October 16, 2011

Organization System

It's Sunday evening and I don't feel like grading, so instead I'll tell you about how all of my piles of work are neatly organized.  Since it's systemized, when I do get some motivation I can get right to work without spending time figuring out where everything is.  That means I have extra procrastination time, great right?

In my classroom I have a magazine holder (cheap plastic thing from target that google can't find a photo of) with a bunch of folders.  It lives on a table filled with other supplies kids might need (extra paper, pencils, stapler, hole punch and sharpener) and the goal is to have students become self sufficient.  Not only do I expect them to think (and use logic! what??), but I want them to get their own supplies rather than ask me "Can I borrow ___?" or "Do you have any more ___?" every day.

First folders: Extra Copies.  I have two levels of geometry and each one has a labeled manila folder filled with extra copies of anything I hand out.  If kids were absent or lose a paper, they are learning to head to the folder to get one.  When students come in and ask what they missed, I send them to the folder.  If they lost the homework, I send them to the folder.  If they totally destroyed something, I send them to the folder.  I don't like to waste paper so I don't make many extra copies, but I know my Fundamentals class has plenty of kids who can't hold on to a single piece of paper for an entire chapter (I photocopy the review page and they do a section each night for homework- books stay in school).  

Next folders: Papers to Hand In.  This is a set of manila folders with the letter of the block (A Block is first period at my school) written on the tab.  Anything kids want to hand in must go into this folder.  I won't accept papers handed to me, but merely point at the folder.  For a class when I know I'm collecting something I will pick out the correct folder and lay it on the table ahead of time.  To reduce chaos of everyone up and crowding at the table at once we pass papers down and the kids sitting near the table put them into the folder.  If a student is handing in something late, or a correction, they find the correct folder and place the work inside.  

Last folders: Papers to Hand Back.  These are color coded pocket folders (one thing I kept from last year) with red for both fundamentals classes (matte for A and gloss for H) and blue/purple for CP classes.  Eventually I'd like to take this responsibility off of myself as well, but for now when there are papers to hand back I grab that folder and distribute them or ask for volunteers.  I like handing back papers while kids are working because it makes sure that I am moving all over the room in a rather random pattern, so I really do see what everyone is working on.  I also use it like Sarcasymptote's Ukelele Time- I tell everyone I won't answer questions about what I'm returning or the work they're doing until I'm done, so they'll have to ask their partner or look up the answer.  It's not much time, but it's a start of forcing them to talk to each other rather than come running to me.  Maybe next quarter I'll at least assign someone to look in the folders and remind me if they're full of stuff to return.

On my desk I have boxes of things everyone needs- journals, test corrections, quiz corrections and quarter sheets of scrap paper for quizzes (and every random thing I want to remind myself of).

Last year I had everything on my desk, which meant kids were in that area all the time.  When students wanted to hand work in I had them put it on my chair because I didn't trust that it would land in the right spot otherwise.  It was definitely chaotic and messy.  Now when I feel motivated to grade I just grab the manila folder of the class coming up (or really, the one filled with something easy to grade), grade and transfer to the corresponding color pocket folder.  Then I reset and I'm ready to go!  Now if only I could get started...

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