In which of these two classrooms would you rather be the teacher?
- Classroom A has 3 kids thrusting papers in your face, 2 dropping their work on your desk, 8 yelling out “I’m done. What do I do next?” and at least 3 who had no idea what to do in the first place. Their desks are jammed with unfinished tasks and you don’t know where to begin catching them up.
- Classroom B has all students working on task with the completed assignments neatly placed in a labeled container. You can tell at a glance who has fallen behind on their workload and have the ability to tell within a minute exactly which assignments each student has completed.
All too often I hear teachers complain that they are feeling disorganized, stressed and overwhelmed, but it doesn’t have to be that way. While this blog post won’t solve all your teaching woes it will provide you with 5 easy-to-implement ways to streamline managing student assignments.
Determine what you will be collecting and grading each week. As you write your weekly lesson plans write down exactly what written assignments the students will need to complete. Enter these into a checklist. This will provide you with a simple way to definitively track completed assignments.
Designate spaces for turning in assignments. Never utter the words “put that on my desk.” Instead have containers set out in permanent spots for students to place their work in when completed. I found dishpans worked great, but other teachers have found success with boxes or a variety of baskets or containers. It doesn’t matter what you use, but you do need to make sure it is large enough to hold 8.5 x 11 papers or larger. Label each with the subject area.
Train your students to not only write their name on every paper, but to also write their student number in the top right corner of each page. This will enable you (or better yet a student assigned to do the task as part of your classroom job system) to place the piles in numerical order for quick checklist completion.
Invest in “Unfinished Work Boxes. Buy a sturdy paper sorter and label the slots with numbers. Each student will use the box with his number to house unfinished work. (Sidenote PSA: I purchased two (one for student mailboxes and one for unfinished work) as well as a large paper sorter for construction paper and consider those to be some of my all time best classroom investments. The time they saved was priceless). Never ever ever ever ever (to infinity) have your students place their papers into their desk. Instead, instruct them to place all unfinished work into their designated spot within the sorter. This will enable you, at a quick glance, to see exactly how much work each student has to do.
Create a “Must Do / May Do” Assignment Board”. This can be done using a white board or pocket charts and is easily one of the most effective classroom management tools I’ve ever used. Divide the board into two columns. Label the left “Must Do” and the right “May Do.” As you give an assignment, list it on the must do side. Include specific page numbers and any other information needed. This tells the students which tasks must be completed and provides a reference for those who may not comprehend or remember auditory directions. Use the right side to list the activities they “May Do” when all their work is finished. I highly suggest making the may do choices be purposeful, but not so inviting that students rush through the required assignments. Avoid things like “free choice” or “technology time” if you don’t think your students will put forth their best efforts. Some of the activities I found to be perfect as may do choices include:
- monthly writing prompts
- read to self
- student book clubs
- enrichment activities such as animal research or make a game to reinforce skills
If you want to save time, I do have printable resources available for labeling turn in bins as well as planning and tracking assignments and creating a Must Do and May Do Board. Not only will you not need to take the time to design them, but they are offered at a price that is less than the clipart to make them would cost you. There are editable components which means you customize and print components from the resource. You can also alter the look of them by mounting them on colored card stock or patterned scrapbook paper to match your classroom theme or classroom color scheme.
Each of these are available on their own via the links below or as part of my Classroom Management Mega-Bundle. That bundle includes an eBook with tons of tips and ideas for all aspects of classroom management, an editable teacher workbook to guide you to planning out how you will effectively manage your classroom and 30 printable resources including the ones mentioned below.
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