This week’s feature comes from one of my colleagues and I have been excited to share it with you all week. I frequently visit Ann’s classroom before the school day starts and in those visits I am constantly picking up tricks from her about ways to keep the kids and myself organized. She is really good at this! She gives her students a lot of ownership and responsibility in this area too which I love because at the end of the day our job is to help children learn to be functioning adults. I will stop now and let Ann explain some of her methods…
Tell us about what is working in your classroom?
Organization is a key component in my classroom. It starts at the end of the school year for students. Yes! I said end of the school year for students! At our school, we are fortunate enough to have a day in June to meet and greet our upcoming class. During this time, students are given a list of things to bring with them on the first day of school. I’m not going to kid you; it’s a long list of supplies. Some of the main components on this list include color specific folders and notebooks. I think this is key for many reasons. First, I decide on colors that match their textbooks (if they have them for a specific subject – ex. purple math textbook = purple folder, purple notebook.) To the best of our ability, every subject taught gets color coded. It is a great visual for students as well as for me.
We all teach and implement transitions and the importance of them in the classroom. We want to make the most out of our teaching time and time on learning. Students get to know the routines in the first few weeks of school and know what time is math, etc. If they happen to forget, all they have to do is look at their neighbor and see what color is out on their desk. Along with a color coded system, I purchase labels at the beginning of the school year and each student receives their own sheet with their names already printed on them. I model where the label goes on each folder and each notebook, in case I need to collect them for any reason during the year. Then I am not searching to see whose things I have during correcting, etc. My motto when it comes to any papers students have in their possession, “Every paper has a home.”
Why do you think this practice is working?
Class organization is a key factor for students. During the first few weeks of school, I show students where work is for the week – labeled Monday through Friday, where graphic organizers are kept for guided reading, and where class lists are, etc. I tell them I expect them to help run this class smoothly, with or without me there. I try to create an atmosphere where the students can freely move about and can gain access to things that can help them succeed. I once saw a video at school that believed in teachers not having to say the routines and procedures over and over in the middle of the year, but to be able to walk into a classroom, and say to the class, what are your procedures?
Having taught sixth grade for a number of years also helped my perspective on transitions. Realizing that students will have to switch classes, go to their lockers in a specific time frame, made me realize that I could help ease that transition into middle school, by helping color code their subjects. I know it works, because a number of former students have stopped by for a visit, letting me know that it was a big deal to continue that system in middle school.
How did you set this practice up in your classroom?
Class lists – Go to Microsoft word and make a two column list with every student name on it. Leave a line before each name, to enable you to check off their name. I make one at the beginning of the school year, save a copy and print it. Then I copy it around 50 times to start me off. These lists are accessible for students and me. They come in great in the first two weeks of school especially, when you receive form after form, back from parents.
Graphic organizers – After using every graphic organizer known (exaggeration), I decided that I would only use the ones from Time for Kids website. Here they have a wonderful collection for reading and writing, covering all genres. Again, I make 30 – 50 copies at the beginning of the school year of each organizer. They are kept in one file cabinet drawer where the students can have access to. I might use one on a whim, or in writing, but I also find that my guided reading groups may make a decision to use one with the book they are reading. They seem very comfortable going into the file and choosing one that best suits their needs.
Color coded folders – Give students a supply list as soon as possible, including color coded folders and notebooks to match their textbook colors.
Can you suggest any resources (links/books/articles) that would help someone else set this practice up?
Time for Kids website (Go to graphic organizers)