Ten Things to Think About as You Pack Up Your Classroom

  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

Every year we pack up the entire classroom, leaving nothing in the room but our furniture. Everything is removed from the walls including every last staple. Usually this is because we move classrooms. We don’t mind doing this because it forces us to stay organized and keep things simple. Here are ten tricks we have learned about packing up that will make your life a little easier now and in the fall.





1. Summer Homework

About two weeks before the last day of school, we each set out a basket that we will use to take items home. We have agreed that we will ONLY take home whatever will fit in this basket. Some of the things that we make sure to take home are professional development books that we might want to read for pleasure while sitting on the beach, pacing plans for next school year, the lesson plan book, and the teacher organizer.




2. Start Early

We started packing up about a month before the last day of school. We began by cleaning and packing away items that we knew we wouldn’t need to use again this school year. You certainly don’t want to be the teacher who is packing up your room on your first day of summer vacation. Plus, your custodian will love you even more if you gradually get rid of trash instead of waiting until the end.


3. Take Pictures

Before you begin packing up your classroom, take pictures. We refer back to these pictures as we set up our new classrooms. They help us remember how we arranged the classroom furniture or how we laid out our math wall. Over the years, we have taken enough pictures to create a photo album of classroom ideas.


4. Where Did You Put the Essentials?

Pack a box of the items that you know you will need right away. Scissors, glue, tape, and stapler are all very important tools that you will need to begin setting up your classroom. Once you have packed the Essentials Box, label it like crazy so that it stands out, and pack it in a place you won’t forget. You may even want to take it home with you.

5. Classroom Inventory

We always try to be prepared for the start of the school year. One thing we dislike most is when we are in the middle of setting up our classroom, and we don’t have the right color butcher paper or enough border to frame our bulletin boards. It’s frustrating when you have to put the task on hold until you can make it to the nearest teacher supply store to purchase more supplies.

As we pack up, we take a classroom inventory and make a list of the things that we will need for next year. This list comes in very handy when Target brings out the back-to-school section and Staples has their one-cent sale. On our list this year: A new set of Sharpie markers, no-fade paper in red and black, colored pocket folders, table caddies, and Mr. Sketch chart markers. I’m sure we will end up purchasing much more, but our list will keep us focused on the things we know we want to start the year with.


6. Clean as You Go

Mr. Clean and his Magic Eraser are our very good friends. At this time of year, he is our BEST FRIEND. As you pack away items that you will use again next year, take a moment to wipe them down. Give your scissors, caddies, chairs, manipulatives, etc. a bit of a face-lift before you put them to work again next school year.







7. Level Your Books

Before packing up the classroom library, we go through and reorganize our books according to levels or themes.  We put them in baskets, and they are ready to pull out and use the first day of school. Again, it takes a little more time, but you will be thanking yourself when the new school year rolls around and you have very little prep to do!





8. Use Giant Ziploc Bags

These bags are great for keeping your themed units or seasonal items all together. Use them to hold your books, lesson plans, charts, posters . . . you name it! Not only does it keep all of the resources for that unit together, but it makes them very easy to store. Using the giant bags also helped when the roof leaked in one of our classrooms.  The cabinet was soaked and so was everything in it! Luckily, those bags kept our units from being damaged.



9. Organize the Cabinets

At the end of the year, we feel like just getting out of there as quickly as possible. However, if you take the time to organize and label your cabinets and storage shelves for next year, you will have a much easier time when it comes to setting up your classroom. When we leave, our cabinets are all ready to use the first day of school. We will only have to do some planning and put up a few bulletin boards. If you do this, there'll be no more spending days getting your classroom set up!


10. Purge

As you reorganize your cabinets, get rid of things that you haven't used.  Those meeting notes from 2008 can go in the trash! Resources you were given by a veteran teacher your first year that you have never touched . . . pass it on. Over the years, teachers tend to collect way more than they should. Take the time to go through and pull out the stuff you do not need.  We have a table set up in our staff room where teachers pile up their "free stuff." Anything not taken is usually donated to a local organization. Please don’t let your classroom be the reason the TLC channel begins airing episodes of "Hoarders in the Classroom." The end of the school year is the perfect time to get rid of the junk you CAN live without. The more you get rid of, the less you have to pack!

We're almost done!

For more end-of-the-year tips, see Brent Vasicek's post "Your Closing-the-Classroom Checklist." And if unlike us, you don't move every year, you'll want to read Alycia Zimmerman's "Tackling My Junk Drawers (And Closets, Shelves . . . )." 

Are you moving classrooms? What are your best packing tips? Do tell . .


I use fabric on my bulletin boards--won't fade or tear, use year after year, and you can find cute fabrics!

I teach in a year round school. We move classrooms every nine weeks. Organization is key! We are given one cabinet and one filing cabinet. Many of us have it down to a science. Me, I have two boxes for each nine weeks. I take those two boxes to school when I track in and the others stay in my garage. Year round school forces you to purge and stay organized!

I decorate my bulletin boards in June for September and then cove them with plastic. In Sept. You would take the plastic off and you have one less thing you have to do

Great tips! I have been procrastinating with packing my stuff, knowing that I will want to begin vacation immediately once the kids leave. I will spend some time purging the next few days!

hello, thanks for the tips!

Awesome tips! By the way, you can purchase those giant ziploc bags at the grocery store on the shelves with all the other ziploc bags. I'm guessing KMart, Target, and Walmart also carry them. I like to use the crates for packing up. I know they're not waterproof, but they hold up better than boxes. If you get the right ones, you can also hang both letter and legal size folders. I also color coodinate everything in my classroom by subject. For example, math is red. I give the students red folders, all my binders for math are red, the crates, buckets, and baskets of manipulatives are red. Besides labeling, it's a great way to see what's what at a glance.

As to the advice to start packing one month early, would've been nice to see this article before the last week of school ... :) Hello from Texas!

...wondering where to get the large Zip-locs and what's your tip for storing them?

I find those space saver/under the bed kind of storage bags meant for comforters and towels work best. you can vacumn the extra air out and sort of shrink wrap them. a bit of on investment but they are durable and reusable year after year.

You can buy the giant ziploc bags at the grocery store on the shelf with all the other ziploc bags.

Hoarders in the classroom...that's hilarious!

My kiddos helped take down all the math stuff just before our state tests....very handy!

What about coupons for the Mr. Clean Magic erasers? Teachers are broke!

It's always my goal to have my first week copies made (letter to parents, course requirements, expectations and rules, basic vocab lists: I teach foreign language) and then I put them in a copy box and stick them in my car. They ride around with me all summer and are right where I need them when I go back. The copier is always broken the first week of school and my colleagues are driving themselves nuts trying to justify a PO to staples for copies. :)

great tip!

It is a good time of year to go through your classroom library and return anything that is a school library book. Every year My teachers find books in among the classroom library, that are school library books... and usually the kid swore they had returned the book to the school library!

As a librarian I second this!! At our school every library book, text book and piece of tech equipment has to be turned in. Please start this early and give it up piece by piece. There is nothing worse than everything being turned in on the last day and trying to move and shelve it all.

And all that you get rid of will be what you find you'll want the next year...

Great idea about taking pictures! I will do that this week!

Thanks for all the great tips :o) Wish my cabinets looked like that! Cool-looking classroom, btw. Must be a great place to work.

I like the idea about leveling the books before you go. Did you use Book Wizard to level the books?

Wow--I hope that veteran teacher's stuff that is going away isn't mine! Of course it can go--great ideas Jennifers!

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