No More Messy Student Desks!

We're about 6 weeks into school and the newness of the year is starting to wear off.  Our desks are getting messy with papers to grade, parent letters to answer, and post-it reminders to complete.  

And if your class is like mine, your students's desks are not in good shape either.  Papers are getting shoved into desks, notebooks are being pulled out at the wrong time, and work is getting lost.  Does this look familiar?

This desk wasn't even the worst of the worst.  I would be too embarrassed to show you that one!  

Well, first things first.  Make sure that small supplies are put away being put back into the desk.  That seems easy enough, right?  Yes, but so many kids need a reminder to do that. 

Also, if you notice in the "before" picture, this student had a few pairs of scissors in her desk.  One day, her desk was so messy that she could not find her own scissors and had to borrow a pair.  Well, that pair got sucked into the messy desk vortex too!  Make sure they only have their own materials in their desks!

Something that is very helpful is color-coding for subject areas.  I know it is common practice, but if you're not already doing it, I highly recommend it

In our school, we use blue for Social Studies, red for Math, yellow for ELA, green for Science, and purple for the Take-Home Folder. That might seem like a lot of folders, but having a folder for each subject really combats having random papers floating around inside the desk.  

We have our students keep spiral notebooks for each subject as well.  The notebooks are difficult to tell apart when looking into the desk.  To solve that problem, I have students color the edges of their notebook so they can see the color from the side.  

This prevents students from having to pull out all of the notebooks while searching for the correct one.  It wouldn't be much of an issue but the other notebooks usually get shoved back into the desk in a hurry.

I like to have student stack all of their folders and then all of their notebooks on one side of their desk.  Notice how easy it is to tell which notebook is used for each subject!

Another quick an easy trick is to write the subject on the text books.  This makes it much easier for students to quickly grab the right text.  This is especially helpful for textbooks that look similar.  

And, Voila!  A neat and clean desk!  A place for every paper.  A spot for each pencil.   Everything is easy to access.  It makes me feel so much better to see a clean desk!

Now, if students would automatically keep their desks clean!  Ha!  I'm pretty sure that is NOT going to happen...unless you make it a priority.  Simple verbal reminders can go a long way.  Also, setting aside time to straighten up once a week is helpful.

In the past, I have conducted random "desk checks" after school and left a note on the desks that didn't pass inspection.  

What other tips do you have to help keep student desks clean?  I would love for you to comment with more ideas!


  1. I love the idea of coloring the bottom of their spiral notebooks so the students can quickly tell them apart and grab the correct notebook. Thanks for sharing :)
    One Sassy Teacher

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  4. Thanks for sharing! I like creative and enthusiastic teachers, they can ease kid's life and help with some tasks, Unfortunately my teachers weren't so good and some tasks made me crazy. Essay writing, for example, is very difficult task, I remember I had to ask my cousin to write essays for me, as I couldn't fulfill this assignment and she did it good. I think you have all the chances to teach kids not to be afraid of hard tasks and succeed in their purposes.