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ESL forum > Teaching material > Oh, Lord! I have much too much material.    

Oh, Lord! I have much too much material.

[email protected]

Oh, Lord! I have much too much material.

I have been teaching English for about 14 years now, and I have made... and made... and made... so many (thousands of) activities that storage and retrieval is now my main issue.
Having split my materials into the following three main folders (hundreds and hundreds of sub folders) I now spend far too much time wondering what I have, despite the fact that I made 99% of my materials from scratch.
So, how best should I organize (re-organize) my digital materials?
I am sure that this is a stupid question and that someone, perhaps many folks, has already suggested great solutions.

Let’s say I want to find, catalogue and organize my “numbers” activities. I have to search though the three main folders and their subfolders: Junior high sets / Elementary sets / images and flashcards.

If you, too, have encountered and solved this issue, please offer a brief suggestion, including software options, not just “re-make all your folders according to theme and then level folders inside those.” Perhaps that’s the only option?

Yes, I can just do a file-browser search on the entire USB, but that is often less effective than I would like (because I may not have named every single file with the most ideal name, etc).

27 Jul 2021      


Dear Matthew, wish I could help. Been teaching for 27 years and made most of my teaching materials myself. Despite the fact that I am pretty well-organised, I spend most of my first week of vacation taking inventory of my materials every single summer. I have even given away bags of materials to my colleagues and sadly tossed some in the bin because I simply had no room where to keep them. As for USBs, they only helped while I had few things on them. Now I have as many USBs as I have boxes and binders, and what I am just doing right now is sorting out a spare hard drive on which I also have stuff saved. I have tried sorting them out according to levels, then age groups, then topic-related, then seasons... Well, it all works for a while.
What I can say to you is what I tell myself daily - keep trying:). Good luck.

27 Jul 2021     


I store or share on ESL.

27 Jul 2021     

United Kingdom

I am sorry Matthew, I cannot help you. I have made a good number of materials myself, downloaded hundreds from elsewhere - and I have NO SYSTEMLOL. I always used anthoni´s dingbats and every single time, I downloaded them from here! At my last school, where incidentally, I was head of department, a member of the team was so scandalised by my area, that he asked me if he could organise it. He spent hours on it, including a full weekend (well he was a Virgo). It was amazing! A real eye-opener, there were folders and categories and then sections within the categories and sub-sections within the sections. I was so grateful! It felt good, I´m sure that was super positive feng shui. But that was my school computer. My personal stuff was a mess and still is. Anyway, I am having a chuckle about it now and I don´t really care as I am retired. I hope you get some suggestions.
All the best,

27 Jul 2021     

United States

Well, I´ve never done this, but what about cataloging your Word documents in a speadsheet?  You could use the location feature in Word to show the file´s location (and copy the location path for each worksheet) into one column of the the spreadsheet. Another column could be the topic of the worksheet, the grade level of the worksheet, the computer or usb stick on which the file is located, and I am sure you can make a new column for any way you want to search. 
Microsoft office also has database software: Access. It may be needed if you estimate that you will run out of space in an Excel spreadsheet.
I found this video that claims to be able to manage records https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsGjdnT2hyI&ab_channel=MicrosoftAccessExpert  It is not free, but may be helpful?
  shows ow one teacher organized her files on her computer.

27 Jul 2021     

Olindalima ( F )

Hi, I am not a very hard working teacher, but, in the whole, I also had the same problem. I had quite a long list of what I felt was good stuff and I decided to open my own web and upload everything I thought might be useful again and again. Now, I am retired, but even so, when I find something good, a film, a song ... I upload it.  Here, if you want to have a look.

28 Jul 2021     


What can I say that has not already been said? Organization is very personal and it all depends on what you teach and to which levels.


I taught English and French for over 35 years so you can imagine how much material I had. I used the same system for each language making folders, sub-folders, etc and it worked. I’m a very well organized person and could not have worked otherwise.


This is my TEFL collection. Inside each folder there are sub-folders and inside those other sub-folders etc, etc which makes finding things so much easier. I taught business English, vocational English (specific groups mostly in companies) general English, children and adults so needed to file them separately.


But as I said above organization is a very personal thing! Hope you get some interesting hints here!




31 Jul 2021     


For general resources I use these categories and keep updating them.

1 Aug 2021     

[email protected]

Thanks, everyone.
For data storage: 
It seems that the system I have, given the huge volume of things I have made, is about as good as it gets, having read what other teachers are doing (have written here).
For physical materials:
That´s less of an issue, as, though there is a lot, it is a fraction of what I have made (USB content).
I have done what some teachers suggested - made Excel spreadsheets and Access databases of the content - but I feel I would have to include so much info about each thing to make it really work (instantly), that it may not be worth the time and effort it cost me.
If I come upon a ´perfect´ system, I´ll be sure to let you all know. 

5 Aug 2021     

United Kingdom

I have three main folders: begginer/elementary,pre-int/intermediate and advanced. In each I have the topics sub folders based on the Eslprintables topics and have obviously added more topics as appropriate. I save on hard rive and as and when transfer to a 1 TB OF EXTERNAL hard rive, as big as a hand, but I suspect you could even get smaller ones these days. JANET AND other colleagues suggestions look good. Good luck.

7 Aug 2021