Organization In The Classroom!

Organization, organization, organization.  You truly cannot be too organized as a teacher.  We share our work space with many little hands, receive forms that must be passed on, notes from parents that must be answered, not to mention the many papers we collect from students which must be graded and returned.  Here are some tips I use in my room to stay organized.

1.   Invest in hanging files.  When I began teaching, I had a plan to organize my files.  I purchased hanging file folders, and regular file folders.  I was shocked, however, to find filing cabinets without rails to actually hang files from. Hopefully your school's filing cabinets will have rails. If they don't, however, hanging file rails like these Adjustable Smead Hanging File Folder Frames are a must.  They are easy to assemble, and sturdy enough to take with you if you switch schools or classrooms.  I use hanging files themselves separated by subject (math, reading, writing, science, and social studies), and then file folders to separate my actual lessons.  This system helps me from year to year.  If a lesson is good, or if student work samples are excellent I save them from year to year to show future students.  When you're teaching an amazing lesson, it's hard to imagine that you would ever forget the way you put it together.  Trust me, you will.  By saving your work you always have a go to place.  In addition, I recommend having a substitute drawer filled with ready made worksheets.  This way, when you get sick and realize you have to make sub plans for the next day, you can simply pull what you need and get home to rest.

2.   Bins, bins, and more bins.  Truly we use bins for everything!  I use bins in my library to organize books.  I use bins to collect student work.  I even use a set of  5 stackable bins to organize papers for the week. Invest in sturdy inexpensive bins for collecting student work, and storing papers.  Garage sales, and clearance aisles are great places for finding used office trays.  They clean up well, stack together, and usually look the same.

3.   Use Friday to prepare for the week ahead.  I am always more energetic on a Friday, probably because I am looking forward to the weekend.  Like most people, I like to leave work right on time on Friday afternoon.  So, I use my extra energy on
Friday to prepare for the week ahead.  It's a terrible feeling to come into work on Monday with lesson plans that are half way completed.  The only thing worse, is having to cut your weekend short on Sunday night to plan for the next week.  I come into work on Friday morning with a to do list, and I make sure I complete it - even if I have to cut my lunch short.  My Friday to do list usually looks like this:

1.  Write next week's parent newsletter.
2.  Update next week's school blog (I actually just cut and paste directly from my parent newsletter).
3.  Write next week's lesson plans, and submit them to my principal.
4.  Xerox copies of next week's newsletter, homework assignments, tests, and any worksheets I know I'll need after I finish writing next week's lesson plans.
5.  Organize any copies I've made into five stackable bins on my window sill (one for each day of the week).

This list contains a lot, but most of the items are related.  I find that a lot of the same information
goes into my parent newsletter, my blog and my lesson plans.  Plus, on Fridays, I always have the motivation to get it done.  I enjoy my weekends, and come into work on Monday mornings refreshed, and knowing exactly what I'm going to teach.  The best part is, I never have to wait in line at the copy machine on Monday morning!  If this is too much for you to accomplish on a Friday, try starting on your to do list on Thursday.  If there happens to be no school on a Friday, I move my to do list to the last work day of that week.  Trust me, it's so nice not to have these things looming over your head during the weekend.

4,   Keep up to date with your grading.  Yes, there is always something to grade.  You will come up with systems that work well for you, when it comes to grading.  For specific time saving tips on grading, check out this blog post.  The most important thing to remember is always stay up to date.
That means that each week you need to enter at least one grade per student, for each major subject that you teach.  I know that my principal likes to see two grades entered per week in core subjects like math and reading.  That does sound daunting at first, but there are tips to make that easier.  In general, when I plan for the following week I usually pick one major reading assignment (like a test), and one minor reading assignment (like a guided reading, or homework grade).

Try to get as much grading done at work as possible.  One time saving tip I use for grading I take home, is scheduling it.  Doctors visits, hair appointments, anywhere I have to sit in a waiting room become planned grading time.  If you know that you will be sitting in your car on Tuesday afternoon waiting to pick your son up from soccer practice, make sure you grab a stack of papers to bring with you.  If you have to get your oil changed on Thursday, don't leave work without this week's writing essays.

5.    Honor yourself at work, have a set spot in a closet for your personal items.  Find a spot, preferably one that you can lock (or buy a lock for), just for your things.  We move quickly, and the day truly flies by.  You want a spot where you know you can find your purse, phone, coat, etc.  Don't leave your cell phone out - you will lose it. I never misplace my purse, coat, or phone because there is only one place I ever keep them.

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