Saturday, March 2, 2013

I'm in Purge Mode!

See this giant plastic portfolio? 
It is one of two that hold my literacy/writing posters.  In addition to one more literacy portfolio, I have five more for math, science, social studies, decoration, and a big ol' miscellaneous mess of stuff.  I've been stuffing posters into these portfolios for years.  The time has come to finally purge some of the posters that I just don't need anymore.

I began with one of my literacy portfolios today.  I took out each poster and started creating piles; writing, grammar, reading, etc.  These are just a few of the many piles.  You can't see the stacks I had on other desks and the floor. It was amazing how much was stuffed in that portfolio!

There was even a pile of posters I had made with my friends over the years. I seem to have saved (and even laminated) some my favorites.  Great, except that I tend to just remake them with my new friends every year instead of pulling out these.  Since they are some of my favorites, I snapped a picture of each and plan to make a section for them in my anchor chart binder  instead of hanging on to these hard copies.

Upon starting this task, my goal wasn't to just organize what I had but to purge what I no longer wanted or needed.  Teachers tend to save everything.  After all, you never know when you might need it! I'm no different.  However, in looking at my piles of posters, I knew there were many I hadn't used in several years and it was time to purge.  I began by following some simple rules and asking a few questions. . .

Is this an effective teaching tool?
I don't know about you, but put me in a teacher's store and I get giddy!   My love of teacher's stores is only rivaled by my love of office supply stores! But, those teacher stores have a special place in my heart.  I love the borders, the posters, and all the doodads you find there.Since I seem to fall into this glaze-eyed euphoria every time I go in, I've been know to buy a poster of two because they are just so darn cute.  Those are just  the fun, decorative posters and signs.  

But, what about those we purchase to teach or reinforce content?  I've bought many, many posters simply because the content fits what I am teaching.  Oh, teaching a unit on persuasive writing?  Wow, this persuasive writing poster shows different ways to structure the argument!  I'm buying it! And, laminating it! And, hanging it up right away!  STOP!  This is where we really need to think.  That poster may say what you want it to say, but is it an effective teaching tool for your friends?    Below is one of those posters that I had to take second look at.  Is this poster an effective teaching tool?  In my opinion, no.  It is not.

Take a look at the same poster from just five feet away.  Not so effective. Too much information, too tiny a print, and too hard to see.  Do you really think the child who sits in the middle of the classroom sees anything beyond some colored blocks?
Everything that hangs in your room should have a specific purpose.  Think about what the poster is for. Are you using it to be a reference tool for all to use?  Is it for the whole class to use from their seats?  Then it needs to be fairly uncluttered and have larger print.  Is it to hang next to a center station where your friends can get a closer look?  Then, maybe a smaller poster with more print is appropriate.  Is it kid friendly?  I think this is actually one of the most important questions to ask.  Step back and look at it through the eyes and age of your students.  I think when you do you will be surprised at how many "teaching" posters are actually not so kid friendly.  They may look cute, but are often overloaded with content or so decorative the purpose is lost.   Ask yourself if the content presented in a way that is visually uncluttered yet appealing and easily understandable to your friends.  For an effective teaching tool, you have to be able to answer yes.

Can I re-purpose it?
I'm embarrassed to say I did hang that part of speech poster in my classroom for a few years early on in my teaching.  Looking at it now, I know it didn't do much for anyone.  There is still life for this poster, though.  I cut it up into the different boxes and am planning to make some grammar based center activities with them.  Each one becomes a great reference card, easily hand-held or kept on a desk, to use with the activity.  Then, it becomes an effective teaching tool.

I also had a laminated poster which showed two cause/effect graphic organizers, and I just never used it.  This poster was also re-purposed when I cut the two organizers out and put them in a folder along with an article from Scholastic News.  It become another center activity that allows my friends to use a dry erase marker and a colorful graphic organizer to identify cause and effect. Sure, I could have just put a photocopy of the organizers in the folder.  But, we all know how much our friends love those dry erase markers.  Just that simply, re-purposing these organizers in this way upped the interest level for this activity.

Could someone else use this?
Give It Away!  As I was sorting, I made a pile of posters that were still in good shape, but I knew I wouldn't be using.  Posters I might have hung in my room years ago are not necessarily posters I would find useful in my room today.  Over the years, our teaching style evolves. Just as our students grow as learners, we grow as teachers.  Materials that might have fit my teaching style before just don't cut it now.  

However, that doesn't mean it won't be a perfect fit for another teacher. I had these great genre posters for many years.  They are still in great condition, not faded, and visually engaging.  While they aren't good for my classroom, they are perfect for our school  library.  I quickly gathered them up and took them down to our media specialist.

It's also nice to make materials like this available to those new teachers with limited supplies and funds. There may also be teacher new to the grade level that are in need of materials.  With that in mind, I created a pile of posters that I put in the teacher's lounge with a sign encouraging anyone to take anything they might want.  

When in Doubt, Throw it Out!
No, really!  I mean it!  THROW IT OUT!   In going through my pile, I kept an eye out for any poster that was faded, torn, stained, littered with stapler holes, or just too raggedy looking.  It wasn't easy because some were loved posters that I didn't want to get rid of.  However, did I want to hang something in my room that looked raggedy?  No!  I took a picture of a couple of posters that I plan to either repurchase or make myself, and then tossed the rest.  It may not be the most economical answer, but I know me.  I would only see the messy parts every time I looked at the poster and it would irritate me to no end.  A little nuts, I know! 

Finally, remember that curriculum changes as do the grades and populations we teach. If you've changed grade levels over the years, you probably also have materials you haven't used in a while.   I know I had posters from the content areas that cover subjects I haven't taught in years.  I could hang on to them forever just in case I teach it again sometime.  But, to be honest I just don't have the storage space or really want to store all that extra stuff.  So, all those rules above still apply!  Do I need it?  Is it too raggedy to keep?  Is it an effective teaching tool? If I do teach this again, would this be something I would want to hang up?   It just may be that the give away pile or the recycle bin are options to seriously consider.

As for me, one portfolio purged and only six more to go!  
How often do you purge materials in your classroom?


  1. I love purging! I moved schools this fall and did a big purge but still have a bunch of boxes in my basement. I definitely need to go through them soon.

  2. I felt so great yesterday because I have gone through 3 filing cabinet drawers and I threw away at least a full drawer. It's amazing what you accumulate! We have been doing the Common Core for almost 2 years and a lot of the things in my drawer were not hands on activities that I wanted to do. I now have 2 more filing cabinets to tackle!

  3. Hi Nancy:
    I think I have almost every one of the commercial-made posters I could see in your pics. This post has motivated me to tackle that "bottom drawer" in my classroom... You know the one: The big drawer large enough to hold posters...

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  4. What a great post. I just spent the past 2 days reorganizing one of my cabinets and two of my shelves in my room and it's motivated me to tackle some more areas I've been neglecting. Thanks for the added motivation. I'm pinning your post now.

    ✰ Stacy

    Simpson Superstars