General Tips: Touch a piece of paper ONCE. File it, record it, hang it up or throw it out, but don’t move it from place to place. At the beginning of the year, have students fill out index cards with their basic information and class schedule. Often times, parents do not update school records in the guidance office and the student information in your computer may not be accurate. If possible, go back to school shopping for your classroom. Stock up on basic supplies when the stores are offering back-to-school sales. You will save money in the long run.
General Tips: (cont.) When you get your student roster, take the time to make a folder for each child in your e-mail inbox. This allows you to drag and drop any correspondence from the parent, guidance office, school office or administrator. You will still have a record of the e-mail without having it clog your inbox. If you don’t have e-mail at your school, make a file folder for each student and keep them alphabetized in your filing cabinet. You can do the same thing as above, but the old fashioned way. Quick tip: At the end of the year, turn all the file folders inside out and re-use them for your students next year to save money!
General Tips: (cont.) Order a rubber stamp of your name at your local office supply store. Stamping “Mrs. Jane Smith” on hall passes, progress reports, reading logs and course registrations will save you a lot of time! Look at your “to-do” list and allocate some responsibility to students. If you need to empty your own trash and clean your own chalkboard, consider giving students some of these tasks. Find other teachers who teach the same class as you and share lesson plans, class ideas and grading strategies. The more you share with each other, the less you have to create on your own.
General Tips: (cont.) Utilize your bulletin boards. Don’t spend a ton of time on these to make them look pretty and seasonal. Do something with them to make your life easier! Use them to announce upcoming events, teach current vocabulary, display diversity, list homework assignments, show class rules, etc. They can look attractive while still accomplishing a task. If you teach the same class all day long, make a transparency/PowerPoint of notes and directions for the lesson. Don’t repeat the same thing six times! Do the work ONCE and then talk about the instructions via transparency or PowerPoint. Answer student questions, instead of reading the instructions to the students.
Organizing Your Workspace: Analyze your workspace. Do you have your own classroom or are you a floating teacher? Whichever you are determines your approach to organization. Floating teachers should request a cart from their library/media center to store a few basic supplies. Make sure you get some see through plastic containers with lids to secure your items and allow you easy access to your things. Ask each teacher that you float to for a small space in their room to keep a few things to lighten your load and to get them off your cart. Also, ask for a wall cabinet and a drawer in their filing cabinet, as well.
Organizing Your Workspace: (cont.) Stationary Teachers have their own classroom and have a permanent place to store their things. Use your classroom furniture wisely and don’t be afraid to ask your principal or custodial department if any additional furniture is available to best suit your needs. Ideally, you should have: a teacher desk and a supportive chair, student desks or tables, a computer work station, a reading library bookshelf, a teacher bookshelf, a locking filing cabinet (two, if you’re lucky), a locking storage cabinet, a student make up table and a bulletin board area. Assess your storage needs and allocate your furniture and space accordingly.
Organizing Your Workspace : (cont.) Here are some simple suggestions to help organize your desk and surrounding space: Invest in a desk calendar/blotter with large squares to write in meetings, parent conferences and due dates. You’ll always be able to see your week events at a glance. Keep your basic supplies on your desk (things you use every day). If you don’t use it every day, put it in a drawer and out of your way. Purchase some simple organizers (baskets or desk trays) and use them to get papers off your desk. Label them “Inbox, Outbox, To Do, To Copy and To File”.
Organizing Your Workspace: (cont.) Keep your “important binder” close by for quick, easy access to essential school information. Ask your school custodian for an extra filing cabinet. If they don’t have any, look for garage sales or on the Internet to find great deals on bookshelves or filing cabinets to hold your files, papers and homework assignments. Make sure your desk is straightened before you leave each day. It will start tomorrow off right if you walk in to a clean work space.
School Information Binder: Are you always looking for a memo or constantly misplacing something you need on a daily basis? If you put it all in one centralized binder, you can access things quickly and easily without tearing apart your desk. Prepare a large binder with sheet protectors. (You are too busy to whole punch every paper you get. Sheet protectors allow you to just slide things in quickly.) Prepare a place on your desk or area nearby (within reach of your desk phone), so you can grab it when you need fast answers.
School Information Binder: (cont.) What should I put in this binder? Your school phone directory Directions to access your voice mail Your state standards/school benchmarks Your syllabus and course curriculum Open House Parent Sign in Sheet Complete list of your ESL and ESE students Fire Drill/Bad Weather Drill Instructions Library/Media Center Policies District wide Test Dates Anything your school uses or references often
Professional Development Binder: If you haven’t already created a personal binder/file to organize all your professional development (PD) trainings or hours/points, please do so ASAP! Most states require PD hours to renew your teaching license, so organization in this area is essential. I recommend: Log the date, time, presentation title, presenter and the location of every session you attend. Keep any handouts distributed and jot down some notes you remember about the presentation on those handouts. If your district has a certification office and your points/hours are reported to that office, ask for a quarterly print out of their records and discuss any discrepancies with them.
Professional Development Binder: (cont.) Try to attend trainings offered by your district so your points/hours are recorded on site. If attending an off-site training, make sure you request to have the hours/points transferred to your certification or professional development office before you leave the training. Also, make sure you get the name of a contact person to follow up with in the event of discrepancies. Keep copies of all forms you fill out for yourself. When your teaching license is up for renewal, make sure you copy all the forms and paperwork before sending originals in to your state’s DOE.
Pre-made Forms: If you are given a form at the beginning of the year and you know you will use it a lot, make copies of it now and then store them close to your desk. When the time comes, they are within arm’s reach for quick access. Common forms include: Copy request forms Leave/Temporary Duty Elsewhere Forms Parent Contact Logs Bathroom/Library Passes Detention Forms Parent/Teacher Conference Forms Reward Certificates or positive notes home
Pre-made Folders: Don’t scramble around last minute putting together information when you can have it prepared in advance! I recommend you have the following folders ready to go within the first month of school’s opening: A substitute folder (short term leave) – put in class assignments for two days of leave. Also include necessary information from your school: bell schedule, lunch period information, fire drill procedures, helpful students, phone numbers of administration, attendance sheets and a class synopsis form so you know what took place. A substitute folder (extended leave) – same as above only provide assignments that can last for a week until a new teacher fills your position.
Pre-made Folders: (cont.) New Student Folder – anytime a student joins your class beyond the first day, they are at a disadvantage. They don’t know your policies, rules or class procedures and they are probably too nervous to ask. Take the time to make a few folders in advance so when a new student arrives, you can hand them the information they need to know (class syllabus, rules, your contact information, state test dates, lunch times, guidance procedures, etc.). This will save you a lot of time throughout the year as students come and go. Remember to touch base with the student a few days later to see if they had any questions about the folder’s contents.
Training Your Students: If you train your students to use the organizational systems you have in place, you will make your life a lot easier. Require the students to use the student station when they return from an absence. If you have the assignment calendar and extra copies of handouts in one spot, they won’t need to ask you questions about when they were absent. If your school provides student planners to the student body, require them to use them for hall passes and homework assignments. Don’t allow students to take supplies from your desk. Insist they use the student station.
Student Station: Avoid students taking things/supplies from your desk by setting up a student station in your room. Use a small table/bookshelf and stock it with some basic items. Here are some ideas to get you started: A large, dry erase calendar – make sure the date blocks are big enough to allow you to write what you did in class each day. This will prevent students from constantly saying “I was absent. What did we do yesterday?” Basic supplies: stapler, paper clips, ruler, hand sanitizer, band-aids, safety pins, pencils and pens. (Buying your own band-aids prevents unnecessary trips to the nurse!)
Student Station: (cont.) Baskets/Trays for Homework Collection – Instead of collecting daily homework, have baskets or trays on the student station, labeled by period/subject. Students can turn in their work as they arrive in class, allowing you more valuable class time to teach. Note: Make sure you pick up the work in the basket quickly or some students will attempt to complete the assignment secretly during class and turn it in as they exit the room. Additional copies of handouts you distributed in class. This allows students to help themselves to worksheets without having to continually ask you for assistance when they’re absent.
Seating Chart Ideas: Decide on a seating pattern that best suits your classroom management style and the amount of students you have. The four most common are traditional rows, u-shaped, full circle and quad seating. Seating charts can be randomly generated by your school’s grading program. If that is not available to you, use an old-fashioned seating chart that you create yourself. Quick tip: Put the students’ names on small post-it notes at the beginning of the year. Now you can move them around throughout the year and not have to re-write their names each time you change seats.
Quick Ways to Group/Partner Students: Buy a Deck of Uno Cards and randomly pass them out. You can group kids by numbers, colors, odds, evens, the list is endless! Play “Famous Pairs”. Students are paired up by finding their well known “partner”. Batman finds Robin, Abbott finds Costello, Lucy finds Ricky, etc. Animal Partners- create a sheet of animal clip art with approximately 20/25 animals. Put a line underneath each picture. Allow students time to sign each other’s paper under the same animal. (Mary signs her name under Amy’s penguin and vice versa). You can only sign each person’s paper ONCE. When the teacher says “Meet with your penguin”, everyone is automatically paired up and 20/25 partners have quickly been created.
Containers and Organizers: The possibilities for storage containers are endless! Check your local discount stores, dollar stores or even your own home. Here are some ideas to get you started: Pencil boxes, coffee cans, film canisters Video cassette case Baby food jars and baby wipe containers Photo storage boxes Ziploc bags (my favorite for storing chapter flashcards!) Clear storage carts on wheels for easy mobility and easy access to stored items.
Organizing Your Time: Arrange a detention wheel with other teachers. Instead of each teacher staying after school with their detained students, have each teacher pick a day to stay late and all other teachers’ kids report to that teacher on that day. Learn to balance your school life and your home life. Many teachers over commit themselves to sponsoring clubs, coaching or attending school events and burn themselves out in the process. Limit yourself to doing a few extra-curricular activities and leave it at that. Remember, it is okay to say “no”, if you have said “yes” before.
Organizing Your Time: (cont.) Consider adopting a homework “completion” policy vs. a homework “accuracy” policy. If you’re going over homework every day (and yes, you are supposed to do that ), there is no need for you to check every answer the night before. Scan the work, give full credit if the assignment is complete and then allow the students to make their own corrections to their own work when you go over it in class. Let homework be a “completion” grade and tests be an “accuracy” grade. This will give students a fair grade all the while giving you a well- deserved break!
Questions or Comments: If you have any comments or questions about this presentation, please contact Marcella Ryan, WGU TC Alumni Mentor, at email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org Please visit our WGU Teacher Blog and share your organizational tips and ideas at www.alumni.wgu.edu. Click on “Teachers College” and then choose “Teacher Blog” to post your ideas. www.alumni.wgu.edu