Thursday, September 17, 2015

How To Be An Organized Teacher (Or Fake It Really Well)

When I have my end-of-year meeting with my principal, we go over a lot of my strengths and weaknesses. In every meeting since I started teaching, one thing has always been emphasized by both principals I've had:

I'm really organized.

To be honest, I just do what's comfortable to me, and that results in impeccable organization. (It also results in Type-A behavior like timeliness and irritability, but those are for another blog.) Some people marvel at how organized I am at things, and I just shrug. If I didn't do things the way I do, I would always feel behind.

Here are a couple of ways I keep my classroom organized, and keep my sanity:

1. Assignment Notebooks

When I started teaching middle grades three years ago, this was a must. The first year each child purchased their own, and that was difficult to keep track of. The past two years - and this year - my school purchases the same assignment notebook, and the families pay for them when they register.

I have three giant notebook sheets on the wall - one for each grade I teach. When I give an assignment, I will go up to the wall and write the assignment, making sure that the kids also write it down at the same time. I'm glancing at their desk, thanking each child when I see them opening their assignment notebook.

At the end of the day, before we fill our Take-Home Folders and do our classroom jobs, I have to check their notebook. They need to have completed assignments crossed out, unfinished assignments circled, and assignments that are getting checked over get boxed. (I do the circling and boxing as well, so parents can see I've seen it.) I put a star next to the day once it's checked over, showing parents that I've seen the notebook and know what they need to do.

This has helped me avoid losing homework assignments in the shuffle or students completely forgetting an assignment.

2. Morning Devotion

Every Tuesday and Thursday we do a morning devotion from our Christ-Light materials. I have them open their hymnal and Bible to the number I have listed under the date in the front of the room. As much as I wanted them to read the Bible passage, I kept forgetting whose turn it was to read!

This is a more recent addition, but I had a card with the students' name (and number - more on that later) at my desk so I could memorize their numbers. But now I use it to keep track of who is reading the Bible passage for the day. After the child has read, I slide the paper clip to the next name. This prevents me from using Post-it Notes to constantly remind myself who is reading.

3. Francine the Chipmunk

I saw this idea on Pinterest, and loved it. Francine the Chipmunk is our classroom mascot. I hot-glued heavy-duty magnets onto one side of her, and now she is a permanent fixture on our whiteboard.

Every day Francine is the one to look at for fun facts or important information about the day. She has told us that the Giant Squid has the largest eyes in the world and that a tiger's skin is also striped, but has also reminded us that Junior Choir will be right before lunch and school pictures will be taken this morning. She also wishes a Happy Birthday to whoever is celebrating!

4. A Calendar's Multiple Uses

Right in front of my desk I have a monthly calendar. It's mostly used to tick off days till the next big thing, but now I use it for a few reasons.

The first is to verify that I have sent out e-mails. I use Boomerang by Gmail to create messages and schedule them to be sent at a specific time. The classroom newsletter ("The Multi-Grade Monitor" - I had a hard time coming up with a good name) is sent out on Wednesdays at 10:00 a.m., and the Memory Treasures for the next week are sent out Friday afternoon.

But how do I know if I sent the e-mail? Well, I could go into Gmail, go into Boomerang, and look up my messages to be sent, but that takes a while, and requires me to grab my Chromebook.

Now, after I've scheduled the message, I just put a check mark on the date it will be sent. Now if I need to know if I've scheduled my Memory Treasure e-mail for September 25, I can just look at the calendar and see that yes, I have.

5. Student Presentations

I teach grades 6-8 music, and this year they are creating their own Google Slides (think PowerPoint) presentations on famous composers past and present. They signed up to present their composer on a specific date, and I told them I would send a reminder one week before their presentation.

How do I remember to send it? This is where the calendar comes in handy again. I write that student's name on the calendar for the date I need to send the reminder e-mail. When that date comes and I've sent the e-mail, I cross off their name to show that it's done.

They will e-mail me their presentation and I will project it from my Chromebook. In my initial e-mail I attached the presentation instructions, so even if they lost the paper copy, they can still find it online.

6. Mailboxes

I have two set of mailboxes in the room. Neither of them have names written. Instead, they have numbers.

When I was student teaching 5th grade in Greenville, Wisconsin, my supervising teacher used the number-and-mailbox method. Each child is assigned a number at the beginning of the year, and all the work they do needs to be signed with their first name and number.

When a worksheet is completed, they don't put it in one giant pile, to be sorted later. Instead, they go to the back of the room and put the sheet in their numbered mailbox.

This makes it easy for me to go back and visually scan the boxes to see who is done. If the 3rd grade had Math to do and three of them have handed it in, I can make sure that the fourth student is working on it and hasn't accidentally put it in his desk.

When work has been completed, then the sheets get put into the mailbox in the front of the room, along with Scholastic Book Order forms, field trip slips, and newsletters. At the end of the day the child empties his/her own mailbox and puts it into their Take-Home Folder. That folder (and their assignment notebook) goes home every day, and hopefully the folder comes back the next day empty.



So there are just a few of the many ways I keep my classroom (and brain) organized. Do you have any ideas you use in your classroom? Feel free to comment below!


I am Claire Nat! I am a teacher and write for TouringPlans.com. I write about anything that interests me - mostly music, Olympics, and fandoms! Follow me @CeePipes or facebook.com/blurbmusings. 

1 comment:

  1. Here is where we differ. You sure didn't get your organizational skills from me!

    ReplyDelete

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