Organization is Key
Even if you are not sure which grade level you will teach this school year, there are things you can do right now which will help you start your year off well.
The number one secret to school year success is…..planning.
The school year hits with the momentum and pressure of a high-speed train. Once you get started, the ride lasts until summer break, leaving you wondering how the months could possibly have passed so quickly! You absolutely need to plan ahead.
Organization Means Knowing Where You Are
Step 1 of organization: make a list of all the things you will be using during the school year. If you would like our list to help you get started, click here.
Once you have made a list of all the basics you can think of, the next step is to think of how you would want to organize these things in your classroom. Which things do you want your students to access and which things do you want to keep them out of? How do you naturally organize yourself? Should staples, paperclips, and tape all go together because you use them to attach things? You want things you tend to use together in the same cabinet. I have seen teachers just stand in their new classroom looking and thinking the very day before school starts, totally at a loss as to where to put all the cool stuff they bought at the dollar store. If you have purchased big plastic storage bins, sort the things you are bringing beforehand. Label the bins. You can also use these bins if you have to switch classrooms or if maintenance wants to paint the room and they are already set-up, ready to go and labeled.
The big goal is not to need to go on a hunting expedition for something you know you bought but you have no idea where you put it. If you have the time and energy, make a spreadsheet of the classroom stuff you have. Choose a cabinet number or name and put it in the next column. Now you can sort by cabinet or item. And if you forgot where you put it, just look it up!
Plan for Technological Difficulties
Step 2, flash drive all of your files. This is really big. Google Docs seems like a fantastic idea: store things in the netherworld somewhere in the clouds and keep your computer nice and clean, right? Nope. I cannot tell you how often you won’t be able to access the internet during the school year, but it will probably be when you really need to print out a worksheet you created. So, get a flash drive for work and keep it handy. Also, print things out early and get them duplicated early. Try to work a week in advance.
If all else fails, you can throw the document up on the projector or whatever you have, and have the students work it with you.
Organizing Critical Information
Spreadsheets are your friend. If you do not know how to make a basic Excel file, do a quick tutorial. Make a spreadsheet of your classroom library books, your students with their standardized test scores, accommodations and any special needs, your lesson plans and any other things that lend themselves to this type of template. You may not need all of these things in spreadsheets if the data is readily available elsewhere, but it won’t take long to discover what information you need access to in this format. The sorting ability is absolutely worth the time you take to input the data.
Organize Your Curriculum
Finally, as soon as you can, look at your class textbooks and accompanying resources. Knowing your reading series with all of its workbooks, accessory books and other pieces really will help you during the year. Read each story. Consider why it was included in the overall picture. With your math series, if you have a student workbook, try working the problems in it. Some workbooks are entirely unrealistic about the amount of space it will take for a child to write in. I have had workbooks that expect 3rd grade students to manage to write in twelve point font. Wow! Or they expect a full explanation answer and give the child an inch to write on. Flag any pages of that type. You can either enlarge the page on the copier (just double it and make it two pages, top and bottom) or make an answer sheet for the students to use.
Be on the lookout for poor explanations. Keep in mind the mental development of your students at their age. Sometimes college professors write the introductions and they forget that young students are very concrete thinkers. You do not have to use every page in a series unless your school has a grant that says you have to. What you really
want is for your students to understand what they are doing, read with wonderful comprehension and develop high-level thinking skills. You may have to add things in, leave things out or figure out a better way. Always check the Learning Artistically website for tips.
Thinking through your organization early on will really help you get through your year without worries. It will save you time, stress, and frustration through this year, the next and all the years that follow. Don’t forget to download your free Classroom Materials Checklist today to get started.