Student Cubby Organization in My Classroom

Student cubbies can be a scary place.
I always feel like my students’ stuff is slowly creeping out of the cubbies to clutter up the rest of the room. 

 

A couple of years ago, I was cleaning out my kids’ cubbies and found a moldy orange that had clearly been hidden under papers for months

MONTHS, Y’ALL!
“If there’s one thing I get together next year,” I told myself “it will be the cubbies!”. 
And I have tried. I have really tried. I’ve come up with some systems that are making a difference. And luckily, I didn’t find any mold in last year’s cubbies, so I say that’s progress! Something that I think is so funny is that my former students will come by the room and say, “Who has my old cubby?” The cubbies are their own little personal spaces. I want them to feel as much ownership and responsibility over their cubbies as possible!  


Here’s how the student cubbies are organized in my current classroom:

 
Names
Of course, each child’s name is in the cubby. I found this cute little panda face clipart through the magic of Google. Then I copy and pasted it to a Word document and typed each child’s name. The font is Hello Firstie Big Gulp, and I LOVE it! 
I cut out the panda faces with the name and then glued them to black construction paper. Then I cut that into a circle and laminated. Voila! Cute little pandas looking at us all day 🙂 
 
Item Labels
Inside the cubbies, each one is labeled to remind the children where each item should go. I copied clipart and typed the labels in a Word document. Then printed them and laminated them, and used hot glue to glue them into the cubbies. This shows where each item goes. We keep lunch boxes, backpacks, raincoats, and a towel in each cubby.
Work Baskets
In the bottom of each cubby, the children have these colorful baskets. I originally purchased them from Really Good Stuff to use in the cubbies of my teacher shelf, but they were 1/4” too big. 1/4″! I was SO SAD, but I refused to return them. I knew I could use them for something! Finally, it hit me… they fit in the student cubbies and they could replace our current filing system. Now the kids put their work straight into their cubby basket.
Filing System
Speaking of our Filing System, here’s how it works: Each child puts his or her work into the basket in their cubbies all week. On Thursdays, we send home a “Thursday Folder” with all of the work. I call “Pink Baskets” and the kids with pink baskets put their work into their folders, and their folders into their backpacks and sit back down. Then I call another color. The parents empty the folder and return it on Friday. Then we start the process over again.
 
Baskets vs. Hanging Files
Last year, we used one of those metal hanging file cubes, and each child had a hanging file. It was a good system with two flaws: 
 
1. The amount of time wasted as the children stood in line and waited for their turn to file their work.

2. The amount of time it took for a teacher to transfer the work from the files to the folder.
If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s wasting time! This system also freed up prime real estate on a classroom shelf!
 
Where to Find Baskets:
  • These baskets are super durable (and pretty!), but they can be pricy.
  • Dollar Tree has some more affordable options (24 for $24, if you order in bulk from the website).
  • ELFA also has a container that would work well for this system on The Container Store’s website.
The colors aren’t as pretty as the ones from Really Good Stuff (all neutrals), but you could easily liven them up with cute tags or labels! I also wrote a post on the best places to find containers for your classroom… because I LOVE containers!
Cubby Inspector
Even with all of these labels/systems, the cubbies still manage to get messy. So I came up with the Most Organized Cubby award. The Cubby Inspector changes each week (I just rotate through the class list, so everyone has a fair turn). They inspect each cubby for 
  1. Lunch items to be inside a lunchbox
  2. Backpack to be zipped up
  3. All items to be in their designated locations with nothing hanging out of the cubby
Then they announce the Most Organized Cubby and give a Dojo point to the winner! Having them evaluate each other’s cubbies is also a sneaky way of helping them learn how to keep their own cubbies clean 🙂

And that’s how we keep our classroom cubbies somewhat organized!

This is what they look like at the end of a real school day. They still aren’t perfect (after all, it is Kindergarten), but everything is in its place, and that’s what matters most!

My parents visited my classroom for Grandparents’ Day last year. When they walked in they asked, “What have y’all been doing today?”. One of my little boys replied (in an exhausted-sounding voice) “Organizing!” He gets it 🙂

How do you keep your students’ cubbies organized (and prevent things from growing in them)? Any secret tips you would like to share? Post below so we can all benefit! 

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