Minimize Distractions and Visual Clutter in Your Classroom

curtains D
Piles and clutter drive me crazy (in my classroom and my home)! And it’s not just physical clutter that I can’t stand. Visual clutter also bugs me. Here’s a super easy trick to hide stuff and minimize the visual clutter in your classroom.
curtains A curtains B
Use panel curtains and a tension rod to hide sections of a bookcase and other areas.  But more important than addressing my pet peeve, these curtains minimize the distractions in your classroom. If every inch of your classroom has multiple colors, shapes and patterns in view, your students will have a harder time concentrating on what you’re saying and showing them. I recommend choosing a solid color or light pattern for your fabric. It doesn’t have to be boring white, but it shouldn’t be super eye-catchy.  While it’s pretty trendy right now to pick a bright color scheme and use it in every pattern possible all over your room, think about what it does to your students who already have a harder time focusing. Kids only have so much focusing power in them, so help the focus on what’s really important (which probably isn’t your cute color scheme). 🙂
curtains Ccurtains E
How have you minimized the visual clutter in your classroom? Send me a picture (squareheadteachers at gmail dot com) and I’ll post it here to share with other teachers. Thank you!

Journal Tabs

There are many ways to organize subject journal. Here’s one way to separate a spiral notebook into sections, or a single notebook into two different subjects.

Journal Tab 3

Journal Tab 2  Journal Tab 1

Here’s a sample of how you can format your page: anchor chart tab for math journal. You can type whatever you want on the tab. Print and cut into strips.  Glue anchor chart/show my work tab in middle of spiral notebook math journal.  When you are making an anchor chart with the class, have each student copy what you are doing into their journal.  Or when you pass out math definitions, examples,  charts, or whatever that you want students to glue in their journal for future reference, have them start writing and gluing at the beginning of the book.  When the student is just showing work or writing different ways to write a number or story problems, etc., have them go to tab and then start that sort of work there.  That way, your student has the more pertinent information in the front of the journal and it will be easier for students to use their journals as a reference.


Weekly Homework Trackers/Planners

WeeklyHomeworkTracker STICKEROne of the hardest skills for kids to learn is to keep track of many tasks on various time schedules. Providing students a weekly homework assignment sheet or planner. I’ve made two versions for you to use in your own classroom, or with your own children. I recommend that if you don’t use a planner in your classroom you provide one to your students’ parents for them to use with their families if they’d like. Here they are!

Click here for the free printables:

Weekly Homework Tracker – Horizontal
Weekly Homework Tracker – Vertical

Effective Bulletin Boards for Your Classroom


I saw this idea in an upper grade classroom and thought it was pretty cool. It’s a bulletin board about the things a good reader does: C  R  A  F  T

Comprehension: I understand what I read
Response to Text: I respond with thought and detail
Accuracy: I can read a variety of words
Fluency: I can read with accuracy and expression
Text Features: I understand and utilize text features

The teacher focuses on a reading skill and makes anchor charts that go with it. The anchor chart goes on the bulletin board to be referred to later.


P1030581This poster is an example of how students should do their math work. The poster shows how students should do their math work: specific heading, numbered problems, write problems left to right in rows rather than columns and the answers are circled. It’s a great way to help students remember what they need before turning in a paper. In addition, it’s a great reminder of how to do some basic math algorithms (in case your students forget).


Simple Organizational Improvements For Your Classroom

1. Use multiple bins to collect work your students submit to you. This way, they’re already sorted and easier for you to grade! I use stackable paper trays to save space.P1030356


2. Place fabric pockets in the area where you teach from most. Then you can store commonly used papers, forms or reference materials for you to grab at a moments noticeP1030590.




3. I don’t know about you, but sharpening pencils is the bane of my existence! Designate two containers for pencil storage (one of broken pencils that need sharpened  and one for freshly sharpened pencils for kids to grab). I used to have one student be the pencil sharpener for the week.P1030599


4.Collect important writing samples or projects in a bin. Give each student a file folder and collect important paperwork throughout the year. Then “all” you have to do at parent teacher conferences is grab the bin and hand over the work samples to proud parents.P1030699


5. This next idea is PURE GENIUS! I learned this trick from my mentor teacher during student teaching (way back in the day). Designate a tote or box for a super secret purpose: a secret recycle bin! Students don’t work as hard when they know their teacher isn’t going to look at their paper. So use this bin to collect papers you don’t need to look at, but still want kids to work hard on. At the end of the day when all the students are gone, you can recycle the paperwork and keep your students’ desks clutter free! The picture above is from a lower grade classroom that doesn’t have any turn in bins. So this teacher just calls the secret bin the “turn in bin.”P1050972


6. Track your students’ reading progress with a laminated file folder. Divide it into sections using whatever lingo your district or state uses. The photo above uses benchmark, strategic, intensive to indicate at, slightly below and way below grade level. Use sharpie to designate areas of the folder according to words per minute, etc. Then give each student a sticky tab according to where they are at the beginning of the year. This allows you to see who’s made significant progress throughout the year. For example, this teacher used green to indicate at grade level, yellow for slightly below, and pink for way below grade level. She writes the words per minute (or whatever you’re tracking) on the sticky tab as you assess the students throughout the year. When you’re not using the folder, fold it up and keep it away from curious student eyes. P1050973