Last month I wrote about how I use a unit studies approach to our “cultural” curriculum. I love how it has simplified my organization system. I used to keep my materials categorized by curriculum area. For example, all the language materials were in one cabinet, all the practical life materials were in one spot, and there was a different space for files and binders and books… etc. This made it very difficult to pull together a cohesive theme in the classroom. But now the whole process feels much more efficient! I am very happy with this experiment.
I use just one box to store all the materials that go with one unit. This box contains all my files and masters for that unit, all the card materials, all objects and artefacts, and all coordinating practical life supplies. My long term goal is take photographs of all those materials put together as shelf activities so that when we circle back around to doing that unit in the future, I don’t have to reinvent that wheel. I’m using Evernote (and this blog) to keep track of this.
I decided not to organize these boxes by month. Many teachers like to store their units together with the other units they will be presenting in a particular month. I prefer to keep all my thematic units and my seasonal supplies separate. This gives me the flexibility to change up the sequence of my units mid-year depending on the interests of the class. Children will often bring in things to share that provide a great jumping off point for further exploration. Having my resoures stored by theme make it very easy to find and grab what I need.
My favorite box to use for this purpose is a simple carboard banker’s box that you can find at any office supply store. In my area, Office Max has the cheapest store brand box. You can get a 10-pack for about $15. I love these boxes because they are of uniform size, they stack very well, they hold a lot, and are surprisingly sturdy. I still use a couple of boxes I had with me in college…
If you have a storage closet, then you can just use these boxes as-is. I have to store my boxes in the classroom so I’ve tried to camouflage them a little. They’re quite easy to decorate. You can wrap them or paint them. I used to cover the front with a reed placemat which made them look lovely. However, those covers fell off easily and they are harder to find.
I settled on plastic shelf liner. This is relatively inexpensive and quite durable. I simply painted the front of the box with white glue to adhere the liner.
I don’t like stacking boxes for storage. My ideal is to have these boxes function as drawers (you know how I love drawers). If I had a storage closet I would have settled for simple shelves. But since these boxes have to take up space in my classroom, my storage solution needs to fit a certain aesthetic. I could have gone with a curtain in front of a shelf, but I splurged a little and got myself one of the best pieces of furniture on the planet 🙂
This is an “Expedit” shelf from Ikea. It’s not the cheapest thing but you can often find a used one for sale on Craigslist. They’re very common!
I love how uniform it looks. It’s not an eyesore in the classroom and I have super easy access to all the materials. As you can see in the picture, I use shirt-size gift boxes as overflow for some of the units.
If I had enough space, I would put all my seasonal supplies in boxes like this. But alas, I have had to make a compromise there. I used to have stackable sterilite drawers for the seasonal stuff but then I got this nice drawer unit as a hand-me-down.
These are two “Aneboda” drawers units stacked on top of each other. I don’t think Ikea sells these anymore so you’ll have to keep an eye out on Craigslist if you want one.
These drawers work perfectly for me. Sometimes I wish they were a little larger but then my rational brain reminds me that it’s good to have a limit on how much stuff I can collect. It is helping me to be a bit more discerning. Once a drawer is full, I have to think long and hard about what to remove before I add something new to it.