Picture This: Labeling Supplies

I am no stranger to using pictures to label areas to help with classroom organization. My supply shelves contain some great photos, which allow students to help me properly put away supplies. This year, I decided to take this concept a bit further.

In the past, I have only kept pencils on the tables for students. All other supplies were only passed out when absolutely needed. This year, I decided to save time and energy. I wanted to put some basic supplies on the tables which will stay there all the time. This will decrease student movement, clean up and pass out time as well as my own running around like a chicken with my head cut off!

I decided on glue, scissors, sharpies, and pencils as the supplies we use most often in the art room. I organized them into two bins that sit on each table. Looks great, right? Sure, until the little hands get ahold of theses bins and totally trash them. Sad but true!


I took a photo of the baskets organized perfectly, cut them out and laminated them. Then, I attached them to the side of the basket using velcro.

This way, students have a visual reminder of what the tubs should look like as they clean up. They will not be allowed to line up if this basket doesn’t look like the picture.  Seems a little strict, I know. However, I really think structure and routine are the keys to keeping up any system. Plus, the little label gives me that organizational giddy feeling.

I am really hoping this will help with organization, students managing their own supplies and chaos in the art room. Remember, organization helps us save time to do what we love to do and what the kids need – MAKE ART!

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 keep going back and forth on what to leave out on my art room tables. In middle school, almost every student treats the supplies with respect, but a few furtively try to wreak havoc on my glue, scissors and other tools.
    I love the idea of a picture/guide to have classroom helpers stay organized. Thanks. I think I’ll try it.

    • Anna

      I think I will try this this year… It just got to be too hectic last year with students getting up to get materials and etc…

  • Wendy

    I love this–it gives me that organizational giddy feeling as well! Thanks for the great idea!

    • Glad you all like it! So far, so good the first week of school kids have pretty much left it alone. I’ll keep you posted.

  • I LOVE the picture idea:) I always tell the students something my grandfather always said. . . “Leave things better then how you found them.” That applies to people and things. I tell them that but a visual would let those hard trying students know exactly what I want it to look like. When it comes to helping they are are eager and willing but sometimes just need clear directions. . . this will save me a lot of time and energy explaining the mundane! Like “line the glue up like little soldiers. . . ” Now they can just see it!

    • I do have to say, after trying it out for 3 days, it’s worked so far!

  • What a great idea, Jessica! This is one area that I need help with. If I have your system, then I don;t need to spend time picking up and putting away : ) Thank you and enjoy your first day (and the new baby! – just read your other post). Have you gotten yourself a chair on wheels? That saved me when I was pregnant with my first child and teaching until the very last day!

    • Thanks! I am glad you found it helpful! YES! I got a chair on wheels, dr.’s order and it sure does help. Made it through the first few days ok!

  • I used pictures like this all the time and it works great! It helps keep the kids accountable – and all ages can ‘read’ the pictures.

  • I give each of the kids a badge (or tag on a string to wear around their neck this year because I haven’t been able to get hold of a badge maker at this school) and these different coloured badges indicate the jobs they will do for the beginning and end of the lesson. It is really easy to see who should be doing what and also if one area is not put away properly then I know who was responsibe and I can call them back to fix it before they are dismissed. I love the idea of using a photo to show them how it should look when it is packed away properly. I think I’ll give this a go.
    Here’s a clean up tip one of my collegues gave me. It is called the mystery mess game. I look around the room and find something out of place and call mystery mess. The kids scurry about puting things back where they should be until the mystery mess is discovered- strangely I never seem to notice it has been taken care of until the room is spotless, the kids love it and the winner gets a positive behaviour token or a sticker and rarely I give out prizes. Best game ever!

  • Connie Z.

    Just found this through Pinterest. How has it gone 5 months later?

    I teach HS Art and the kids like to cut anything they can with the scissors. I think when the adolescent brain is on auto-pilot it destroys without thinking.

    any further thoughts on what works for those bins?

  • Vee

    I have a game cabinet for my fast finishers. On the inside cover of the door are pictures that show how the games should be put away. The students always check the picture on the door to make sure everything is in the correct place. Some of the real “teacher pet wanna bees” always double check it.