With a new year usually comes New Year's resolutions, and often the desire to get organized to start the new year fresh. Being a person who loves to be organized, I look through magazines and Pinterest boards in hopes of finding new organizational items and ideas to use in my home and, more importantly, in my classroom. I don’t have tons of extra time built into my day for searching for items, so I like everything to have its own container, label, and space.
During my two weeks off from school for winter break, I managed to sneak in some school time to create some new organizational items for the new year and revamp some older ones.
Our school collects box tops. Each class tries to collect the most by year's end, and the competition has almost become a sport. I offer my students incentives to bring in box tops and have now created a cute classroom-coordinated container that sits right by the door as a visual reminder. (As I write this post, I realize I need to create some sort of graph or visual to show just how many we have collected.)
I also created some new labels and containers for lunch tickets and our lunch box basket.
Although our school doesn’t require teachers to wear name badges, we are required to keep a class list with our red emergency backpacks. The backpacks go with us whenever we have any type of emergency drill such as a fire drill or, as a California school, earthquake drill. Unzipping the pack and pulling out a folder with the class list can be time consuming, so I have attached it to a badge holder that clips onto the outside of the backpack. I’ve made a second badge holder that attaches to my whistle that I wear when we are out at recess.
This same idea can be used for lots of things, such as center groups. I attach the name badge to a basket with a binder ring to display student names or center numbers. I rotate my center baskets daily and need a quick reference for which basket goes to which table. I used to tape a schedule to the inside bottom of the basket, but now, using a badge holder, even the students can quickly tell where the basket belongs.
Do your students give you love notes? I am always getting little notes, pictures, and such from my students. I like to honor their hard work and show it off, but often I just don’t have the wall space to display all of it. I used to tape them to the cupboard doors, but this can be overwhelming and messy looking. The other day while I was cleaning up and removing the latest and greatest notes I had received before winter break, I couldn’t bring myself to toss them out. Instead, I created a binder of Love Notes. Now all the notes students give me are saved and can be enjoyed by the other students, too.
Back in the day, lesson plan books were black and spiral-bound with tiny boxes on each page that were meant for us to squeeze our weekly plans into. My plan book was always messy and never as pretty looking as my colleagues'. When I discovered that I could create my own plan book on the computer using Word, I never looked backed, nor did I ever buy one again. I was able to create my personal template, with all the days of the weeks, weekly specials such as library and P.E., and anything else I needed. I no longer had to write everything out each week. I could type up, print, and place the pages in a three-ring binder. Soon colleagues were asking me for a copy of my plan book, as they, too, were tired of writing out the days of the week in their spiral-bound books.
In the past few years my book has morphed into the ultimate teacher binder — no longer is it just lesson plans. Now all of the essential items I need are accessible with a quick flick through pages. I’ve created separate sections for the following:
Weekly Lesson Plans: I type my week's plans into my personalized template.
Calendars and Schedules: This contains recess, library, lunch, P.E., assemblies, ELD, and our intervention times.
Student Data: All data results from benchmark assessments and DIBELS, and any other assessment data I might need are housed here.
PLCs: Our school partakes in professional learning communities (PLC), and I keep current and past standards target focus for the upcoming assessment and results for our team's monthly meetings.
Common Core Standards: This contains references for our district standards, state standards, and the current Common Core Standards.
Staff Meetings: Taking notes at staff meetings helps me to remember what we have discussed. By keeping them in my binder, I can easily refer to discussions as needed. Another bonus to having my binder at meetings: I have all the school calendars and schedules with me when we discuss dates and events.
Student Behavior: This is where I keep information about students that I may need for upcoming parent conferences.
Often during cleanup time my students will hand me an object from a game or center activity that they have found. I used to say, “Just put it on my desk,” and soon had a ton of little items like linker cubes, bear counters, letter tiles, and small game pieces. I created a basket that students can put the lost items into, and at the end of each day, students can take the basket and put the items where they belong.
Since September, I have had four students move and three new students arrive. Unfortunately, this is the trend at our school. To help me from panicking whenever I see that blue note on my teacher mailbox that symbolizes “New Student Arrival,” I have made up extra new student packs. This is just a plastic bag with all the basics my students use during the week, such as poetry books, writing notebooks, math journals, name tags, and cubbie labels. From now on, when I am preparing a class set of these weekly items, I will make a few extra for the New Arrival Bags. Then when I see that blue note, I will be able to take a breath and relax, knowing that everything I need is in one place.
I hope you have found my newest organizational items useful in kick-starting your new year. Be sure to look for the latest Scholastic Month by Month for more great ideas for staying organized in the new year.