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Classroom Management, Productivity Strategies, Teaching Tips & Tricks   |   Nov 9, 2014

7 steps to avoiding the classroom paper trap

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

7 steps to avoiding the classroom paper trap

By Angela Watson

The amount of paper that we as teachers collect in the classroom can be staggering! And on top of everything else we have to do, organizing paperwork can feel so overwhelming that we just put it off indefinitely. Though organizing papers in the classroom may seem like an incredibly difficult task, it doesn’t have to be! All you need is a simple system that creates a place for each type of paper.

I can’t stand digging around in file cabinets, so I developed a classroom organizational system early on in my career that has helped me track and organize every single paper that came into my classroom. Over the years, I refined it and streamlined.  This system has saved me so much time, and it was such a relief to know I could find what I needed quickly in a room full of kids!

7 steps to avoiding the classroom paper trap


The idea behind this system is that there should be a one dedicated place for each type of paper in your room. I used a variety of easily accessible containers so that I only had to go into my file cabinet a few times per month. For me, it was essential that I could quickly toss papers into the spot where they belonged and not have to mess with file folders and other complicated systems that took 30-60 seconds to find and access. Teachers don’t have 30 seconds in the middle of a lesson: if a paper is going to take that much time to put away, we’ll just toss it on the desk and end up with a massive, overflowing stack that we don’t feel like dealing with at the end of the day. The next day, we keep adding to it, and before long, we’re stuck in the paper trap with stacks of materials covering every surface in the classroom.

I’m sure you’re wondering how it’s possible to break out of this trap in a classroom that is overflowing with paper: Where do I find the place for each paper? What kind of containers do I need (and how much is it going to cost me to get them?) How should the papers be categorized?Don’t worry–I’m going to spell out the answers to all of these questions and more in a guide that I adapted from my book, The Cornerstone: Classroom Management That Makes Teaching More Effective, Efficient, and Enjoyable.

The guide is called Avoiding the Paper Trap: A 7-Step System for Organizing Every Paper in Your Classroom. In this free PDF, I will show you step-by-step how I implemented the system and include photos of the materials I used. The system is pretty straightforward and I believe it can be adapted for any teacher at any grade level.

I’ve even broken the system down into steps so that you can tackle the paper overload in a manageable way if you begin in the middle of the school year. You don’t have to spend an entire weekend at school organizing your papers, or wait until summer to get things together. I’ll share how to get through this slowly so it’s not overwhelming.

I have already given the Avoiding the Paper Trap PDF away for free to my email subscribers–if you’d like to receive it, too, just enter your email address and you’ll get the download sent straight to your inbox. Enjoy!

Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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  1. I’m not receiving the confirmation email. I used the widget at the bottom of the post. I’ve requested it twice and received nothing. I really need to calm some paper around here. Can you help me?

  2. Angela,
    Tried to submit my email for the 7 step paper system. It would not go through. Please send this to me as quickly as possible.
    Angie Williams

  3. So thankful to have come across you tonight. I know you and your gifts are an answer to prayer. Thanks for sharing! I look forward to finally coming across what looks like a “one stop shopping place” for the various skill areas on which I need to learn or improve. So pleased!!! Thank you, thank you, again!

  4. I haven’t received the confirmation in my email. I checked my Spam folder…it is not there and it is not in any of the email sections Google provides 🙁 within my inbox. Trying to be patient..:/

  5. I read Awakened and completed the workbook. It rejuvenated my career and my days with my students are pure joy!
    Thank you! I would love to receive the PDF on
    Avoiding the Paper Trap!

    Thanks again,

  6. I subscribed a few weeks ago, but I have never received my copy of Avoiding the Paper Trap. I go to your site often, but had never subscribed. I’m looking forward to the “New Release”.

  7. yes! Please …help with the paper overload. This is my 3rd year teaching and I am still figuring it out. I appreciate fellow educators who reach out and lend a helping hand especially when the finances are low.

  8. Hi Angela,

    I am very interested in your resource! I gave my email address and received the confirmation subscription. However, I don’t appear to have received a copy of ‘Avoiding the Paper Trap’. Would love to read it though.


  9. Hello,
    I would love to receive ‘Avoiding the Paper Trap.’ This sounds like such a great resource!

  10. Hello Angela,

    I am thrilled to read about your organization tips. I have signed up, but have not received anything in my email. I even checked my spam and trash. I would love to read it.



  11. Hi, could you please send me a copy of the PDF on avoiding the paper trap? I am a subscriber, but if I received it previously I can’t find it. Thanks.

  12. Please send me a copy of Avoiding the Paper Trap.
    Thank you for that, and for all your wonderful posts.


  13. I was able to confirm my email and received the email that should have the link to the pdf, but it never connects or opens. Would love to know how I can fix it!

  14. I was able to confirm my email and received the email that should have the link to the pdf, but it never connects or opens. Would love to know how I can fix it!

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