HOW TO ORGANIZE STUDENT WORK (Paper Organization Series)

For the past few years I have been using “unfinished workboxes” in my classroom with great success. To create the system I used a literature sorter (sold online and at office supply stores) . Mine is made of wood and I spray painted it to match my classroom color scheme. I also have a cardboard version that I use as student mailboxes . The cardboard is fine for that purpose because they only use them once a day, but since the unfinished work boxes are accessed throughout the day several times I highly suggest investing in a quality piece.

Each slot is labeled with a student number so I don’t need to relabel them each year.

If a student has work that needs to be completed I have them slide the assignment into their unfinished mailbox. This allows me to see at a glance who has work to finish and also how much.
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2) Clock Number Labels (blackline printed on any color)

I really prefer this system because of the ease at which I can see who has unfinished work. In the past I used a “Work in Progress folder.” I didn’t care for that because the folders became a black hole of tasks that needed completing.

A cheaper option would be to hanging file crate with hanging files. Label each file with the students’ names or numbers and have them place their unfinished work inside. The portability of the crate would allow you to move it around and you could easily flip through the hanging files to check on the status of your students.

This year I found that some students needed additional time outside the classroom to complete assignments. My teaching partner and I also decided that we wanted to put more accountability on our students to produce work that reflects their best efforts. Therefore we recently implemented “fix and finish folders.” These folders are for work that wasn’t completed in a timely manner and also assignments that need redoing to demonstrate proficiency. We send them home as needed or ask the students to come in before or after school to work on the assignments.


I often mention how the little details are the ones that typically add the most impact when setting up and decorating your classroom. As I made over my classroom for the new school year I kept this in mind and looked for even more little details that I could add.

Because I use tables instead of desks I needed a way to manage students "work in progress." By that I mean the assignments that they have started, but not yet completed. Initially I used different color folders for different subjects, but didn't like that system for a couple reasons. Many students developmentally could not keep track of their work and their folders and it wasn't convenient for me to keep on top of who was done and who was not. 
For that reason I came up with a system using a wooden literature sorter (one of the best classroom investments you can me by the way) that works perfectly for managing student work in progress, keeping our classroom neat, helping students feel successful and allowing me to know at a glance who is struggling to manage their time in regards to completing assignments.

I use a Must Do/May Do Board for helping the students stay focused and become independent with their work expectations. That, in conjunction with the unfinished work boxes and turn-in bins on the work shelf really make it easy to stay on top of their status.

I had already upgraded the unfinished work boxes when I did a classroom makeover two years ago by painting them black (they were a "wood color" prior to that). This year I added pops of color by simply inserting a pieced of colored/patterned card stock into each section of the sorter so that when the boxes are empty they add a little "extra something" to the space. So simple, super low cost and oh-so-easy! 

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