Let's face it. Managing a classroom can be a daunting task. The more we can do to GET organized and STAY organized day after day, the less stress we'll invite into an already stressful career. I've learned in ten years of teaching that SIMPLE is better! Here are some easy things you can implement TODAY to save time, energy, and SANITY!
1. Assign student numbers
I assign students a number according to the alphabetic order of their last names. I even have this number on their name tags so they constantly see it and remember to use it!
Students must write their numbers on their papers so I can quickly put the papers in order to grade and record them. I can also quickly see whose paper is missing!
Numbered papers make it easy to file them as well. Whether you send home papers nightly, or file them away to send home as signed papers, numbering students is a must!
I love this freebie from A Cupcake For the Teacher for calling on students using their numbers!
Keep up with where students are by using their numbers as well. You can use the numbers year after year! This idea comes from Spectacular 2nd Grade.
2. Have a plan for early finishers.
There's nothing worse than early finishers disrupting the class. The whole group gets thrown off course! Have a plan in place for your early finishers to work on or do...something productive yet quiet and unobtrusive.
BOGGLE is a fun activity that encourages students to spell and to work with words. I've seen many Boggle boards out there, but this use of magnetic letters and washi tape is simply adorable!
I love how Snazzy in Second gives her students differentiated extra work and awards them "Brownie Points" for completing assignments. She even has a cute freebie you can download to go with your Brownie Points system!
I have some free "I'm Done, Now What?" task cards in my TPT shop. Display as few or as many of these as you want on your white board, and students always have a visual of extra activities they can complete!
3. Give students a "Finish Folder."
All of my students have a Finish Folder in their seat sacks. This is where unfinished work goes when it's time to move on to our next activity. I also fill up this folder when they're absent and miss out on lessons. Students know that this is their FIRST fast finisher activity. The items in their Finish Folder must be completed! The Happy Teacher calls it a "Ketchup Folder" and she has a free printable on TPT! Grab it below!
4. Have ONE Helper of the Day
I honestly got tired of having 20 different jobs to rotate, explain, and remind students to do day after day. So I have one new helper EVERY day! This helper is available to do whatever I ask! They get special seating privileges, to be the line leader, to choose where they want to sit at lunch, and to pick a friend to help them wipe down the lunch tables after we eat. I also ask them to do other things as needed...run an errand, pass out or take up papers, water the plants, etc. We rotate through the leaders every day, so no one gets tired of having the same job. Plus, I don't have ONE MORE management tool to worry about changing out...a classroom helper chart. You can go through the alphabet/student numbers as I do. Or you could put sticks in a jar and choose one helper randomly every day until everyone has had a turn!
5. Keep parents informed--consistently.
I'm trying to do a better job of keeping parents informed--in a consistent manner. This year I created some simple, ink friendly weekly newsletters that are cute and scrappy. Each Friday, I pull up the following week's newsletter, type in the homework assignments, spelling words, test dates, class news, and other important reminds and copy it front/back. Then it's ready to send home on Monday. This process takes me about 5 minutes! You can check out my editable, pre-dated newsletters here:
6. Use Nightly Folders.
In the past I've used elaborate folders with lots of headings and sections and I've had trouble keeping up with everything (and have probably confused my parents in the process!). Now, I use a basic two pocket, three-pronged plastic folder. I label the front pocket "LEFT AT HOME" (with a left hand image) and the right pocket "SEND RIGHT BACK" (with a right hand image). There's a zipper pouch in the front for parents to send in money, notes, etc. I include a copy of that month's Spelling Menu (found in the packet below):
I also include a monthly behavior calendar. A good day gets a sticker... a bad day gets a behavior code. Parents are asked to initial the calendar each night! I got my behavior calendars from Jessica Williamson for only $3 and she edits them EVERY year for the new calendar year! GREAT purchase!
This is truly the EASIEST, fastest system I've ever tried! I send home our daily papers each night in the folder. If I don't have time to grade something, it goes home the next day! Students know to take their folder out and place it in our basket every morning as soon as they arrive.
These tips have evolved over the course of my ten year career. They've truly saved me time and energy and freed me up to create, teach, and enjoy my kiddos. I hope some of these tips and tricks will inspire you!