mentor texts · minilesson · organization

Organzing Teaching Materials

I recently received an e-mail asking me:

How do you organize your material (mentor texts, charts, minilessons, etc.) for Writing Workshop?  I have just collected so much stuff this past year to do with Writing Workshop, but I just can’t figure out a way to organize it.

Most teachers  are nearing the end of the school year across the United States.  Therefore, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about what to do with all of the stuff you’ve accumulated this year.

Since I consult and no longer have a classroom of my own, a lot of my files are now in boxes in my basement.  However, I know where almost everything is so I can access everything easily.  Here’s a walk through the way I organized my teaching materials:

One of three Writing Workshop binders, which contains printouts of minilessons I've taught and graphic organizers I've used.
Each of my three binders is divided into sections, by unit of study.
Kate, who was one of the fourth grade teachers I taught with in Rhode Island, kept everything in plastic sheet covers. I took a cue from her and did the same thing with everything I printed. It's time consuming to put everything in sheet protectors at first, but it keeps everything smudge-free and wrinkle-free, so resources can be duplicated easily in the future.
I save minilessons I've adapted from the Units of Study Books (Calkins et. al.) so I had them on-hand year-after-year.
I also kept photocopies of student homework assignments in my binders.
End-of-year student letters are kept binders as well.
Since I own three small filing cabinets, I don't have enough room to store former students' work as neatly as I used to when I had a classroom. For now, former students' writing, as well as some of the pieces I published alongside my students, is housed in cardboard boxes in my basement.
In 2007, my husband was kind enough to categorize some of my favorite mentor texts for me in a portable file folder. Having these on-hand, and in the same place, helped me when I conferred with students during independent writing time.
The mentor text files, as well as the subject binders I created, were kept over my desk in my classroom. The blue chair in the picture was where I sat, if I was seated, when I taught minilessons. The large classroom rug was right in front of the chair. (Photo taken in August 2008.)
I keep very few files in my home office. Just a few frequently referenced materials are located in hanging file folders.

Finally, I keep a lot of digital files.  Here are some screen shots to show you what I mean.

All of my Writing Workshop files from the years I taught fourth grade. There are many sub-folders inside each of the yellow folders that are pictured.
Poetry files from the years I taught fifth grade. This "poetry" folder is a sub-folder of my "literacy" folder from the years I taught in Manhattan. Within each of the yellow folders pictured, every document I used (i.e., minilesson, poem, or graphic organizer) when teaching poetry can be found here.

Also, when I moved, I tossed out nearly all of my “good” charts (i.e., strategy charts I laminated and used year after year).  However, before I tossed them, I photographed them and then uploaded the photos to an online photo site where I have them all saved for future reference.  If you haven’t photographed your charts yet, set aside an afternoon to do it.  Just find a solid background and then place the charts on top of it down for photos.  Once you upload the photos to your computer, assign file names to them that make sense, so you can access them easily going-forward.  Additionally, if you have charts you created with your students, photograph those as well.  You might want to print them out and put them in the binder you create for your minilessons so you can access the chart before you teach the same lesson next year.  It always helps to see what your former students came up with when you’re preparing for a new lesson.

How do you organize your teaching materials for Writing Workshop?  Share your organizational system(s) by leaving a comment on this post.

10 thoughts on “Organzing Teaching Materials

  1. @Terri: When I was in the classroom, I wrote out most of my lessons, with that depth, the first time I taught them. It helped me think through exactly how I’d execute my teaching point so that I didn’t become too verbose. I never read straight from the lesson I created, though I usually kept it near me to refer to if I found myself getting long-winded. Essentially, this was how I helped myself prepare to teach. Then, when I re-taught the same lesson the next year, I’d often just reread over the lesson in the binder (from the previous year) and then I’d be able to teach without it. For instance, as you’ll see in one of the photos where the lesson is typed out,, it was written in 2006.


  2. You ARE organized! I keep all my Writing and Reading Workshop mini-lessons binders, each section labeled by genre study. Samples of student writing and mentor texts are also in sectioned and labeled binders, sorted by genre. My new organizing tool – the memory stick: one for each of the subject areas I teach. This, too, is organized by folder, so that I can find what I need when I need it.


  3. I use binders with sheet protectors as well. Sometimes it takes a while to get everything back into place but it is always ready to go at the beginning of each year! I am not good about taking photos of things and need to get better…


  4. I’ve been keeping my things in a manila folder in a filing cabinet, but I sure like the binder idea. That would be easier to locate the minilesson ideas, my samples, and student samples. Categorizing them will be something I do when I’m finished with my graduate course. Thank you for sharing!


  5. I always love seeing how other teachers organize! I was just able to skim before heading out the door to go home, but I look forward to looking at this in more detail over the weekend. Thanks for not only sharing, but also including pictures and screen shots!


  6. I keep all of my writing units in binders along with student samples. I wish I had a basement to store the ever growing amount of stuff, but instead I have all of my Kindergarten materials in my garage and my first grade materials in my attic. Some frequently used materials are on shelves in my bedroom.


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