It seems like some people are born organized (take my sister!) and some people, not so much (ummm, that would be me). But there are things we can do to improve our organizational skills.
Here are 7 organizational tips — tried and true — for organizing just a small part of your teaching life (not including closets and desks!):
Organizing the Paper Stack
As an ELA teacher, I deal with a lot of papers. A lot. (There are days I feel responsible for deforestation! But that is the subject for another post!) To collect papers, I have students line up in alphabetical order. I generally do this while having students march around the room singing the preposition song or playing follow the leader (even middle school students will do this!).
When all the students are in order (or something that looks like it!), I collect the papers. If someone doesn’t have a paper, she still must write her name on a paper and hand it in. Everyone gives me something. Then, with my stack in hand, I staple them together.
This accomplishes a few things:
- First, I get a paper from everyone. If a student is absent, I have the student after him or her in the alphabetical order write “absent” on a paper (along with the student’s name, of course) and turn it in.
- Second, stapling the pages together keeps the papers secure. No more “I turned that in” from students. I have either a “I don’t have this” or an “absent” paper in the stack.
It is a dream come true to have your students submit papers in alphabetical order. This accomplishes several things:
- I’ve tried the trays; I’ve tried the “pass it forward,” but I’ve still had that student squeak out of the classroom and then later tell me that he already turned that assignment in.
- If you do this as you stand at the door as students leave. Their assignment is their “ticket out” of the room, and you have alphabetically organized papers.
- When students are absent, you will love having a paper in your stack that reads, “Joe was absent today.” You can quickly write the assignment on the paper and return it to Joe to complete as soon as he is well.
- Your grading will be streamlined. As minimal as it sounds, being able to quickly enter grades as you go through a stack of assignments means you are finished entering quickly.
Keep it small
In my post about writing journals, I make a case for the minimalist student supply stash. Too many notebooks, binders, journals, etc. etc. are difficult to keep track of for both you and your students.
Too many notebooks, binders, and journals are difficult to keep track of.
Pare down the supplies your students will need. If you can keep writing journals in a basket in your classroom, that will make it less likely students will forget to bring them to class. You don’t want students to miss out on valuable writing time because they left their journals at home or in their lockers. If you can have students keep all their notes and handouts in one place, yay!!
Make five extra copies. Weird tip, right? But you know you will have one or two students who lose the homework and one who is absent. My apologies (again) to the trees, but a few extra copies will eliminate student excuses and frustration at making up missing work.
I have those plastic organization drawers that are labeled “Extras” for each class. After distributing papers, I toss any extras into the drawer.
If you have an Edmodo account, class blog, or other way to upload assignments to a server, by all means do so. Be aware of copyright restrictions, however, before you do.
Checklists are your friends. So are clipboards. I think of a checklist as a walking grade book.
I can wander around the room and check student homework, monitor group behavior, review progress on projects, or take attendance. Protect student privacy by keeping a cover sheet on top and making sure your clipboard always ends up on your desk. (If you want to see examples of checklists, I have a few on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.)
Work your plan
Be sure to have a yearlong plan — or if you can’t do that — create a monthly plan. That will help you keep your feet under you.
When you know what you’re teaching next, you’ll be better able to set up your work schedule for both you and your students. I know that sometimes a fun or exciting project can present itself, and you’ll want to deviate from your plan to do it. That’s great! Just make sure you have a plan for it!
Time has a way of getting by (especially when you’re having fun!), so keep your eye on your calendar!
Stay flexible & keep it simple
If at first you don’t succeed…revise your plan. Maybe you don’t need a teacher binder. Maybe you shouldn’t have all your lessons color coded. Find what works for you and adjust throughout the year. If you succeed at organizing just one area of your teaching life, you can build on that.
Keep your organizational plans simple. You don’t have to do “all the things” all the time.
I know we can all agree on one thing: being organized isn’t easy…but we can do it!