Thursday, July 26, 2012

Classroom Organization Tip #1

Classroom folders.  I couldn't exist without them.

I have three plastic crates for hanging folders.  Each crate is a different color.

At the beginning of every year, I copy my roster into a word file and enlarge the font to a 16 point bold font. I print the student names out on card stock, and then cut them to fit the plastic tab so that each student has their own hanging file for my class. (These files are never to be removed from the crate.)

I organize the files by hour and alphabetize the students by last names.  Each crate can hold two different hours of student files.  (I usually try to figure out some way to create a middle divider, to separate two class hours.)

These plastic crates are located on a table close to the door, so the students can check them on the way to their seats or deposit a paper in there on their way out at the end of the hour.  This is a habit that I establish the first week of class.

These files are my lifeline to my students!  

So what goes in the files?

*A handout needed for class that day
*Graded papers, homework, and quizzes (but never tests!)
*Papers, agendas, or books that are left in the room
*Birthday notes
*Make-up work for what they missed when they were absent
*Work that isn't finished
*All team project work, so if they are absent--their team can still work
*Finished assignments to be turned in the next day so they don't lose them overnight

I began this storage system to stay on top of students who were absent, but have found so many uses for the files.  This is such a quick way to return papers or distribute handouts.

It not only organizes me, but it organizes them, too.

The challenge is removing files when students leave our district and making files for new students who arrive after the school year has begun.  (My TA usually takes on this responsibility.)  The other big challenge is making sure students empty their file folder and not use it for a storage wasteland.  (When they do that, they don't find makeup work or new handouts.)

The best tip to get them in the habit of checking their files regularly is something that I do on the 2nd or 3rd day of school.  I put this note on colored paper and place one in each folder.
After the first bell, I walk around the room and trade a sucker or a roll of candies for the slips of paper. If a student didn't check their folder, they don't get the reward--but they are sure to remember the next day.  Several days later, I repeat this reminder and usually everyone has remembered this time.  That is usually all it takes to establish the habit. (Though they look for slips regularly and nag me to "do it again."  It's all about the candy!)

Next organization tip: how I handle make-up work slips and what students find in their folder when they return from being absent.

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