My Day Would Be Chaos Without…

My Grade Level Shelves!

This is one little corner of the room I am not sure if I have shared.  My grade level shelves are pretty self-explanatory.  See them nice and bare and ready to go for the school year under the color wheel?


Each grade level is assigned a shelf. This is where I keep all of the materials I will need for that grade level’s lesson.  On these shelves I keep paper, tracers, special supplies for the lesson like a compass or black colored pencils. I also keep examples to show the student, visual libraries, etc. During the very busy days (see my schedule here) I can quickly grab what I need without fumbling at all. This system has worked for me for all of my years of teaching and I honestly don’t know other way to operate that would work better. At the beginning of the week I cut ALL of the paper for the week, take off things on these shelves we no longer need and “stock up” for the week’s lessons. Once I’ve done it, usually it will last me the whole week and I can forget about it!

What I don’t keep on these shelves is paint (that says on the counter by the sink) and lesson plans. My lesson plans for each grade level stay in my expanding file folder. Read more about that handy  little fellow right here.

How do you organize your grade level supplies?

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • I have REALLY wonderful shelves for each class to keep their portfolios. Each grade level gets a column of shelves. Below each column of shelves is a cabinet. This was all organized by the last art teacher. Right now those cabinets below the shelves hold paper but what a wonderful idea to use them as grade level supply holders!! I can never be as organized as you but I can certainly glean some things. : )

    • Kati- Thanks! Wink. I am not above shoving things in a cupboard or pile! Out of sight, out of mind… But for the most part I do this whole organization thing because I love and and out of necessity when my schedule totally turned a few years ago with no time between classes!

  • i totally do this too! it’s the best : )

  • Way to go! Finding a system and sticking with it is so difficult. When I was teaching, Spec. Ed at the elementary school level, I was also seeing K-5 students everyday. Thankfully I am an organized person but my teacher friends who were not had such a hard time trying to keep things together. I saw a pattern starting with being unorganized that lead to room chaos, behavior problems and teacher burnout. I always thought it would be great if more professional development was spent on helping teachers with classroom organization and time management. So much valuable time is wasted trying to find things that are out of place or simply being unorganized. Thanks for posting this.

    • I have noticed those same patterns and it fascinates me so much how so much of our PD is on such complex research in educational theory but half the time teachers struggle with the basics of running the classroom and will struggle to get to that deeper level. When I started teaching I watched EVERYONE and took the best ideas. I felt I had so much to learn. I don’t think colleges prepare teachers enough for the organization and management they will need to be a good teacher.

  • kim

    I have sort of an inspiration board in my classroom. I leave one large cork board empty and hang up any teacher and student samples and any other visuals that I share with my students. The only thing I do not put up there is the paper and supplies. I precut my paper and leave it on my cutting board table. The kids really love looking up at the board and seeing all the projects that the other grades are doing. Sometimes on their free time students will sketch ideas from other grade level projects.

  • Kstroberg

    Good idea!  I have art on a cart and I save all the paper box lids I can.  I label each lid with the classroom teachers name and in the morning I put in all the supplies for that particular lesson and drop them off in their rooms, somethimes I do it after school for the next day so that I am ready without having to worry about what is on my cart.  It is especially helpful when I have a sub, or when the same grades are on different lessons.  I can’t wait to get my classroom back in the fall!

    • I am happy you will have your classroom back, too. Thank you for the tips.

  • lisa

    hi. came upon your site and love it. Look forward to your emails. it is always nice to share ideas withother teachers-especially one  you share.  I am currently not working, but had been for 1 1 years and miss it and still look at blogs for ideas and keep on on current happenings int he art room. I hope to be back in soon!
     I too had an example and supplies ready to go for each grade level.  It was great and made it easy for myself or a sub if I had to be out to have what was needed.  I did not have shelves live you, but used 3 cardboard boxes left over from supplies.  Put a large bin that fit inside each and then one on top of each so it was K on top, first inside, the second box had 2nd on top and third inside etc… not perfect but definitely helpful!! I still need to find ways to organize but I felt my art room was pretty tidy and organized compared to some and it does help run a more efficient class!!
    Thanks for all the time you put into this-love it

  • mrsa

    I love you shelf idea! We, as elementary art teachers, are all creatures of the same caliber — trying to survive with so many different things to juggle. My days are repetitive in that I see at least one of each grade level every day, K-5 plus Special Ed. I stack 3 plastic 12×12 drawers (with 3 to a set) and use one drawer for each grade level, plus my own drawer of things to keep handy, and the last drawer for extra paper, etc. I keep samples, notes, special supplies for presenting, and more extensive plans than my plan book in each ‘Grade level’ drawer, so that all I (or a sub) have to do is pull out the entire drawer (I cut the stoppers off) and it’s instant change to the next class’s lesson. I keep a backup set of drawers behind my desk for the next project or lesson so that I don’t fall behind. This is also good for those times when entire days are skipped for holidays, snow days, convocations, etc. — even that “We’ve done that already.” I use a table and cubby’s at the front for “this weeks supplies”, and my bookcases at the back of the room for general supplies and those that a tables’ designated Supply Manager would collect for their table.

  • Emmie

    I have what must be one of the tiniest art classrooms ever…so I have organised my individual class work into large storage boxes. Everything we need for the week’s lesson goes into the box – research materials! artefacts, paper and evaluation sheets etc. The boxes can then store partly-finished work after the lesson, ready to continue the following week.

  • Susan

    Love the shelf idea! Now to just find the room. I have been using tubs and their paper often gets curled or bent out of shape.