Saturday, February 18, 2012

Efficient Classroom Organization

I have many goals as a teacher.  Some pertain to the teaching itself, others to my impact on the kids, and then I also have goals for classroom management & organization.  I'll be using this post to update the status of my classroom organization techniques and to share what has worked for my classroom.  I hope you find something that works for you!  :)


This is how I group my learning teams.  I have found that groups of 4 work best for 6th graders.  More than 4 allows shy students to become wallflowers.  Less than 4 is too few for balanced collaboration.  Before my students can leave my class, they have to have their area organized, garbage picked up, and books/resources stacked in the center.  If they don't do this, we have a "group meeting" in the hallway the next day. 
When they have activities as a group, I face the desks toward each other.  Usually I just have my first period move the desks for me.  There is definitely more talking when the desks face together, but if I circulate the room constantly then it's usually on-task talking.  If it is off-task too often, I give a consequence.

If it's an activity and I want them to work individually or in partners only, I face the desks forward instead.



Each group has the opportunity to earn points for various tasks (if everyone has their homework, if a student does something extraordinary, etc).  They can also lose points for multiple reasons (off-task behaviors, not coming prepared, etc).  At the end of the week, the winning team is declared.  For the following week, they get to choose a team mascot to sit on their desk all week (such as Freddy the Yeti) and they get to be the first to leave class when the bell rings.
Another potential team mascot.  His name is Wolfy Wolfington.



I've just started to create these unit binders.  For a while, I had "region binders"--one for Europe, one for Latin America, etc.  Those were too broad.  Then, I created "unit file folders" but they didn't have enough space for my extra copies.  This is my next attempt at organization!  My hope is that, when I start a new unit, I can just open the binder and go from start to finish.

:::UPDATE 7/15/2013:::
After only a year, I was growing tired of looking at all these binders.  I was also struggling with where to put my answer keys?  My originals?  So now I've modified these binders for class set storage.  Our school works hard to conserve paper so we try to create class sets as much as possible.  This cuts 130 copies down to 35.  And if I'm only using 1 document per day, this can save:
  • 95 pieces of paper per day
  • 475 pieces per week
  • 1,900 pieces per month
  • 19,000 pieces per school year!!!

Holy cow, that's the first time I've done the math... Crazy!  Anyway, I took one whole day and created my greatest masterpiece.  I call it... MEGABINDER!!!

MEGABINDER

MEGABINDER is a collection of all my units.  I use post-it sticky tabs instead of binder tabs.  I also used an entire box of sheet protectors.  The cover page of each unit has 
1) a list of the standards we cover 
2) a list of terms kids should know
3) a bulleted list of activities that we can do during that unit.

In the same sheet protector as the cover page, I put any bulletin board elements I have for that unit.  After this, I put my originals in order of use.

To recap:
  • Megabinder
  • Binder pockets store answer keys and various other useful items that don't really fit in a specific unit
  • Unit tabs
    • Cover page
    • Bulletin board elements
    • Activities in order of use
    • Test/summative assessment for that unit
  • Class sets live in another location, labeled by unit.

After 6 years of teaching the same thing, I am finally starting the get the hang of it.  Organization is key to efficiency and certainty.  The classroom is stressful enough - help yourself by creating a system that will relieve a bit of that stress.  

How do you keep your classroom organized?  I would love to hear your stories and maybe even share them here on the blog for you!  You can comment here or send me an email at obertopia@gmail.com.  Stay inspired!


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