Everyone has a different way of setting up their classroom and using their space and I am in no way saying that my way is the best. I just want to share a few things that I do that have been very successful.
I have an awesome roller cart with multiple shelves that I use to organize student projects. This is my favorite piece of furniture in my classroom and most helpful. I recognize that not all teachers are so lucky to have something like this, but you could adapt the same organization technique to keep in bins, drawers, wire racks, etc.
I have this shelving unit sorted by grade level like so:
--PK student work (top shelf)--
--PK project examples--
--K student work--
--K project examples--
--1st student work--
--1st project examples--
etc, etc all the way to 5th grade on the bottom shelf.
For each shelf of project examples, I have a huge black folder filled with all 2D projects. On the edge of each folder, I have labeled "1st grade" or the appropriate grade so I can easily read.
On the shelf above this, I have two small folders labeled "1-C" and "1-B' for the two 1st grade classes (1-Cardina and 1-Bryan). In these folders are the artwork that students are currently working on.
I have been in many other classrooms where teachers have all of their projects from all of the different grades thrown together in tubs or drawer. While that may work for some, I find my way of organizing projects to be much more easy to manage and keep track of.
When students finish their projects early and have checked in with me to make sure that they have fulfilled all expectations for the day, they are allowed to do free draw. I have an area in my room that is labeled with a small sign saying "Free draw" and all students are aware of where materials are located and the process of using free draw time.
There are two boxes of paper. One has recycled paper and white computer paper. The other box has coloring book pages. Students may select one piece of paper from either box. There are also bins filled with large Crayola markers, thin Crayola markers, containers of colored pencils, bins of crayons, drawing pencils. Students grab a small tub, fill with their drawing utensil of choice and go back to their seat to create. Students may also do origami during this time. Students know that once they have their free draw materials, they are supposed to stay in their seat and work on drawing (easier said than done, haha).
I think that I got this idea from my cooperating teacher (while I was student teaching). I have a pile of 12" x 18" construction paper that I use as "messy paper." All of the students know it by name and know exactly what it is. We use it almost every single day.
Messy paper is simply construction paper that is put underneath art projects while doing anything messy-painting, glueing, oil pastels. This keeps the table from getting sticky and gross and the messy papers get reused and reused and reused until they are ready to be thrown in the garbage. We are more than half way through the school year and we are only on our third set of messy papers. I have a separate stack of messy papers that we use for clay projects too. During clay, I still cover the desks with plastic cloth, but the messy paper helps clean up processes.
If you don't already use something like this for your classroom, I recommend it. Super, super helpful.