Have you always wanted to be the type A organized special education teacher? Same here! After years of trial and error, I have found some organizational tools to make classroom routines more efficient and manageable. I’m here to share ten must-have containers for organizing your special education classroom.
1. Photo Boxes
These photo boxes are a cult favorite. They are versatile and just the perfect size for the various organizational needs of special education teachers, which is why it lands the top spot on my list of must-have containers for special education teachers. Not only do I use these photo boxes to store task box cards, small manipulatives, and crayons, but my favorite way to use them is as “first-then” boards. These containers are sturdier than laminated pieces of paper, and the built-in storage of visuals is unbeatable.
Special education teachers need sturdy, low-footprint solutions for various manipulatives and sensory tools. I especially like that these stackable boxes are transparent so that you can quickly identify what is inside. Additionally, you can label each bin to efficiently organize and locate materials specific to different subjects or student needs.
Like stackable boxes, project cases are another great low-footprint solution for storing and organizing classroom materials. I like using project cases to store puzzles, game boards/pieces, and independent work. The cardboard boxes in which puzzles and board games come are bulky and tend not to withstand daily usage in my classroom. Project cases, on the other hand, are solid and cleanable, which makes them must-have containers for special education teachers.
I use these clear plastic bins in my classroom for multiple purposes. Firstly, I utilize these bins to hold IEP goal work for students. Their larger sizes allow me to fit instructional materials for multiple IEP goals. I find that having each student’s IEP goal material all in one location gives my paraeducators more agency to work with the students, as they do not have to hunt for individual materials every time they work with a student. Secondly, I use these bins to hold manipulatives and sensory tools that do not fit inside the stackable bins.
The key to an organized classroom library is to have an organizational system for your books. I use these color-coded book boxes to organize my classroom book collection by topic. When it is reading time, instead of telling my students to pick a non-fiction book and then monitoring the process, I can say, “Pick a book from the purple bins,” as I have already organized the purple bins to hold non-fiction books.
These colored containers are must-haves if you run small groups in your classroom. As I prepare my classroom for the next day, I sort supplies for my small groups in these colored plastic containers. When it comes time for small groups, the group leader collects the respective containers for their group, and since all the supplies are already in there, we can get started promptly.
I find these mesh zipper pouches especially helpful when I am out of the classroom and have a substitute teacher. I organize lesson materials and supplies for each lesson in separate pouches to make it easier for the substitute teacher and paraeducator to work with the students.
These snap-button plastic envelopes are very similar to the zipper pouches mentioned above. I use them for the same purpose. The only difference is that these snap-button envelopes work on a different fine motor skill than the zipping pouches. Depending on each student’s needs, I put their materials in corresponding containers.
As a special education teacher, we always need small supplies like staples, paperclips, glue sticks, etc. These desktop craft cabinets come in various compartment configurations, making them ideal for organizing and storing essential school supplies.
I have also seen these desktop craft cabinets store student supplies. Each drawer can be labeled so that students with various ability levels can collect their supplies and return them as needed. This is a great way to build independence and school behaviors in students.
A portable rolling cart is a must-have container for special education teachers who travel around the classroom or school campus. A rolling cart is your go-to container to transport lesson plans, student binders, or instructional materials.
Conclusion: Containers for Special Education Teachers
Using appropriate containers to become more organized allows special education teachers to streamline routine implementation and support data-driven instruction. At the same time, appropriate containers encourage students to communicate their wants and needs and give students the opportunity to practice fine motor skills in functional settings.
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