Using Color to Organize the Secondary Classroom


As a secondary classroom teacher, have you ever seen all the wonderfully colorful primary classrooms on pinterest and feel a little jealous? In my years of teaching, I have yet to have a room to really call my own.  I’ve always had to share and I’ve always been the non-senior person sharing that room.  In most of my classrooms, I haven’t had the opportunity to really decorate how I wanted. I hope one day that I’ll have a classroom all to myself that I can decorate with the most awesome science themed color coordinated posters and decor.  But for now, there are still ways that I can brighten my classroom with color in practical ways!

I’m a pragmatist and I’m kind of a teacher-hack-addict.  I love to read about ways to streamline tasks that I have to do each day.  Those top ten lists with ideas for organizing or saving time… Love them!  So here are a few tricks I’ve used over the years that really help me stay organized… with color!



Using Color to Organize Unit and Course Materials

I store everything digitally on my computer (and in dropbox storage) so that I always have it ready to print out for the next year.  I also like to have a paper copy that is easily accessible in case a sub needs it or to share with a colleague (I only share my own materials or materials that I have the right to share, of course).  I like to step binders with the same color for the same course.  When I am assigned to teach a new course, I put together a binder for each unit and put plastic page protectors in with 4 dividers to separate types of materials:

  1. Activities and Labs
  2. Homework Pages
  3. Guided Note Packets
  4. Assessments


As I go through the year, I gather my materials in my binders and by the next year, I have everything already set up and ready to quick edit or copy. I also keep the answer key for each item in the same page protector, so that I don’t have to re-make a key every time!



Using Color to Separate Materials by Class Period


To help me keep my 4, 5, or 6 class period’s materials organized, I like to pick a particular color for each class period and use a turn in bin that is easy accessible to students so they can hand in items. I don’t like them to hand things to me in my hands because I almost always put them down somewhere as I’m talking to someone and then I forget where I put them!


Then I use colored folders or colored binder clips to organize these materials that I collect by class, so I can keep them separate from other classes. I also use the same color to organize materials to hand to them.


Another trick that helps me stay organized: when students are absent, I write their name on the extra handouts or quizzes, using purple pen ink. That way, when that student does come back to school, I have a copy set aside in his or her class folder and I also can keep track of assignments that are late or not handed out yet to a returning student.



Using Color to Organize Assessments

I like to print quizzes and tests on colored paper for two different reasons.


  1.  I like to make different versions of tests (especially tests with a lot of multiple choice).  Using different colors for different versions helps to discourage cheating, because students will see different colors and realize that there is no reason to try to cheat off their neighbor with another color. Sometimes, I don’t even make different versions (who has the time sometimes for that) but I like to STILL print them on separate colors to make students THINK there are separate versions. <heh heh heh>
  2. I asked my instagram followers how they use color in the classroom to stay organized and one reader (mossyrockscience) told me that she likes to print her Friday quizzes on different colors by class period to make them easier to sort, which is also another great idea!  Different color paper is really easy to sort and you know how much time you want to spend sorting as you’re grading a ton of Friday quizzes. (I also love to give a quiz or test on every Friday, to keep kids accountable for what they learned that week, and because kids are crazy on Friday anyway)


How do you use color in your classroom to help you stay organized?  Leave a comment below and let me know!



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