Thursday, September 6, 2012

Classroom Organization

A lot of people at the First Six Weeks conference were interested in how we organize our classrooms.  Good classroom organization is one of those things that I think can make a class run more smoothly, seemingly without trying.  Some of the systems I like to put in place are shown here.  Getting students used to these systems during the first six weeks can make them a seamless part of your class for the remainder of the year.  Hopefully my early establishment of these systems will help thing go more smoothly for my sub and the students will still be using them when I get back from my maternity leave!

Extra Handouts & Student Mailboxes:
Instead of passing back papers to students, each of my students has a mailbox in a hanging file.  All of their papers get filed by my student aide, who makes copies, files, laminates, updates concept test charts, and does various other projects for me.  Our school gives student aides half an elective credit for doing this job for teachers.  Teachers get their nuts and bolts done for them, students learn valuable on-the-job skills, its a win-win. In addition, these crates also serve as a place for students to find extra copies of assignments.  I do my best to put handouts in their mailbox when they're absent, but students can always go here when they miss or lose something.  For the more electronically inclined, I keep files in a virtual filing cabinet on my website.  (There are many other resources on my website as well, feel free to explore.)

Popsicle Sticks:

I LOVE using popsicle sticks!  Every student has a stick with his/her name on it in their class' jar.  During class, I use these to randomly call on students.  This ensures that all students know they are "on call" at all times and it makes me call on all students, not just the ones with their hands raised or those not paying attention.  There are certainly times when volunteers or specific students should be called upon, but in general, the use of the popsicle sticks allows me to quickly call on many students to ensure everyone is part of the class discussion.  When making new seating charts they also come in handy for showing students their new seats. 

Calculator Sign-Out:
Maybe calculator sign-outs seem trivial to you, but as the keeper of my department funds, I see how much we spend replacing "lost" calculators each year!  These things grow legs and walk right out of your room if you're not careful!  This is a new system for me this year.  After 6 days of school, so far so good.  I have large white-out numbers on each calculator that correspond the laminated numbers on the board.  The permanent numbers and colored electrical tape make writing and erasing student names easy without getting rid of the sign-out set-up. 

Homework, Agenda, and WALT:
If you haven't discovered colored electrical tape yet, I truly recommend it!  I use it to create the HW sections on my board.  Although this information is also given to students on note packets, verbally, and online, this is a clear visual at the front of the room that allows students to easily see their assignment for the night.  The HW Questions box is a way for students to anonymously let me know which HW problems they struggled with from the night before.  I try to keep mysteries to a minimum in my class, so every day I advertise our agenda as well as the WALT (We Are Learning Today).  If a student feels lost during class they can be reminded what we've done, what we're going to do, and what the main learning for the day is just by looking up at the board.

Student Supplies:
Although I still keep my pencils under lock and key (but lend them out whenever a student needs one), I set up a student work station this year so students can easily find pencil sharpeners, lined, graph, and plain paper, as well as the three hole-punch in one easy to spot location. 

 I think these strategies keep transitions and procedures in my classroom running smoothly so I can focus my time and energy on instruction and student learning instead of papers and calculators.  Maybe there's something here you haven't seen before, maybe not.  Regardless, this will remind me what I need to set up next week to ensure a smooth first six weeks!

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