A tidy classroom makes for more a productive learning space where students can focus on the task at hand, a space where they can spread out as they learn, a space where they look forward to spending time each day.
Maintaining a tidy classroom is not the sole responsibility of the teacher. The best way to make it happen is to hold students responsible for cleaning up after the messes they make each day, and working alongside them to reset your classroom environment for a fresh day of learning before heading home each afternoon.
Setting the expectation for maintaining your learning space through collaboration begins on the first day of school when the classroom is freshly organized and everything is in its place. If you need to reset your expectations later in the year, doing so after a longer school break is another perfect opportunity.
On the first day of school, have your students walk in the room and take a close look at the classroom environment, and the organization systems. Giving them a detailed tour is always helpful. Engage them in a conversation around these questions:
- What does it look like and feel like to have a classroom that is clean and ready for learning?
- Why is it important to care for our learning tools?
- How does a tidy learning space make you feel compared to a cluttered learning space?
- What can we do each day to make our classroom feel first-day fresh like it does right now?
Taking time to recognize and appreciate first day of school-level cleanliness really sets the tone for our high expectations for taking care of the home where we learn each day.
When you feel like your students have a clear understanding of the value of a tidy learning space where learning tools are respected and treated with care, it’s time for you to introduce a daily tidy up routine. You and your students need time each day to collaboratively reset your learning space. Making your tidy up an end-of-day priority further instills the importance of caring for the classroom.
Scheduling Tidy Up Time Each Day
I recommend setting aside a solid ten minutes at the end of each school day when you and your students complete classroom jobs. Working alongside them, rather than “managing” them as they tidy up shows the students that you also value the learning space.
You were one of the people who used the space throughout the day, so you should be part of setting it up for a fresh day. When the students walk out the door to head home, your classroom has the potential to be first-day-of-school-level-organized…only better because your walls, desks, and shelves are filled with the knowledge you are building on with each new day.
It’s truly amazing how responsible and respectful all students can be in their learning environment when you set them up for success. I have used this approach year after year with a wide variety of learners, and classes with very different personalities. Without fail, they all buy in, they all pitch in, and they all show their amazing capability to take responsibility for their space.
One Step Closer to A Tidy Learning Space
I’d love to hear your thoughts about creating and maintaining and organized learning environment in the comments below. If you are interested in learning more about the specific classroom jobs and economy system I use in my elementary classroom during tidy up time each day, take a look at this post, or my Editable Classroom Economy resource.