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Ask An Expert: How To Organize For My Classes when I Teach Online

January 24, 2021

Are you a teacher teaching remotely online? Are you struggling with keeping all your prep and notes together and on hand while teaching online? In today’s post of Ask An Expert, Pam from the U.K. writes to me because she too is teaching online from home during lockdown and is finding the task of where and how to keep all her student’s prep and notes organized and on hand.

PROBLEM: How to organize my student’s planning notes and supplies while teaching online.

I am currently working from home in the lockdown in my small flat.  I don’t have a separate space for work and I’ve been struggling with how to manage and organize all my paperwork for the classes I teach.  

I work for different schools/groups, each with lots of paperwork, and normally my work takes place in a schoolroom with children.  I have recently bought a new filing cabinet to help me organize all the materials I need but am finding it hard to get everything filed. Each student requires different tools and paperwork. Sometimes I need to pull together things like picture books and small activities and I want to keep these with my planning notes for the sessions I deliver online.  Any ideas about organizing and getting all my materials together would be great.  From Pam in the U.K.


Hi Pam,

Thank you for reaching out to me. There are so many educators who are experiencing this same issue. So, firstly know that you are not alone! Secondly, I can help you!

Your main struggle is with managing the supplies for the day’s/week’s classes. So, in essence, you are looking for a solution for current and active storage, ideally in your lovely new filing cabinet.

  • You need to pull books, small activity tools which are of different sizes and shapes.
  • The items you need to pull already have a permanent storage location (books on a shelf, activity tools in a basket, and planning notes in the filing cabinet).
  • Their storage is temporary. After they have been used they will be put back where they are always stored.

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Filing cabinets are great: they store lots of documents, they don’t occupy much floor space, they are easy to use, all documents in one place, they are secure (they can be locked and are fairly fireproof). However, filing cabinets are designed for storing information and documents on a permanent basis generally. The items you need to store for your classes are on a temporary basis because, after the day’s classes, they will be returned to their shelf, basket, or filing cabinet; so we need to make a tiny adjustment to your filing system for this to work.

All you need to get is reinforced Extra Capacity Hanging Files (2-inch capacity). Here is a photograph of some I had at home for you to get an idea. These hanging folders are great because they can hold all kinds of media and because they have sides nothing falls out.

Whether you label them by student or class is your decision. What is important here is that you set aside a block of space in your filing cabinet for “Class Preparation”. At the end of every school week, go through these hanging files and make sure they are completely emptied and the contents returned to their original storage area.

Poly Envelopes

Another solution if you either don’t have a filing cabinet or there is not enough room in the filing cabinet you have is to use plastic file folder envelopes. You can easily store these in a drawer, a cupboard, or on a shelf. There is quite a choice out there. The important thing is that they are sturdy enough, big enough, and can expand to hold what you need. Here’s a link of what I am suggesting that I found on Amazon Canada’s site: Poly Envelopes. I like these in particular because they have a little sleeve inside so that you can insert the student’s name or class. And every week you can easily change it up.

The Virtual Classroom v. A Real Classroom

It has been a huge learning curve for educators working remotely online with their students. Like most teachers in March of last year, your focus when the lockdowns first happened was to learn the new technology and get accustomed to connecting through a computer screen.

The next step, which is what you are now experiencing, is the difference between a real classroom and a virtual one. In a real school environment, you would pull each student’s resources from your supplies and then bring them into the class with you. In a real classroom, if you have to go get some extra resources for the student, all you need do is go get them from the back for the classroom. The students see you at all times, even when you are not directly connecting with them personally. There is no break of focus, no break in connection.

The virtual classroom is tight – it’s all in one screen. You have to keep your eyes connected. You can’t disappear off to grab a picture book. With children, you have to stay present both for their safety and because they get distracted easily. I have a client who is a singing teacher. During the lockdown, she transitioned her students to online like you. She said it was going really well and she was enjoying the experience. However, at the end of each class, she noticed she was exhausted. Why? Because during the whole class she was looking directly at them. There was no “eye contact” break.

It is very intense teaching online. Not only do you have to maintain a razor-sharp focus at all times, but you also have to support the student with their focus too. Distractions in the virtual class are more disruptive than in real-life. Because of this, it is important to have all you need at hand. You need to be able to “magically” pull whatever resources you need (be it a video, queue cards, a toy) into screen on time and effortlessly.

A bit like on cooking shows on TV  when they pull out an already cooked dish that they prepared earlier – you too need to achieve the same seamless transitions with your class resources. On TV they do this obviously because of the time constraints, but also because they want to keep the viewer’s attention on the dish being created – if they lose the audience’s attention they lose their audience. In your case, you will achieve this by having your resources on hand in an organized way.

Pam, thank you once again for reaching out to me. It has been a pleasure and an honour to help you. I hope this helps you be more impactful in your classes as you pull all you need to support their learning journey seamlessly.


Don’t forget to check out my Pinterest Board which has even more ideas to help you get organized for teaching online!

You might find some of these blogs helpful too:

Free Professional Organizing Advice for you!

We could all use something to look forward to right now.  I want to do something that will add value to your life, that would help you during these confusing and challenging times. When you are organized there is less chaos, less overwhelm. An organized home can bring you a sense of calm, ground you, and help you feel more in control. It is one of the things that we can influence and control despite what’s happening in other areas of our lives or communities.


I am offering a “mini organizing consult” for free, share it with your co-workers, family, friends, on Linkedin, post it on Facebook, or Instagram, or Twitter. Let everyone know because I want to give back and help you. Now is when people really need it.

All you need to do is complete this FORM, attach a photo of 1 area in your home or office that you need organizing help with. Every week I am going to choose at least one person to work with. Here are a couple of readers I have helped already:

How To Organize For My Classes when I Teach Online

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