I don’t know about you, but I can’t function in a messy classroom. And unfortunately, working with children isn’t exactly the best way to keep things clean. Because I am a huge stickler for keeping the classroom tidy, over the years I’ve perfected my classroom clean up routine for my students.
If you need help encouraging your students to effectively clean up the classroom, here are some of my best tips. Keep in mind, my method does involve a little bit of micromanaging. Normally I am 100% against micromanagement in the classroom, but with cleaning up, I find it is somewhat necessary; at least until students fully understand your expectations. Holding students accountable is the KEY to a successful classroom clean up time.
Set the Classroom Clean Up Expectation from Day 1
Getting students to effectively clean up the classroom starts on day 1. Students need to understand what the expectations are from the very first day of school. I not only train my students on where things go and what the classroom should look like, but I also take some time speaking about why it’s important to keep our classroom neat.
My students know that the classroom is our responsibility and that we are a team with the stewardship of keeping the room tidy. I work hard to make sure that my classroom is a place where my students enjoy being, which in turn makes them more likely to take responsibility for it. A strong sense of classroom community among students is important for them to take ownership of the room we all share.
Keep Things Organized
Set your students up for success by keeping your classroom organized! Make sure everything has a place, and also that students know where that place is. This will help ensure that students are able to clean up well! In my classroom, everything has a place, and everything is also labeled. That way, there’s never a question about where something goes! (Need some labels? I’ve got you covered! Check out these free labels in my TpT store.)
Create a Classroom Clean Up Routine
After establishing the expectations, set up a routine. How will students know where things go? How much time do they have to clean up? What is the room supposed to look like when they are finished? These are all important questions to answer in order to have a successful classroom clean up routine. Below, I share with you the routine that has worked well for me for several years.
I consider myself to mostly be a Type B teacher, but when it comes to classroom clean up, I definitely border more on the side of Type A. My expectation for my class is that no trash is left on the floor, tables are clear, and everything is put back in the correct spot in their table caddies.
The way that I manage these things is part of my table points system, which I detail in this blog post. The Cliff’s Notes version is this: I keep a running tally throughout the week of points for my table groups. They earn points for things like working quietly and being prepared. At the end of the week, the table with the most points wins a special VIP caddy to use the entire next week.
Students can also earn table points by cleaning up well. Every day at clean up time, I set a time limit for cleaning up. When time is up, I check every table thoroughly. I check the floor, the table, and the caddy to make sure everything is how it should be. In addition, I expect students to be sitting at their table quietly, packed and ready to go, when time is up.
My students know that I am picky. They know exactly how many of each item go in their table caddies, and also that I expect them all to be there. I’m also picky that everything must go in a certain spot in their caddy, as well. (I told you, I’m a little hardcore about this!)
The first table that is properly cleaned up, and sitting quietly within the time limit, gets a table point. In addition, I sometimes take away table points if a table is missing something from their caddy or took too long to clean up. Table points are a big deal to my students, so this has always worked like a charm for me.
I can’t stress this one enough: keep your routine consistent! Whatever routine you end up using, stick with it. Make your students follow it every single day. Make sure you are holding them accountable every day. I know sometimes you’re tired and running late and just want to go home, but those days when I rush to dismissal can easily derail everything. Seriously, it’s like they’ll completely forget how to clean up after that.
Make sure you are implementing your routine every day, and sticking with whatever consequences or incentives you’ve put in place. It will make all the difference!
Assign Student Jobs to Help with Classroom Clean Up
Students LOVE being responsible for things, so let them! You can assign particular student jobs during clean up time to help ensure that everything gets done correctly. Here are some ideas of clean-up time jobs you can assign.
- A librarian to make sure books are returned and the library is organized properly.
- A custodian to help with little messes throughout the day, and double check the room at the end of class.
- A trash collector that double checks that there is no trash left on the floor or tables.
- A secretary who helps sort papers so that there is no paper clutter lying around the room.
Make a Classroom Clean Up Kit
I also highly recommend doing is creating a classroom clean up kit. This is helpful so that little messes can be cleaned up immediately without having to wait for a custodian.
I keep the following in my clean up kit:
- Paper towels
- Disinfectant wipes
- A small dustpan
- A dusting mitt
- Lint rollers (great for cleaning up pencil shavings!)
I keep everything in a basket behind my desk. My students know they can ask me for anything from the basket if they need it. However, I don’t keep it where they can access it because I like to monitor whether or not they really need it. 🙂
I hope these tips have been helpful to you in creating your own clean up routine. Keeping the classroom neat really does have a positive impact on the classroom environment and learning. It’s more important than you might think!