Organizing An Efficient Classroom
Some teachers rush headlong into the school year without a thought to organization while others spend weeks organizing everything.
I'm a little of both. I am hyper-organized when it comes to lesson planning, but with classroom organization (the exception being my desk arrangement) I'm somewhat of a failure. There are tons of folders on my desk. I spend too much time looking for papers for kids who were absent, and sometimes I can't even find a damn paperclip. Over the years I've done different things that have helped me be better organized in my classroom, and they have all helped. But the best year I had was when I did them ALL AT ONCE. That year, my classroom ran smoothly and life was so much easier. Here is a list of organizational strategies that you may also find helpful in your classroom:
GET AN IN/OUT BOX FOR EVERY CLASS YOU TEACH--preferably in different colors. Label each box and have students put work to be graded in the in-box and put work to be returned to the out-box.
GET A MONITOR--Students want to help, so let them. Have at least two monitors in the class (I used three). One monitor collects homework, one returns work (not exams or quizzes), and one hands out reading material that will be used during the day. This frees you up to talk to kids who may want to speak to you before class, take attendance or handle administrative matters before you begin teaching.
HAVE A PEN/PENCIL HOLDER fully stocked on your desk. Too often kids interrupt a lesson to ask for a pen. Set up a system where kids can simply walk to the desk and borrow what they need. Some teachers have an exchange system: the student leaves something in order to take the pencil/pen. I worked on trust because, for the most part, I could keep track of who borrowed what. The rule I told the class was "If a student fails to return a writing implement three times, they will never be allowed to borrow one again." I've never actually had to use this rule.
KEEP AN ABSENT FOLDER--The moment work is given out, put the extra work into the Absent Folder. When kids return after an absence, instead of interrupting you for handouts, they can go to the folder and get the work.
BATHROOM PASS AT THE READY--High school is training for the real world, and in the real world we don't ask permission to go to the bathroom. Keep your pass in a central place, and allow to get up and take it without asking you. I establish a rule about courtesy and remind students that others want to use the pass also, so if a student abuses the privilege of taking the pass, then he loses that privilege. Students are pretty good about using this system. As a variation of this you can have a space on a part of the board where students wrote their names as soon as they came into class, so that they have an established order for who used the pass.
AN INFORMATION BULLETIN BOARD is essential to a well-run classroom. I update my board weekly with school and community information.
HAVE A PLANNING CALENDAR for you and for your students. If you don't already have one, download my planning calendar. Then email each month's calendar to your students and I place one on my bulletin board.
HAVE A COMMUNICATION SYSTEM so that you can reach your students at anytime. Most schools have some sort of school wide communication system, which makes your life easier. If you have the ability to create groups, do so. This will enable you to send email blasts to your students.
GET AN ORGANIZER FOR YOUR DRAWER so that it's easy to find things like paper clips and push pins. I've spent way too much time looking for the little stuff. Make sure to measure your desk drawers before going out to buy one.
ARRANGE DESKS so that you can see everyone. Organize your classroom into a U-shape so that there are only two rows of kids on either side of the room and three rows in the middle. Not only does this help kids to see each other when they talk, it allows me to monitor activity.