Posted in beginner teachers, high school, middle school, organization, resources

Papers, folders, and calculators, Oh, my!

After a long weekend, I hope that you are feeling as refreshed as I am. I know that when I return to my classroom tomorrow, I will find papers filed away, student work ready to be handed back, student work ready to be checked by me, copies made, and reminder notes. I never leave for the evening without organizing my desk and paperwork. I like to be able to return to my classroom and not have to think about where I have placed a certain test or a worksheet that I need to give to a student. I created a system for m
yself that has been improved over the years and will be improved on as I have more needs.

The photos below are from my classroom. I hope you find inspiration from them. I found inspiration from various places like other classrooms, elementary teachers, and yes, Pinterest.

IMG_0024This is a photo of where I place copies I have made and extra copies that are leftover after handing them out to students. They are organized by units and students are allowed to take from here as needed, but I do monitor it for students excessive number of copies. This large file holder was found at Wal-Mart for $20.



This is where I place papers that need to be returned to students. It keeps me organized and reminds me that I need to hand things back. I used to just place everything in manila folders and in a pile, but I would forget or papers would get shuffled between different sections. It has been very helpful to have this because it’s a routine procedure for me while students are completing warm up questions. This paper try was purchased from IKEA for $20. The trays do pull out.


I credit this to my student teaching co-teacher. It is a shoe holder that hangs over a door. I found it at Target for $8. A clear one is better, but this one works just as well. She had this system for her graphing calculators. She had given student index cards with their names on it and they would place it in the holder if they wanted a calculator. I used that idea, but students would lose their cards. Students started using their student IDs as a place holder for the calculator they were using. Since moving to a middle school setting, student ID cards were less prevalent, s0 I numbered the holders and the calculators. Instead of placing something in the holder as collateral, I also numbered the students’ desks. The calculator a student uses is the one that coordinates with their desk number. Because I assign seats, I almost always know who has which calculator. It’s not a fool proof way to keep students from walking off with your calculators, but it’s a great way to hold them responsible.


This is my newest system. It’s folders that contain notes, corrected tests, returned homework, and worksheets for students who have been absent. I’m still getting used to it and am not very good at checking it daily. I do like it because I have a place for absent student papers. This is more for me than for students to check. It’s been hard to place notes in there, but I hope to get there. I found this hanging file folder at Barnes and Nobel, but I know Amazon has them for about $15.


This is a student center. I have loose paper, graph paper, markers, color pencils, hand sanitizer, tissue, lunch menus, hand pencil sharpeners, and pencils that I collect from the floor. It’s nice to have a place for students who need the extra stuff. I have really liked it for students who don’t bring a pencil or pen to class. They check the box for a pencil instead of asking me. I do run out of pencils, but then I just fill it with extra pencils I have. It does help student be more responsible and accountable for a pencil and not depend on me.


For one of my courses, students keep their notes/homework notebook in my class. It’s part of helping them be organize and not forget things at home or in their locker. It’s helpful for my students with special needs, who struggle with organization. The bin with the file folders are their returned tests. Instead of having them keep their old tests, I keep it for them, which helps with the spiral testing I do with them. Each student folder has a tracking sheet on it too, so they are able to see their progress on different standards. Students have been surprised at their improvement or lack of improvement. The bins are pretty cheap, about $4 at Menards.


A place for students to turn in homework has been the one true thing that I have done from my first day of teaching. The separate trays help with sorting. I train students on this really well because I don’t accept anything that students hand me unless it’s important I see it immediately. I place a stapler right by it to help students be organize. The sheet that is taped to the counter explains how students should be turning in their homework. It also explains my homework policy. As you can see, right above the student in-trays are the “No Name” papers. The hope is that they look at these while turning in homework. Students are able to check for their “missing” homework and turn it in immediately. I called it the “Wall of Fame” because it’s always the same students who forget their names. They are also the first to accuse me of losing their work or not crediting them with it.


I group my student desks in threes and each of these boxes are for a group of students. I label every box with the desk numbers and a letter. Then in the box, markers, scissors, color pencils, and glue sticks are all labeled with the same letter. This helps keep students accountable and for each group to be responsible for their material.


Students are able to check their grades weekly. It’s a little controversial to post student grades so publicly, but I do use discretion by posting with their student ID numbers instead of their names. At the very least, students have a weekly updated grade they can look at if not on their own online.


Just my weekly calendar. It’s more for me than for students. I reminds me of what is due and what is coming up next. Some students do look at it. My accelerated class has a sheet that contains all the homework for a whole unit along with due dates, so this calendar is just another reminder.


My desk. The bin is for upcoming things, paper that I need to file, and unfinished student tests. The clip boards hold a seating chart and paper grade book. It’s pretty clean right now because it’s right before I leave for home. Throughout the day, my desk gets very messy and full of paper, but then I spend about 10 minutes after school organizing and putting things away.

I hope this blog has been helpful and inspirational. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by paper, start a system. If you don’t know where to start, ask or look on Pinterest. If you have ideas, tell me. I’m always looking for a new or improved way to organize my classroom.

Thanks, May (middle school math teacher)






I have been teaching math for 8 years. I currently teach middle school math in St. Paul, MN. I have taught Geometry and Algebra 2 in the past. I am passionate about teaching math and teaching other teachers.

2 thoughts on “Papers, folders, and calculators, Oh, my!

    1. Hey Jena!

      Thanks for reading!!! I’m doing well. I’m in St. Paul teaching middle school at Capitol Hill. Second year there and it’s been a huge transition after three years at a high school. How are you? Still in Pine Circle?



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