Classroom Environments: Compost or Clutter?

One of my friends, like me, is clutter-challenged. We’re simpatico not only because we’re teachers, but also because we tend to store clutter in “organized” piles or tote bags.

“Oh, I’m so glad you called,” she begins. “I just got through emptying 3 tote bags and you wouldn’t believe what I found!”

Then we’re off into a chat about the ephemera she discovered, its significance, and its relationship to people or events in past/present/future. It’s always a satisfying and wonderful conversation.

That’s what I mean by compost. Items unearthed give off the rich flavor of memories and experiences. But I can get frustrated in a classroom well before the tote-bag-compost-stage, when clutter appears strewn everywhere.

If clutter is in neat piles, does it count? Believe it or not, each pile has a theme.
If clutter is in neat piles, does it count? Believe it or not, each pile has a theme.

Therefore, I invented a game called “Twenty Things” for my students. Busy and creative classrooms are cluttered, and at the end of the day, my classroom floor was covered with paper clips, scraps, marker caps, glue sticks, and so on.

To play, each child had to pick up 20 things and put them away or throw them out. The 20 could be small objects, like popping a green pen back into its cup, or larger ones like books. It took five minutes because the kids raced through it. On their own, they expanded it into organizing bookcases and cleaning stuff out of the closet.

Afterwards, they worked out the mathematical results of Twenty Things:

25 kids x 20 things = 500 items

Five hundred pieces of clutter resolved! The game Twenty Things improves the classroom environment and delivers fantastic results. Why not let your kids try it at home, too?










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