While summer break gives teachers a perfect opportunity to relax and recharge, we need to incorporate ways to keep those calming vibes going throughout the hectic school year too. Our times at the beach, the pool, or on the back patio are coming to an end, and those back-to-school flyers are calling us to find the best bargains as we get our classrooms organized for this new group of students. As you hit those end of summer sales, look for bargains that will make your classroom run like a well-oiled machine. When the sound of the waves becomes a distant memory, an organizational system that works for you and your students can be just what you need to keep it all together. Here is the key concept that helped me over the years in the delicate dance of maintaining my sanity.
Color coding by class was my greatest organizational sanity saver. I took the idea and ran with it, and I color coded EVERYTHING. Each class was aware of their assigned color, and students knew they were green, blue, purple, yellow, or orange. Color coding is great if you have more than one class, multiple reading groups, table groups, etc. And even if you don't color code all your supplies, these organizational components in any shade will still be very beneficial.
Class Binder: Grab a ½ inch binder for each class in the appropriate color. This binder could contain the class seating chart (in a plastic sleeve that could be removed and left with substitute plans), any IEPs or behavioral modifications for students, health information, student rosters, grading pages (for those that must have a tangible copy in addition to their online programs), and any other pertinent pieces of information. You'll have everything you need to know about each class all in one place.
Turn-in Basket: If you have enough room to have color coded ones, it would be great! If space is limited, having a single basket works too. The key here is that students can ONLY turn assignments in to this basket. This helps to solve a lot of issues with misplaced or lost papers.
Class/Subject Folders:Pick up a few folders for each class, group, or subject in the designated colors you've chosen. I had a colored folder for collected assignments and a colored folder for exit slips (or any other daily/quick return activity you may utilize). By placing the folder in the bottom of the assignment turn-in basket, it's easy to transfer collected papers to the proper folder at the end of the period. This will save you from sorting papers into the appropriate classes when entering grades and/or returning work.
Class Crates: Create a color coded crate with a hanging file for each student. If you number the tabs and assign students a number, it saves you from trying to redo folder tabs with names each year. These files can function as student portfolios if you have students complete logs of the items they contain. You'll have a great tool to share at conferences.
Student Cards: Ever get frustrated because the same hands always go up when a question is asked? Select packs of character flashcards, like Sesame Street addition facts, at the dollar store (middle-schoolers actually love this) and write each student's name on a card. Keep the cards handy, and you can switch things up at times to call on students randomly and keep them on their toes. I could usually find sets of cards with colored backgrounds that worked with my color coding system, but you could also bind the cards with a color coded clip, ring, or band. If you utilize craft sticks for an attendance or random call system, you could try to find colored ones, write names in the class color, and/or store them in color coded cups.
Assignment Log Stars: Do you post a daily or weekly log in your room? If an assignment or reminder pertains to only a select class or two, place a star of the class color next to said assignment.
Designing an organizational system now that works for you will be a big sanity saver as the school year begins. Color coding is always a huge help with student teachers or other classroom participants and observers - with students understanding the concept of the organizational system, they can easily find things or help out a visiting teacher. As you hit the back-to-school sales, be on the lookout for some shades of sanity. Add a splash of color to your classroom and get organized today!