic Lessons

Now is the perfect time to learn some fun, interesting animal facts about  owls, bats, spiders and cats. This will help set the stage for oral expression, reading and writing activities. After learning about them from books, videos, and websites, it is time to organize the information with thinking map graphic organizers, writing activities and cute art projects.


Graphic organizer: Can-Have-Are Facts. Do as a whole group Activity. Then students can write their own Can,Have,Are sentences in the writing center.


Label the parts of the owl. Use in the writing center to help write descriptive paragraphs.


Art project-Trace and cut out owls from construction paper. Add wiggly large yellow circles and googly eyes, beak, and feet. Color feathers with crayons.


Graphic Organizers-Can-Have-Are Facts. Students use this to write descriptive sentences about bats in the writing center.


Thinking map-Bubble Map-Compare and contrast bats with birds. Students use these in the writing center to write informative paragraphs. 025
Art Project- Trace patterns on construction paper and cut out. Use black for the body and legs and purple for the wings. Add a red mouth, white fangs and googly eyes.


Graphic Organizer-Can-Have-Are Poster. Students use in the writing center to write sentences that begin with Can, Have or Are.


Art Project- Trace and cut out from construction paper. Add eight legs and eight small googly eyes.



Graphic Organizer-Can-Have-Are Poster. Place in writing center for students to write sentences and informative paragraphs about cats. Older students can write paragraphs that compare cats with bats. Are are these two mammals alike and different?


Art Project. Use paper plates to cut out the arching cat’s body.  Trace head pattern, cut out and attach. Add chenille stem whiskers, a pom-pom nose and a pink half-circle mouth.


Abstract Leaf Art Project

The autumn color is peaking during October. Celebrate the beautiful colors of the season with this cool abstract leaf print and sponge painting project. Go outside and collect leaves. Brush with white paint and press onto black paper. Carefully lift and discard the leaf. Now sponge paint on some pretty fall colors for an interesting effect.



Candy Corn Numerical Expressions

Students can trace candy corn patterns to add different ways to express numbers in the three sections and then color.

Haunted House Fact Families

Kids love this one. So much fun to put related facts in each window of the haunted house. Use construction paper and have students design their own haunted house. This doubles as a great art project! 6=4=10, 4+6=10, 10-6=4, 10-4=6.



The harvest is in, and it’s time to give thanks for the bounty. Collect more leaves and trace onto colored construction paper to make a Thanksgiving tree. Students write things they are thankful for. Make one as a whole class or have each student make one of their own.


Art Project- “Stuffed Turkeys” After learning about The First Thanksgiving, compare and contrast the food to that we traditionally eat. How did the turkey become the center of the meal? Then stuff a brown paper bag with shredded newspaper.  Tie at the bottom with a rubber band. Attach to an orange craft foam base cut to look like feet. Add the turkey’s features with googly eyes and pompoms. Trace and cut around real leaves in fall colors for his feathers. Attach the paper bag turkey to poster board with hot glue for balance. (Adult will need to do this step).


Classroom Arrangement: Setting Up A Creative Kindergarten Classroom

The Kindergarten Classroom

Kindergarten is such a delicate and crucial time in the life of a student. Yes, there is pre-k and day care, but kindergarten is that milestone that marks the life of a student that will hopefully emerge 13 years later with a high school diploma. In some states, kindergarten attendance is mandatory.

Kindergarten is German for “children’s garden.” An educator by the name of Friedrich Fröbel coined the term in 1837 to describe a transitional class for young children to pass into formal education. Children between the ages of five and six have reached the point in their lives when they are no longer babies.

It is a fascinating age, and many kindergarten teachers will tell you that they wouldn’t dream of considering another age group to work with. Teaching kindergarten can be quite challenging. The basics can start with a fresh and creative classroom.

Take a picture tour of one creative kindergarten classroom. Have fun setting up your own creative kindergarten classroom. First,check out this classic poem Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. It is a real morale booster and will make you proud to be a kindergarten teacher.

Make a Kindergarten Classroom Treehouse

If you, a significant other or a friend is knowledgeable in basic carpentry, consider  creating  a classroom tree house. Kids just love this. They can climb the ladder and rest with a toy or picture book and learn how to get a grip on life.

040 Build the classroom tree house safe and sturdy.

This teacher gives her classroom a jungle look with artificial vines and leaf paintings on the cinder block walls.



Kiddie lawn chairs and a writing center underneath the tree house provides another safe and self-directed area.


Of course, tables are much more suitable for kindergarten than individual desks. This makes grouping and center work much more flexible. This teacher takes it further by being able to score several kidney tables for her class. Perfect for small group instruction with multiple teachers/adults in the class.

Kindergarten kids need to be immersed in the alphabet and the phonemic sounds of letters. At the same time, they must be exposed to sight words that don’t “follow the rules.” As a young kindergarten teacher, I used to call them “jail bird words.” I drew a jailhouse on the board and wrote the words inside.

Well, give me a break, Techies. Use my concept and create software. The idea seemed to work!


This pretty word wall is divided into sections with ribbon.


And with a jungle theme border.


Where is there a better place to learn how to schedule a day than kindergarten? This one is big, bold and laminated for durability.


This kindergarten teacher displays those famous 26 letters with initial sound drawings that her kids helped create. No doubt the kid’s involvement in this classroom alphabet display will increase learning for these kids!


Ditto for color and color word recognition. So much more creative than the ones you buy!


Laminate them and they will last all year.


A birthday display is a great way to help develop literacy


Books in baskets sorted by genre can be used on table tops and at the reading center also.


Numeracy is important too! This rug with numbers to 20 goes great in the calendar math section.


Provide a super calendar math section to teach all kinds of concepts…place value, graphing, skip counting, money and more.


The numbered circles form a centipede that marches along the walls.


Children’s actual photos are used here to schedule centers.


Each table in the class is color coded and has their own set of supplies in a handy caddie.


Labeled storage promotes both organization and literacy.


Make good use of storage space to keep the classroom clutter free.


Last but not least, have a concrete and visual way to track and motivate good behavior.

Organizing An Elementary Classroom



Elementary Classroom Arrangements

An elementary classroom specifically refers to a class of grades 3-5. Needs for a good functional classroom for this age group are a bit different from the early childhood classroom arrangement. Kids in this age group are expected to become more self-directed in their learning. But they are not ready for a middle school organization.

These students have unique needs as they are between primary and middle school.  A critical time, many school systems have third grade reading testing as a best practice. Students not on grade level at this point are provided with remediation and/or retained.

Arranging a classroom for this special age group can require some unique planning. The following organizational ideas can help the elementary classroom operate smoothing. This smooth operation saves valuable time for the elementary teacher and provides a secure environment for students.

Classroom ArrangementFlat table top desks are preferable over tables and slanted desks for the elementary classroom. These desks can be moved around, grouped and lined up in functional order. In this classroom, the table top desks form a sort of  double square horseshoe shape. This is the preferred arrangement for whole-group instruction, but they can easily moved together for peer tutoring and cooperative learning activities. These students are at an excellent stage for shared learning. A round table and four chairs at the back of the classroom invites group work.

Counters and a clean-up area are shared characteristics of the early childhood and elementary classroom. These kids still love to paint and make creative projects, and that is an important part of their development. Separate tables provide areas for self-directed learning centers, another important aspect of elementary classrooms.

Teaching aides and charts turn cabinet doors functional

Using Pocket Charts as Teaching Aides

You will notice that pocket charts are used a lot in this elementary classroom. The clear pockets make them a great visual organizational tool. These charts and teaching aids make the cabinet doors attractive and functional. Incentive charts attractively displayed can really go a long way to reward achievement. Pocket charts provide really durable materials. The teacher won’t have to keep making these sort of teaching tools from poster board and laminating.

In this elementary classroom, the times tables are cleverly displayed for students to learn. This is a critical step in mathematics for this age, and the responsibility for memorizing the times tables falls on the student. For achievement  testing, these visual aides have to be taken down. Studies have shown that long-term exposure to these teaching aides remain in a student’s visual memory even if they are removed.

Calendar Math Bulletin Board

Instructional Bulletin Boards

Again, pocket charts help to create a really organized Calendar Math instructional area. So many math concepts can be taught with a calendar! Ordinal numbers that students can relate to transform into other numerical expressions like decimals and money.

Notice the patterning for this month. Colors and shapes help continue the important patterning concept the students learned in Kindergarten. The patterns just become more complex.

The Calendar Math bulletin board is a cheery red with small white polka dots. It is a cloth covering, and will not have to be replaced because of looking ragged. The Calendar Math bulletin board introduces many opportunities for whole group instruction and independent work.

Classroom supplies that are organized in categories and containers will help to make a smoothly operated classroom.

Storage, storage storage

That saying about location, location is a great way to explain storage for the elementary classroom. It’s all about storage. Having equipment and supplies in ‘apple pie order’ can mean the difference between an effective and non-effective classroom.  Have plenty of plastic bins, jars, baskets and pans for storing classroom materials and game pieces. This type of classroom sorting can help facilitate learning by organizing visual and conceptual  input.

Speaking of organized information, notice the hundreds board that is arranged on the Calendar Math bulletin board. It helps elementary-aged students see patterns in numbers, an important future algebraic concept.

 The Numbers System

Use cardboard  file holders for student materials such as notebooks, workbooks and folders. paint them white and decorate with a number sicker on the side. Each student has a number. This allows the student to learn to independently keep up with materials with minimal assistance. They are stored neatly on a shelf in numerical order. This efficient method saves time that is used for more instruction and less ‘housekeeping tasks’.

Cardboard file holders and a number system for organization
Cardboard file boxes help keep student notebooks and folders organized.

The Numbers System and Behavior Charts

The same numbers used to organize classroom supplies for the elementary classroom can be used to notate daily behaviors. In this way, a system of rewards and consequences can be implemented with less confusion. Student reward coupons are placed in numbered pockets. These coupons list special privileges like computer time.

A numbers system allows the teacher to give rewards in numbered pocket holders


A levels system with student names on clothespins is an effective semi-public method to encourage cooperative and respectable behavior in the elementary classroom. again, cabinet door displays add attractiveness and functionality to the classroom.  The teacher places clothespins for behavior levels as infractions occur. The students should have been taught these rules and consequences from day one. They also need to be reviewed often.

Behavior incentive charts take up less space on cabinet doors.

Small Group Instruction in the Elementary Classroom

Small group instruction area

In an elementary classroom, students will invariably have differing levels in both reading and math. Reading in the content areas will soon get more difficult. A  half circle or kidney-shaped table is ideal for small group instruction.

Organizing Classroom Supplies

The teacher can think of  creative ways to organize materials. Here we see the  acronym  BUILD as a way to incorporate independent learning activities into the elementary classroom organization. Again, storage, storage, storage!

Creative ways to organize materials


Organizing The Classroom: A Dozen Dirty Easy Tips


Some people seem to just be naturally more organized than others. Perhaps it has to do with how they grew up.Maybe it is just the way their brain is wired.Perhaps some people are just too rushed to keep their act together. One thing is for certain. Life is much easier for the organized person. This is especially true for teachers. Teachers must make dozens of decisions daily. Hundreds of thoughts will pass through the teacher’s mind from bell to bell. For a teacher, staying organized is pretty much a matter of survival.

Can organization skills be learned? Of course they can! And role-modeling is the best teacher of all. Here are 12 tricks to keep you and your students better organized. I call them the “dirty dozen” because they are down to earth and easy. These simple tricks can go a long way in making life in the classroom easier. These down and dirty tricks will have a huge payoff at the end of a long day. The teacher will be a little less stressed and tired. (Or maybe even a lot!)

Tip # 1: A Place For Everything

“A place for everything and everything in its place.” This old saying is so simple and so true. Provide clear,colorful plastic buckets and boxes for student supplies. Markers, scissors, rulers and other supplies will stay picked-up, organized and accessable in an attractive way.


Tip # 2: The Dish Drainer Idea

This clever tip turns an ordinary dish drainer into a filing system for organizing the classroom. Use it to organize materials at a learning station. Folders go in the slots for plates and supplies go where the cutlery goes. It can even be used as a filing system for the teacher’s desk top.

Tip # 3: A Shoe Bag For Storage

A hanging  shoe bag isn’t just for shoes anymore.  Boxes of staples, paper clips, pens and much more is easier to access here than at the bottom of a cluttered up desk drawer.  Save time and aggravation. Use that bottom drawer for tea bags and snacks!

  Tip # 4: Hanging File Folders

 Hanging file folders are indispensable  in the classroom. No more stacks and stacks of worksheets piled upon a table or on your desk. They can be tucked neatly into color-coded file folders. Color code them by subject, level or learning stations. Hanging file folders can be used for lots of other things. Just look around your own classroom. Chances are, you will find more than one way to use them for organizing the classroom.


Tip # 5: Instant Listening Center Seats

Early childhood teachers that incorporate listening stations into the class room will love this easy DIY idea. Store listening equipment (tape/CD player and tapes/CDs , head phones ) inside a milk crate. Now glue some foam padding on a block of plywood or particle board that you (or one of the dads) has cut  to fit over the crate. Cover this with durable cloth and staple it down with a staple gun. The kids take off the listening station cover.Voila! It transposes into a seat. This is great for using the floor as seating space at a learning station.

 Tip # 6: Designated Pencil Canisters

A half dozen pencils breaking every half hour will drive a teacher nuts. Take control of this issue by having a canister of sharpened pencils and a canister  for ones that need sharpening. These are recycled coffee containers. Now pick a student helper to sharpen pencils a couple of times a day. The beginning and ending of the day are good times.


 Tip # 7: Self-selected Reading Scale

Sometimes thoughts need to be organized along with things. Organize free choice reading for little ones’ minds with this clever system. Teach the students to read one page. They need to have 2-3 words on that page that they need help with in order to grow as a reader. Four words are a challenge and five words means the book is too difficult.

 Tip # 8: Organizing Student Notebooks

Help individual middle and high school students stay organized. This posted display gives the contents of a well-organized binder for a course. It is a good idea to have an actual sample on display located somewhere in the classroom as an example to go by. Helping the students stay organized will free up “brain space” for learning all those difficult high school subjects.


Tip # 9: Hand-sanitizing Bathroom Passes

These coozy coolers that hold hand sanitizer  make great bathroom passes for boys and girls in elementary school. No more tapping you on your shoulder interrupting your thoughts. Kids who need “to go” simply place the correct (boy or girl) coozy at their seat. The teacher can easily spot who is out of the classroom. Only two can go at once. Upon returning to their seat, they use the hand sanitizer  and return the bathroom pass to the shelf for the next student to use. This tip also helps keep down germs and illness.

 Tip # 10: Organized And Green

Teach the kids to be organized and green at the same time. A good designated spot like these bins will encourage saving construction paper scraps for future projects.  Why recycle if you can reuse? And at the end of the day, there will be less housekeeping. The custodian will become your best friend. That is always a plus!


 Tip # 11: Checking For Understanding Board

A checking- for-understanding board is a quick and dirty way of organizing students into groups who need further instruction on a concept. This checking-for- understanding board is from a math class. There is a section for each of four skills that have been taught. Each student must give an example which shows that they understand the concept on a sticky note. They place the sticky notes in the matching sections. Now all the teacher needs to do is sort by name and skill for remedial groups. How easy is that? It is an informal assessment not intended to replace for thorough mastery testing.


Tip # 12: Organizing By Day Of The Week

Organizing the classroom by the day of the week is always helpful. A Five-tiered tray can organize daily lesson plans and materials, student work and much more. Label them M, T, W, R , and F. Once again, look around your own classroom. Chances are, you will find more ways than one to organize by the day of the week.

These dirty dozen tips for teachers will leave you less stressed and with happier students.  Guaranteed!