Answering this question nearly became the road block to fully embracing the #DesklessTribe movement! For better or worse, there is a lot of room in the typical student desk and finding a space to house everything can be daunting. Our ‘new’ classroom does not have cubbies to meet this challenge nor does it have the square footage for us to bring them in. Clearing shelving and adding baskets was the solution, but which baskets and what procedures to teach?
The baskets needed to be durable: Reviews online of the more expensive book boxes were disappointing. While the measurements meant they would take up less shelving, the dimensions and the material limited what could be housed. Additionally, buyers and some of my colleagues reported that boxes with stabilizers weren’t effective, since the stabilizers tended to break. Sturdy magazine boxes were too pricey and their inexpensive counterparts were too flimsy.
My solution: Colorful baskets from the Dollar Store. I inherited a large number of these two years ago and have found different uses for them, depending upon the grade level and classroom. In third grade, I used them for the leveled classroom library, for “centers” during literacy rotations, and for housing math manipulatives to quickly distribute to partners.
The twelve blue or green math manipulative baskets became our new “desks”. For about $16 plus tax, I was able to find similar shades of blue and green and add to what I already had. The baskets are flexible, so they hold a little more than the expensive book boxes: Homework folder, agenda, 4 composition notebooks, a gallon-sized Ziploc (filled with several books to read), pencil pouch, and snack. Students reading over-sized books, like Harry Potter, can store those underneath the basket.
Each basket has a large number clearly displayed on it and each student has been assigned a number. Inspired by Ladybug Teacher Files and the Clutter-Free Classroom, I created the numbers in a Word Document, printed, cut, and laminated them. I like the “look” of the numbers modge-podged onto the basket as seen in some of the Clutter-Free Classroom posts; however, prior experience had shown me that baskets with heavier use ended up with peeling labels. The baskets were going to see use that they had never seen before, so I laminated the numbers and attached them with duct tape.
First day of school procedures included teaching students what to place in their baskets, which is not very different from a desk procedure. When students arrive in the morning, they get their basket and place it at their seating choice for that day. This lets classmates know which spots have been claimed, and it also lets me know who hasn’t arrived at school yet.
Once our instructional day begins, students place their basket next to a table leg to free up space on the tables. Students who want to move to the carpet or to the standing desk, etc. can choose to bring their basket with them or to bring just what they need.
Before we go to recess, students pull out exactly what they will need for Literacy and place these items on the table at their seating choice. When I call table groups, students take their basket and place it back on the shelving before lining up.
When we return from lunch, students pick up their Literacy materials and line up. As they leave, my afternoon class files into the room and picks a seating choice. There are no worries about students fiddling with items belonging to my homeroom, since the baskets are on the shelving and desks/tables are empty except for caddies filled with community pencils and/or dry erase markers.
This is how we met the “no desk”, “no cubbie” challenge! Based on the students’ survey results, the problem solving has been worth it! For more information on organizing student supplies when you choose “deskless”, check out Meghan Chapman’s post here.
(Updated 8/4/17: Below are photos of containers I saw in the Target Dollar Spot today. Unfortunately, there were nowhere near enough for a class set; however, the plastic seemed sturdy and they were priced at $3 each. If you’ve used them before, please leave a comment below to let us know if they’re prone to tipping over once filled with student folders and notebooks.)
Like the “Wish I Were Taller” font from Kevin and Amanda and want to make your own labels? Grab it here:
Get the Black and White Printable labels for your students’ containers here: