Today at Kelly's Korner, we are showing our organizational tips. My house is anything but organized right now (Spring Break/Spring Clean 2011 starts TODAY), so I decided to show off some of my organizational tips for the classroom instead. My first two years of teaching I was on a little portable cart, so I had to learn early on how to keep my junk together. Today, I can honestly say that my classroom is as relaxing and neat as any other "space" in my life (at least most of the time). I'm proud of that.
I'm just going to sort this into a couple of categories. I realize these won't apply to every teacher (I teach high school English); but since it seems like a lot of teachers follow my blog, I'm hoping it will at least be interesting and a little relevant. If it isn't... Well, I'm sorry in advance!
1. Classroom Supplies
I keep all of my classroom supplies in labeled containers on a large table at the front of my classroom. I snagged this table a couple of years ago at the beginning of the school year from a teacher who was getting rid of it. Best.decision.ever. Students always know where they can find materials, and there is never an excuse for not doing an assignment because you didn't come to class prepared. Plus, I copy all of my hand-outs etc. a week in advance and use this table to keep everything stapled, hole-punched, and ready to be distributed as needed. (I do this on Friday so I can walk in Monday ready to go.)
2. Lesson Plans
I use a very basic lesson plan template with the unit title and days of the week across the top. Then, for each day, I list the state standard and the assignment, activities, and homework. Although I occasionally have to revise this mid-week, for the most part, I stick to it. Not only do I post these weekly lesson plans Monday morning on the internet (Blackboard), but I also keep them posted in the front of the room at all times. This bulletin board is a popular hang-out spot for students as they enter the room.
I also organize binders for each class for each nine weeks. Inside the binder, I keep my lesson plans as well as all the hand-outs, notes, quizzes, tests, power point slides, etc. that go along with each mini-unit (which is separated by a tab). At the front of the binder, I keep a checklist with the primary objectives for each nine weeks so that I can be sure to pace myself and stay on track. (I'm really hoping that this system will come in handy when I am out on maternity leave at the beginning of next school year.)
3. Make-Up Work
I keep this cute little Target accordion file in the front of the room. If a student is absent when I hand-out any type of assignment, I simply put his/her name on the top of it and file it behind the correct class period. I also have a spot on my attendance record where I write in any work that needs to be made-up. I check both of these places every period of every day to make sure work gets made up. It works like a charm!
4. Missing Work
Let's be honest. Kids miss assignments. Not because they are absent, but because they just don't care. (Or, perhaps 1% of them actually has a good excuse.) A colleague showed me this idea during student teaching and it has become one of my "most shared" concepts. THE YELLOW SHEET.
On a due date, if a student does not have his/her assignment, he/she must fill out one of these yellow sheets and turn it in in place of said assignment. I call this the "walk of shame" to retrieve the yellow sheet. It asks for basic information like the assignment title, due date, and student signature. I keep this in my stack of papers and, as students turn in their late work, use it to record the actual date the assignment is turned in and the number of points deducted. (Our school policy is 10% per day.) Then, I detach the bottom portion of the sheet to staple to their assignment and keep the top portion for my records. If the assignment never comes in, a zero is recorded in the grade book and the yellow sheet gets filed. These work GREAT on parent teacher conference day and help to keep me fair.
The Yellow Sheet concept has become quite popular, so I've posted a JPEG image that can be opened and printed (below) as well as a PDF version here.
A few little details that don't really fit into a category:
- If you can, buy one of these filing totes. (Mine is from Target a few years ago.) I keep all of my papers-to-be-graded in here sorted by class. Haven't lost a paper to date even during the inevitable transport from my couch/bed to my classroom. (Knock on wood.)
- I keep a to-do pile on my desk and try to clear it by the end of each day (or, at the least, week). I also keep e-mails marked as "unread" in my inbox until I have responded to them or handled them appropriately. I usually do this as close to when I receive it as possible so the list doesn't pile up. And, I use my Lily Pulitzer planner like a champ both at work & for my personal life! Don't know what I'd do without it!
- Finally, I straighten my classroom every.single.day before I leave. When I come in in the mornings (which, let's be honest, is usually late) the room looks as good as new, and everything is ready to go for the day. Here are some pictures of my classroom yesterday. (You can compare them to my beginning of the school year pictures here. Really, not too much difference.)