Organizing the Math Manipulatives Shelf: Summer Project Series Kickoff!

Is it just me, or is it a lot harder to think of things to write about on a blog for school when school isn't in session?  It's cruel; we've got all this time, but no kiddos to keep us on our toes.

Well, after some thought and lots of Pinterest browsing, inspiration struck.  Pictures of other people's classrooms have given me so many great ideas this year.  So maybe pictures of MY classroom could give me ideas this summer!  I don't mean pictures of my classroom perfectly staged, like it feels at the beginning of the school year.  I mean pictures of the "decay" that eats away at my classroom for 175 days while being inhabited by a couple dozen children.  What does my classroom look like when it's been used?  What are the areas that stick out like a sore thumb?  Because if I can hone in on those, I can really figure out what I need to do to make the organization more efficient.  And since I have the whole summer to do it, I might as well do it with style.

So for the next 6 weeks I'm running a "Summer Project Series."  Think of these as the "before" pictures, all of them taken right before the end of the year packing and organizing began.  I'll go over what worked in each space, what problems I plan to fix, and if I get stuck I'll ask for suggestions on how to solve those issues.  Then at the end of the summer I'll take some "after" photos.

The first area I zeroed in on when flicking through my camera roll was my Manipulatives Shelf.  Be warned.  These pictures are not pretty.

What works:
  1. I just created those fun "curtains" in my classroom colors to hide half of the stuff.  I made sure that the items we use the most are on the open shelving in the middle, and the items we're not currently using are under the fabric.
  2. All the items are grouped together according to the units they are needed for.
  3. A year after I "inherited" all these treasures and the various containers that housed them, I got rid of a few and got several plastic shoeboxes to replace them.
  4. That same year I made labels for just about every box on the shelf (that coordinates with the Measureworks labels on some of our kits).
What I plan to fix:
  1. That Fluff container has got to go.  But why stop there?  I feel like I'm ready to splurge and get rid of all the miscellaneous shapes and sizes and invest in uniform containers.  Maybe not every single item will fit, but most of it will, I'm sure.  I have a few shoeboxes in other areas of the room that I'll swap out.
  2. Update the labels.  I've been working on some labels to match my classroom color scheme.  Getting new containers is a good excuse to swap those out too. 
These will be small cosmetic changes but hopefully they will project a nicer image.  Examining this shelf also sparked a lot of ideas regarding changes to other shelves, since I'll be swapping out those Sterilite containers.  So if you're interested in classroom organization and decor, stay tuned!  Or if you have ideas for my shelves here, answer in the comments below.
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