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I feel like we are all over the map at the moment when it comes to Back-to -School. Some teachers are back in the classroom. Some are teaching online from home or from the classroom. Some like me are homeschooling. 2020 is sure going to be a year to remember. Even though things are chaotic and, in many ways, up in the air, there are several things that we can do to help organize our lives. So I thought I would write a post about some organizational hacks that might help ease your anxiety while teaching this year. All that said, some of these tips might not be useful for everyone because everyone’s teaching circumstances are different this year. But hopefully you can take away a few helpful ideas to try.
1. A “While You Were Away” Binder or Folder
Inevitably, a student is going to be away one day from your class. The next day they will return to class and asked “What did I miss?” If not prepared, this question can throw you for a loop. Typically, we are so focused on the present day's lessons that we have already forgotten about what we did yesterday. Trying to go back and recall all the activities and worksheets that were completed can be time consuming and distracting from what needs to be accomplished today. So the next time a child is absent, simply stick a “While You Were Away” binder (or manila folder) on their desk. Then when your student helper is passing out papers, have them place a copy into the binder. That way, when the student returns, all of the activities and paper are ready and waiting for them! The student can take the binder home and bring it back the next day. It's also nice if a parent stops by at the end of the day to pick up their other children and can grab the missed work so their child doesn't get behind.
2. Keep all your Week's Activities in One Place
I always like to do all of my photocopying for the following week on the Friday prior. A great way to organize these papers is by putting them into a simple drawer system like the one pictured above. Label the drawers Monday-Friday. In each drawer, keep any papers that will be needed for the week. All of the Monday activities go in the Monday drawer. On Monday morning, you can just pull the drawer open and you're ready to go!
3. Store Playing Cards in a Soap Dish
Do your playing cards end up all over your classroom when students are done using them? They can get unorganized and mixed up so quickly! The boxes they come in also rip easily and can get dirty and gross. So to avoid the frustration just purchase a plastic soap dish from the dollar store and stick your cards inside. No longer will your students have to fiddle with trying to fit the cards back into the rickety tight box while bending all the cards in the process. They can just place the cards into the soap container and close the lid. No more frustration or mess!
4. Velcro Name Tags onto Desks
Do you spend hours at the end of the school year cleaning your students' desks with a scraper and Goo-Gone to remove the sticky residue left behind by their name tags? No more! Instead, at the beginning of each year, velcro your students' name tags onto their desks. When you get to the end of the school year, the velcro peels right off. No more wasted time and energy prying off old tape!
5. Grade Binders
Here's a tip from my first grade teacher friend who says, "I find that using binders for each subject works better for me to keep things organized. If I want to keep samples of my students writing, I stick them in the “Writing Assessment” Binder. If I want to keep notes on my students Show and Tell, I stick them in the “Language Arts” Binder." Here are some cute editable binder covers you might like to keep your binders organized.
6. Mini Tupperwares for Math Manipulatives
During this season of COVID, many students are not allowed to share math manipulatives. If this is the case at your school, purchase some mini Tupperware containers to keep each child's math manipulatives organized. Place any math manipulatives necessary in the containers such as dice, counters, etc. Students can keep their Tupperware in their desk for easy access.
7. Come and Go Folders
At the beginning of the year, laminate some manila folders. Then use these as "Come and Go Folders". If you have any important papers, send them home in this folder. They will be protected in the abyss of children’s backpacks. Parents can also send notes and papers to school for the teacher in this folder. At the beginning of each day, have the students hand in their folders. It only takes a few minutes to go through the folders for any notes and forms.
8. Student Mailboxes
Use mailboxes like these to hand out papers to your students. At the end of each day, you can quickly see if a student forgot to grab their papers to take home. It’s also a quick way to hand out forms and notices. Just stick them into the mailbox and have students collect them while packing their backpacks.
9. Dollar Store Bins
Coatrooms and cubbies can get really chaotic. Boots, jackets and lunchboxes can end up all over the floor. Pick up some tall tupperware bins at the Dollar Store. Each student gets one of these bins to keep any loose items they may have. Be sure to label each student's bin! This will help to keep their boots, mittens, scarves, hats and sunglasses off the floor. During this season of COVID, it will also help to minimize contact with other students’ things.
10. Guided Reading Organizers
I would often use Graphic Organizers like these mini book templates during Guided Reading time. I love that Graphic Organizers are generic and can be used for many purposes. Keeping a folder of graphic organizers by your Guided Reading table makes them easily accessible for students. Make several copies of each organizer so you're always ready to use them. This can also be a great timesaver from having to rummage around when you need a last minute lesson idea during Guided Reading. If you need a fun way to motivate your students to read more check out my Reading Incentive Program! Oh and here is a free bookmark to help spark some reading discussion.
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