Classroom Routines I Can't Live WIthout

I wish I could say I am a super organized person, but the truth is my desk does not usually represent my level of organization well.  I have my many little stacks on my desk, my post it notes of "to do" lists, and a few other things scattered about my work area at any given time.  You bet your britches though, if you walk in and ask for something I can find it in no time...just don't touch my piles! Ha!

Along with being seasoned in my stacking method, I have also learned through years of teaching that this doesn't work for everyone. It doesn't always work for my students and you also want administration and coworkers (because hello-they do talk!) to see a somewhat organized version of you that is accepted by our non piling peers.

I'm not saying, don't do you, but we can organize it some to get the flow working in our favor and to keep us looking more organized.  So today, I am going to focus on some of those teacher routines that keep me together and help me to be more effective and put together.

1. Student Organization Routines

I start my year off by spending a good amount of time organizing my kids.  This in turn helps me to be organized.

Students keep a set of their supplies:  pencils - 2, crayons, scissors, and glue.  (I have had years where we did community supplies.  I typically do personal supplies now.)  If a student doesn't have something I work that out with donations to the school or personally handle it.  Then, all other supplies are organized into containers. I prefer Rubbermaid drawer units and I vinyl them with what is inside.  Students know they CANNOT just go and get supplies whenever.  We have specific times to get our new crayons, glue etc. Typically we do one glue stick a six weeks and then they get new crayons at the start of the new semester.

I also decide on specific places for their binders that stay in class, our books, station containers.  Everything has a place.  It is labeled and it stays in that place.  It is put back just as it was found each time.  If you hold to this expectation at the beginning of the year then it will typically continue.  To help with this, I put students in charge of making sure that things are put up where they belong.  Find your most organized children and put them in charge, it gives them ownership in their learning environment and it plays to their strengths, win/win in my book.

We also make sure all supplies are labeled if they need to go to specific students.  So binders, notebooks, etc.  I will usually print a sheet of address labels with 10 labels for each child.  I had out the labels and they stick one on each of the items  before we put them up on the first few days of school.  Its quick and saves me time so I am not doing it at the end of the day on the first week of school when I'm already wiped out.

2. Grading Routines

I keep my grading SIMPLE!  I wish I had thought of this YEARS ago!  The truth is, another teacher showed me a couple of years ago and it changed the way I handle grading.  I use these nifty grading sheets now and it makes life so simple.

In each day I have two rotations of students.  So I print out grading slips for each class.  I always use one color for one class and a different color for the other class.  This way it is easy to tell really fast which one I need.  When I collect a group of papers, I take a paperclip and add this sheet to the top of it.  This way when I go to grade, I am ready to write grades.  I remove the grade sheet when I'm done grading and the papers then go in the stack to be passed back to kids.

There are other great uses for the grade sheets, but I will share them another time.  You can check out the grade sheets and other organizational items I keep in my caddy by clicking here.

Another important thing to have on hand, are a couple of lucky stamps.  I keep stamps that say:  Class Practice and Completed with Teacher.  These save me tons of time!  Do you have have an activity that you do in class and you want to send it home, but you need parents to know you saw it?  Stamps are perfect for this!  I walk around and stamp class practice or sometimes I will have a student do it as we transition from one activity to another.  This way, the paper is marked.  Parents know you saw it, but it is also clear it isn't a grade.  It isn't taking up space in a pile on your desk, it goes home and can be checked off your list.  The stamp gives you an easy way to check practice work without spending time grading everything.

3. Station Routines

The last thing I could not live without is a routine for my stations and how I organize them.  It is important to set up expectations and have students form a way to get their stations out and back up, as well as a way to quickly change out your materials.

When it comes to stations, I try to keep most of it very simple!  I have a digital center board that I use to rotate students through their stations.  This makes it easy if I need to change where students go one week, its just up on the board.  I also can quickly put it up on the board or take it down when we finish, so it doesn't take up my precious wall space!

As far as the stations themselves, I use a boxed drawer system that I started using this past year and I am IN LOVE with it!  it is easy, stand alone and students can quickly get their stations and put them up when finished.   It is a bit pricey, but if you watch for sales, you can snag it for much less!

The unit holds six containers.  Several of my stations do not require containers.  So, I use 3 containers for the basic stations and I can then use the other boxes for my stations that are differentiated for my students who may need something different.

I set the stations up and train my students at the beginning of the year and they stay that way the rest of the year.  Activities in my stations for the most part never change.  If they do it is no more than one or two of the rotations within the two week period.  This way students aren't spending their time relearning what to do.  They know the expectation and how to do the activities.  The content will change, for instance, our fluency center has task cards in it.  I have task cards for the year for this station.  Students will do the same station and the same activities, but I will use the Fall Fluency task cards in November whereas in February I might have the Valentine's Day Fluency task cards in the station.

What are some routines you can't live without? Drop me a comment and tell me more!  Also, hop on over to Beth's blog to learn some of her methods of organization and routines.  You can get to her blog by clicking below.

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