Top 3 ways to stay organized in the Artroom!

My first year of teaching was a MESS!  Between adjusting to the fast pace of a new (and complicated) schedule, learning the names of all my students, and prepping daily for 4 different classes... by the end of each school day, I didn't know which way was up.

Making matters worse, I had been left with an incredibly messy and disorganized artroom.   The walk in closet could not be "walked in" because it was so jam-packed with an explosion of random stuff.  Every surface in the room was covered in piles of old projects, materials, and magazines.  I literally felt like i was teaching on top of a trash heap!

Slowly, over time (4 years!) I have managed to tame this wild beast.  Here are 3 things that have helped me get and stay organized:

1) Label EVERYTHING

Yep.  That's it!  Sometimes the best solutions are the simplest.  Grab yourself a packet of Avery address labels, a sharpie marker, some clear packing tape, and go to town!  Labeling will help your students learn where supplies go.  This makes set up and clean up easier.  Gone are the days when they will randomly throw pencils in with sharpie markers, or kneedable erasers in with the colored pencils!  Who would do that when the bin is CLEARLY LABLED? (okay... some of them will still do it, but the neat freaks in the class will have a foot to stand on when they say "hey.... that OBVIOUSLY does not go THERE!)

Labeling also helps ESL students (and all learners really)  learn the names for things.  I label my slab roller, the paper cutting station, the light table, the kiln, etc.  During my first year, students consistently called the kiln the "oven thingy" until I wizened up and slapped a label on it.

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2)  Cubbies

The key concept to keeping your room organized is to help your students stay organized.  Each student MUST HAVE their own cubby to store their works in progress and finished artwork.  This is the first place they will visit at the beginning of class and the last place they will go to at the end.  Cubbies are ESSENTIAL.

I use vertical storage for classes that do primarily 2D work (Art 1- Art 4) and shelving for classes that do primarily 3D work (Ceramics).  However, my Crafts class does a mixture of the two, so they get vertical storage for each student, and a set aside two shelves that they can store 3D work on (not sectioned into cubbies).

EACH cubbie is labeled with the student's name.  The first thing I do at the beginning of the year is set up cubbies for every student on the roster for each class.  The first thing I do when a student is added to the class is MAKE THEM A CUBBY.  You get the idea.  

Not enough room in your classroom for this kind of storage?  Time to problem solve!  Here is a pic of the shelving that I converted into vertical storage cubbies:

 

3)  Media Table and Project Bins

I often describe my job to others as throwing an art party four times a day.  We all know the cycle of hosting a party.  First you clean your house and plan the food and games. Then you prepare the food and set the table.  Finally, when all guest have left, you spend another couple of hours cleaning and putting it all way again!   Whew!

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On any given day, I meet with 4 separate classes who are often working on 4 very different projects.  There is 5 minutes between classes.  This means, that I need a way to efficiently put away materials from one class and get out materials for the next class.  For this purpose, a MEDIA TABLE and PROJECT BINS.

For each project, I put together a bin that contains the basic materials for each project.  I like to use the large (17-20 gal), clear bins.  For example, if my Art 1 students are working on observational drawing, I will put together a bin that contains viewfinders, paper, and kneadable erasers.  (Items that are used by all classes on a daily basis like rulers and pencils are accessible to all and stored at the drawing station).  From this bin, I can easily set the materials out on a Media table (I use a table at the front of the room).  I either assign students to then help distribute these materials or invite students to come serve themselves (table by table.... you don't want a mad dash!).  

15 minutes before the end of the class, I announce "clean up time", and students store their work in their cubbies, and then clean and return the materials to the media table at the front of the room.  I monitor the process at the table, making sure that items are properly cleaned and stored.  When the bell rings and the students leave, I simply grab the bin, store it for later, and take out the project bin that is needed for the next class!