Monday, August 28, 2017

Starting Off The Year Right!

Wow, it's here again...back to school time!

Boy can it be hectic, right?  Between getting your classroom ready, figuring out your roster, and the loads and loads of paperwork, you deserve a medal just for making it through the first week!

Well, I just wanted to share something that was a tremendous help to me in the classroom to help with organization of student papers from the get-go!  Once all of those student and parent information forms, volunteer forms, PTA forms, etc... are gone, then you'll have the daily assessments and activities that students will be turning in.  I wanted a way to be sure students were held accountable for turning in their papers, but in such a manner that I could keep everything in number order (alphabetized) in order to make grading (and especially recording those grades in my computer) a breeze!  

This is the system that I came up with after some trial and error.  This isn't a huge revelation for many of you, it's simple, but it worked really well!

First Goal:  Finding an efficient way to have students turn in papers where I can easily see who hasn't turned in work, but also keeping them in order.

My solution:  Hanging pocket chart with student numbers!


Why does this work?  Well, I tried paper turn-in's a couple ways.  First was the "mailboxes," you know, the stacked plastic paper sorters. With this method, while it kept the student's work in number order (I had my mailboxes numbered to keep them in alphabetical order), it took up a lot of room on my table.  Also, to see who hadn't turned in their work, you had to go over and look into the boxes to really tell, so I then tried a system with clothespins to see who had turned in work, but some mornings when we had 2-3 assignments, some students got a little confused as to if they owed work or not.

What next?  Well, I then tried downgrading with only boxes (paper sorters) for each subject.  While this reduced the space used, I couldn't see who didn't turn in work, and the papers had to be sorted into order each time.  This didn't last long at all...

Finally, we came to my final solution of the pocket charts with numbers.  Why does this work better than the other ways I tried?

First off, this pocket chart can hang on a wall or bulletin board, and takes up a lot less space on tables or my desk!  

Second, when work was turned in, I could see which pockets were empty (even from across the room) and could monitor to see if those students were on task, needed help, etc... Also, it allowed me to quickly write down those names that owed me that work before moving onto another assignment. This allowed me to remind them or help them during any down time or other opportunities they had to work on it!

After each assignment, you could either have someone collect them, or leave them in the pocket for the end of the day.  If you waited until the end of the day, this still worked great because I'd start with the assignment that was last turned in, collect them in order, write down what was missing...and it was all in alphabetical order!

Third, it was much more neat, streamlined, and tidy.  I was always a teacher who struggled with being tidy with my papers, and I wanted to be a good model for the students.  This was a huge help!

If you're looking for a pocket chart like that one (I actually received mine from Highlights magazine as a gift for participating in their classroom program) there is one on Amazon just like it here: Learning Resources Organization Station Chart.  (I am currently not an affiliate, so I'm not making anything off of this suggestion!)  Also, those cute little circle cut outs with their numbers can be found here in my TpT store!  I used these suckers for everything...even their cubbies!

However, if you prefer to have a little bit bigger pockets (that can also hold file folders, I could suggestion this one on  Amazon called Organization Center Pocket Chart.

But wait...what about after grading?  How did I get those papers back to the students to take home?  

Well, all the schools I've worked at have "take home folders."  This was a weekly communication method to send home important information and grades to the parents. So, it was important that I had a way to collect all of the papers for one student so that stuffing the folders was a breeze!  

(Note that my portable box got damaged during a move, and so I had to show my file folders in my crate - which can also be used!)

The easiest method I found was using a portable file box (one with a lid and a handle) and multicolored hanging folders that I numbered with the student numbers.  After grading a stack of assignments (that were in order, thanks to my pocket chart), I simply dropped them one by one from front to back into my hanging file folders.  By the time I stuffed folders for the week, I could simply start with student #1's folder, grab everything in their folder, and stuff it into their folder.

But wait...what about any papers that needed to be signed?  Well, as I filed away my graded papers, if the student had to get a paper signed (for me this was anything lower than a C), I stamped it with "Please Sign" on the top.  As I filed my papers, if it had this stamp, I simply filed it vertically so it stuck up out of the top of that student's folder.

That way, when it came time to stuff folders, I could grab the "Please Sign" paper(s) that stuck up (if they had any) and put those on the "please return" side, while everything else went into the "keep at home" side.   (For those of you who do this, I have a method for being sure those papers come back, and I'm going to share that in an upcoming blog post about take-home folders!)

Another reason I loved this file box was because of the portability!  If I had a ton of things to grade, I could take my paper clipped stacks of assignments, place them in one of the unused folders in the back, and take the entire thing with me.  It even held my grade book, my stamps, and my pouch of pens/highlighters. 

Mine was similar to this one by Sterilite, but this one by Oxford works as well and is a little cheaper! As for the folders, it helped me to have a repeating color pattern so the folders didn't look too similar.  My set is similar to these by Amazon Basics.  There are tons of color varieties around if you look!

I hope that if you are struggling with keeping up with student work from turn in, to grading, to returning in folders that this post helped you out!  The best thing to do is find a system that sounds like a winner for you and try to implement it as early in the year as you can to keep the students responsible for turning in their work where it belongs! 

Let me know if you have any questions and best of luck as you begin your new school year!

Cheers!