Monday, November 5, 2018

While You Were Out...

"Did I miss anything while I was out?"  Anytime a student asked that question I always just stared at them for a tempting as it was to reply, "No, we all just sat around yesterday and did absolutely nothing," I minded my tongue.  I know they mean well, but I always got a kick out of the way it was if the planets aligned perfectly so that they would somehow get away with no make-up work responsibilities.

It is easy in a bustling classroom environment to forget to collect make-up work for an absent student.

I decided that I wanted to start a "While You Were Out" folder for each student that was absent.  I figured I could collect any work we had done in the folder and the student would be able to see exactly what they missed.  

This was a great tool, and it really helps keep up with the work, but it was even better once I learned to share the responsibility with my students.  At first, I thought about making it a classroom job, but found it easier to have the students sitting near the absentee help out!

Once we were done with our morning work, and the announcements were done, I would place a "While You Were Out" folder on the desks of students who were not there.  Now, as the year went on, the students began coming up and getting these for their neighbors who were absent.  (Woo hoo!)

At the beginning of the year, I had explained the purpose of the folders, and told the students how they would help.  I explained that if their neighbor was absent, they would help by being sure their neighbor got a copy of each sheet or activity they had a copy of, put the absentee's name on the assignment, and place it in the folder.  The students liked the responsibility, and using the folders stopped work from being shoved into their absent students's desk where they wouldn't see it.

As time went on, I made a form to add to the folder to cover any non-physical activities or assignments.  Some students were able (and excited) to help with this aspect as well, but I would sometimes write it or check it myself to be sure it was correct.  (You can get that form here for free from my Teachers Pay Teachers store!)

Now, collecting the make-up work is one thing, getting it done and returned is quite another.  To help with this, we had rules for the While You Were Out folder.  The folders were to stay ON the desk, never in it.  This helped keep them in one piece, but also served as a constant reminder that there was work to do if they finished assignments or activities early.   (In any case we had to remove everything from the desk for a science lab or other activity, we put them on the marker tray of the board until the activity was over.)

Depending on how quick the student is with the make-up work, you can have them turn in each assignment as they are finished (checking it off as you go), or they can turn the entire folder back in at once with all of the work.  This totally depends on your preference!

On a related note, I also kept a running log of who was missing work.  If I was grading a pile of papers, I'd note who I didn't receive an assignment from, or who was getting it back to do some additional work, etc...  These names went in a box on the board that said "Missing Work!"  This served as a reminder for students who had finished an assignment early and had extra time in class.

 Free While You Were Out Folder Covers and Form!

If you haven't tried using a folder for your absent students, I highly recommend it!  You can get 3 different designs for folder covers and the form in my store for free! Just click the cover above to go to my store so you can download the file. If you have any other tips or ideas for keeping up with make-up work, please share your ideas below!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

What Do I Need to Copy?

Since the school year has just begun, or is about to begin for some of you, I wanted to share one of the best organization systems I've used, copy binders!

Nothing like lesson planning and thinking to yourself, "Now...what did I use for that activity last year?"  I had this happen.  A lot.  I also would arrive at the copier with one sheet I needed for a subject, but I had forgotten another one I wanted to go ahead and copy.

Don't get me wrong, I kept files for every unit and even color coded my file folders so all science was green, all math was red, etc..  Each unit was labeled and had its own folder.  The contents of those folders were pulled and put back in (usually..ha), but in no particular order.  The problem is, they held anything related to that unit including references or posters.

I found myself getting frustrated, because even though this was "organized" it didn't help me in the linear sense.  I wanted a way to remember everything I needed to copy for math, and I wanted it in the order that I used it.  Enter my binder organization method:

Here are some of my binders, not all are pictured.

Looks simple, right?   Well, it is.  Even more simple is how I set it up.  Instead of sitting down and thinking out the entire year at once, I decided to build my binder system as I went through the year.  So, I bought a 1 inch binder with a clear cover (these are cheap!) for each subject (math, science, social studies, reading, ELA/writing, word study) and I also kept one called "General."  General was where I kept things like copies for their take home folders, letters I sent home to the entire class, field trip letters, volunteer letters, Scholastic book order forms, etc... It also held all of my beginning of the year info sheets!

I also bought a box of regular sheet protectors like these.  I should note, you don't have to buy the absolute top of the line for these...since they aren't being pulled in and out everyday.

I kept these binders on my shelf, and every time I made a copy, I made one extra and slipped it into a sheet protector in the binder.  I made sure to put it after the last thing I copied to preserve the order in which I used it.  Once the year was over, I had every subject with every copy I had made in order.

I placed a sticky note on the last thing I copied to make this even easier. (You can see some sticky notes sticking out of my binders!) Once the year was over, I could even put in dividers for each unit to make things more simple.

Now, I feel I should say that I still kept my file folders too.  As I said before, not everything was something that I copied.   However, I loved being about to come in, grab the subject binders I needed to copy for that day and head to the copier without having to dig through folders!  It also helped me get rid of things I realized I didn't actually use from year to year.

It may not be something you feel you need, but I just wanted to share because I loved having this organization method!  It helped tremendously and it was something I did over a year so it didn't take a ton of my time.  Time is too valuable when you're in charge of 25 students all day!

If you like my covers, you can get them along with matching binder spines here:

Click red "P" to pin, anywhere else on the picture to get the covers!

Let us know how you organize!  Have you found a solution that works for you?

Cheers and Happy Teaching!