2 Ways of Organizing Teacher Files

Organizing Teacher Files is a good summer activity for the organized teacher …

organizing teacher files with hanging file folder tabs in rainbow of colors

I admit to wanting to run from the school the moment the bell rings on the last day of the year.

By that time, everyone in the building is ready to do that. But before you throw your suitcase in the car and head for points unknown, consider whether your classroom is really ready for next year.

Have you left the materials you used or created this year ready to be used again next year?

Will you be able to find them when you need them?

Are they in a pile in a closet? Do you know which closet?

That could result in either

  1. Wasting time looking for them in the fall or, even worse,
  2. Having to create them again or buy something online which approximates what you already created.

Think of the Lost Work Hours. The Horror.

The week after school let out, I returned to do some important organizational work. I had two big jobs.

  1. Paper Filing and
  2. Digital filing.

I knew that in the fall, I was going to be presented with small groups again and I would have to locate curriculum quickly. The data would be handed over for the students, and I might have to start teaching kids within 48 hours. I would not want to dig through piles looking for resources.

But before I began organizing, I needed to have a way of organizing. You might call it an organizational structure. Or, a taxonomy. Maybe, like in the old days, an outline.

These are Some Ways A Teacher Could Organize Resources

  • Alphabetically. The old standby. But what if you can’t remember the name of the worksheet you want to recover?
  • Chronologically: Either in the order it was created, or the order it is to be used.
  • By subject. So, if you’re a 2nd grade classroom teacher, you would have Reading, ELA, Math, Science, Social studies, maybe Art
  • By objective. In reading intervention, I chose to organize my materials by the Five Pillars of Reading: Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension.
  • Let’s just cut to the chase and say that the way you organize your materials should be based on the way you teach. This requires some forethought.
  • You know how your classroom works. Can you visualize yourself planning next year, and know intuitively where you’ll want the materials when you’re doing that?
  • Ease of access to materials during the school year is critical. Wherever you put the materials, you want to be able to get them back out again quickly and easily.

So. How shall we do this?

Paper Filing

organizing teacher files with table tent tags for different piles

Why do we organize teacher files on paper instead of digitally?

Because if they’re already on paper, it will take too much time to digitize them and then digitally organize. Saving time is the thing. And if they’re already on paper, you don’t have to print digital masters before making a class set.

Steps to create your paper filing system:

  1. Choose where the files will be going. That may be a file cabinet, a file box, a cardboard box, etc.
  2. Choose the kind of files will you use? I strongly prefer hanging files with plastic tabs. Each category may be a different color. Manila files also work. Critical step: make sure you have enough files.
  3. Now clean out the storage areas in your classroom, closets, shelves, cabinets. Collect any paper teaching resource that can fit in a file.
  4. Take a second to look over the materials you have stacked up.
  5. Do not save files or papers left by the teacher who used to have your room. If those materials were any good, the teacher would have taken them. Round file. Period.
  6. Even if it’s yours, ask yourself: “Did I use it last year? Will I use it next year?” If no … toss it.
  7. Make paper tents (see above picture, in which the tents are pink) for your major categories.
  8. As you take out the materials, put them in a pile under one of the tents. You may find you want to make subcategories. You could make more paper tents, perhaps in a different color, to add the subcategories.
  9. Once you’ve gone through all the materials, look over what you’ve got. Consider again, is this worth saving? Is it in the right category?
  10. When you’re satisfied, start putting the filing system together, making file tabs using the terms that you already made table tents for.
  11. Place the materials in each category in their labeled files.
  12. Look at your work with joy, knowing that in the fall, when you need these materials, they’ll be right there. All you’ll have to do is copy them.

Organizing teacher files can also go digital

There are an awful lot of materials these days that are digitally stored, and I don’t think it makes sense to print them out to store them. Waste of time. Instead, create an outline in a Google Sheets document, and hyperlink the materials you have in digital locations. Storing the files in the cloud means you will have access from any computer. As long as you remember your Google password. Here’s how to do it.

Creating a Digital Storage Location:

How to Click Through to Create Your Google Sheet Digital File Organizer:

Click on the Google Waffle (the nine squares at the top right of your Gmail account) and from the app choices displayed in the drop-down, choose “Drive,” on the top left, below the Drive icon, click “New” and then choose “Sheets” (green icon) on the drop-down. This will be the spreadsheet you’ll use to create a hyperlinked outline. Give it a name right away (top left, replace the words “untitled spreadshet) and it will be saved in your Google drive in the “files” category. As you did for your paper system, you will think in terms of having an outline, or at least a subject by subject list to organize your documents.

Gathering the Materials:

Hopefully as you’ve created digital materials this year you’ve been storing them on your computer. Go through your files where you’ve stored them. Upload them and organize them according to the outline.

Besides your computer, other places you might have previously-used documents include your online curriculum, locations on the internet that you’ve located videos or music, and also places such as Teachers Pay Teachers, where you will have a catalogue of the things you’ve purchased or downloaded free, but it might not be easy to find them when you need them. For example, my TPT purchases list is four pages long.

Making an Organized Listing of Your Materials

Once you have all your digital documents on your radar, you can take the following steps:

  1. Upload the resource from your computer to the main Google drive.
  2. Go to your Resource Outline page.
  3. Type up the name of the resource in a square on the google sheets page.
  4. Click on “insert” and then the hyperlink icon
  5. Paste the web location of the the resource into the box.
  6. If the resource is already on the web, you can skip step one.

Next year when you need them, you can quickly print out the master and then make copies.

Now You Can Grab Your Suitcase …

Once you have your paper and digital materials organized, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Grab your suitcase, and head for those parts unknown. When report day comes, you will have time to relax, talk to your friends, and share the best of the materials you’ve carefully organized. You won’t have to worry about finding anything. And, weeks later, all these things will be easily available in October when you need them, even if time is short and your brain is overloaded.

Happy teaching.

Related Reading/More on Organizing Teacher Files

True Life I’m a Teacher: Theresa organizes her files chronologically in milk crate type boxes, week by week.

Teaching with Aris: Organizing your teacher files with some good tips on cutting through the clutter and developing a naming system.

Language Arts Classroom: Lauralee tells the story of the Great Computer Crash of 2007 … and gives tips file names and why she keep both digital and paper files.

From DifferentiatedInstruction.org on Related Topics:

How to clean out your classroom fast, so you won’t be last.

6 choices of how to do an end of year teacher reflection.

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