Monday, August 3, 2015

8/3/15 - My Best Organizational Tips? #MTBoSblaugust

Anyone who has seen my desk knows I am far from the most organized person in the world. But there are a few tried, tested and perfected organizational techniques I use that keep me and my kiddos from drowning under a pile of pens, paperclips and pop dolls.

1. Absent Work Folders
Students will be absent. This is inevitable. So how do we as teachers ensure students get the work they missed? I struggled with this until about 6 years ago. I was getting very frustrated with the number of students who would claim exemption from work because they were absent and didn't get the papers. I realized that while I wanted to blame the students for not being more responsible, there was so much more I could be doing to avoid this frustration.  I decided I needed to be more proactive in ensuring students received their absent work. After some trial and error, I devised a folder system where students could find the work they missed. Here's how it works. At the end of the day, I fill out a "While You Were Out" form (Not my original idea, but this is my version. Google it.) for each course I teach. This includes what work was collected, classwork, and assigned homework. I also include any major announcements. I make a copy of this form for each absent student, put their name on it and staple it to the day's work.  The forms are then placed into the day's folder (Monday, Tuesday, etc). That is the teacher responsibility portion. Students are responsible for collecting and completing all the missed work within 3 days of their return.

2. Class Notebooks
My dirty little secret is that I don't write lesson plans. I haven't for years. I organize and rehearse my lessons but haven't written a lesson plan since I was a student teacher. I stopped writing them when I realized that no matter what I planned, the class was going to dictate the direction of the lesson, so why fight it. Because of this, my classes are rarely in the same place, or focused on the same thing. That was difficult for me for a number of years until I realized I needed a way to organize the work for each class as if it was its own course. I started keeping a separate notebook for each period. In each notebook I keep my own copy of the classwork, along with class-specific notes and notes for changes.

3. Late/Incomplete Work
This is my most recent organizational strategy. I allow, but do not encourage, my students to turn in work late. Let me preface this by saying that homework is purely a citizenship grade. While doing homework is good practice, I view it as a student behavior and student behaviors are captured within the citizenship grade. Those who choose the late work option have some 'splain to do. I use a form called "Caught Empty Handed" (teachers pay teachers) where students have to justify why their work was not completed and devise a plan to rectify the situation. This is how it plays out in my class. Before class begins, students have their homework out and are working with their teammates to complete the warm up. I go around and "check" the homework for completion and effort. Students either get a stamp or what they affectionately call the "blue form" (its always on blue paper - go figure). Students who get a stamp, get full credit for their homework. Those who get a "blue form" get another day to get it done. If it isn't done the following day, they go to after school detention. Late homework cannot receive more than a C. I keep all the blue forms in a card file box in the interim and store the cleared forms in a class file box. Those pending clearance via detention are kept in a pending box.


  1. Love the "While you are out!" Thanks for sharing! A

  2. I like the idea of your math notebook. I "used to be" more organized ... now I usually know which pile it is in? But I scrambled to find notes, quiz keys and such last year. I'm going to use a 3-ring binder this year!