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Organization for Teachers, Part Two

Today in the Sunday of Summer: The August Series, I am sharing Part Two of a two-part series to help classroom teachers organize learning spaces and community, as well as personal data and tracking systems. I taught many grades over my career, all in elementary school. My experience helped me train and support many educators, from preservice student teachers to veteran teachers looking to refine their systems for a more inclusive and positive classroom. 

In Part One, we covered the physical organization of your classroom. Today, in Part Two, we will chat about organizing the systems in your classroom community. Every teacher is different, as is every district, in regards to preferences and requirements. Hopefully you’ll find some value in my past practices and be able to apply some new info to your new school year!

Classroom Community

Setting the tone for the students and your classroom is important. All of you will spend a lot of time together this school year. You will love teaching and your students will love learning that much more in a positive, inclusive, and organized classroom geared toward a growth-mindset. There are an innumerable amount of resources for activities in creating this kind of community, I would recommend talking with a teacher you admire, or search the resources of a teacher/education site or podcast that you follow. 

At the end of the day, every child should feel that you like and support them, and that they are capable learners. The old saying is true, they won’t care about what you know until they know that you care. 

A few things I have done over the years to create our class family are;

-First and foremost, share your personal stories- your camping trip, your dog, what you made for dinner, use these to connect with the children. They are very interested in you and what you do, so share away! My dogs have always been our unofficial mascots of the classroom!

-Read aloud books that you genuinely love, it will come through and it is so wonderful for the kids to see you love the literature! The day that I could not finish reading Marley aloud, one of my students took over, we all cried, and it was a true bonding moment for all of us. 

-Go off the lesson plan and HAVE FUN! If it’s a sunny Friday, take the kids outside to play for the last 10 minutes. If the leaves have been raked into a big pile, show the kids how to jump in it. If it’s lunchtime and your dog is at doggy day care, turn on the web cam and let the kids watch your dog wreak havoc! 

-Build that home-school team relationship (more on that in a later article), one way is to have an open invite for parents to come in to volunteer or have lunch with their children

-Be consistent; in your energy, your grading, your emails/communications

-There are more specific activities to put into play in your classroom, check out some resources on building community,  creating a growth-mindset classroom, etc… 

Data Tracking

Yes, I know. DATA is literally the most overused word in education these days. Before data became a buzzword, good teachers have been using assessment information to inform instruction for eons. So, here are my tips based on what worked for me;

-I used clipboards with a classlist to track the daily homework and in-class work completion. I simply would check off if the child completed the work. Kids can even help with that task. It was a quick and easy way to see who needed to finish their work and who had already turned in their assignment/project. This is a great system for tracking summative assessments. 

-Most of the time, I could grade any summative assessments in the midst of class or in a short amount of time so I could change the next lesson as needed. Due to the nature of summative assessments, I would just record a pass/fail on my clipboard for that class. 

-After school or during specials, I would grade the formative assessments and record the score in my computer. Whatever program you use, it doesn’t matter, as long as you’re consistent. 

-Color coding your different subjects is helpful for sorting work that has been turned in. Social studies is green, math is blue, etc…

-While we are on the topic of turned-in work, let’s chat about HOW the children turn in their work. Having one wire basket as your Turn In Basket on a table with extra pencils is helpful. When I taught lower elementary, I had the kids highlight their name before turning in an assignment. It helps them remember to write their name on their paper and they love using highlighters!

-Communicating with team members is an important part of processing the assessment information. Working with your fellow teachers, your students’ parents, and other educators (like school counselors, special education teachers, etc…) is the best and biggest part of data tracking. You have the data of the math test, or Language Arts project, or science quiz, and now it’s time to share with your team members to make a plan together. This looks different in different schools, yours may have a process in place by which your teaching team meets together on a regular basis. Communicating achievement and support needs to parents happens many ways. One way is through your graded assignments, so include direct and specific feedback. Another way is through email, phone calls, and in-person meetings. The more you can communicate small bits of news (Jake worked very hard on his vocab project today!) then when and if you need to discuss more challenging topics (I would like to discuss Jake’s reading comprehension together), you will have a relationship built to trust each other through the process. 

Procedures

Routines and schedules are a necessary part of the school day, there are so many moving parts and so many exciting things to be learned! How your class moves through the day and efficiently uses their time has to do with the procedures in your classroom. Transitions are times in which having procedures in place saves time and energy, as well as is safer for your kiddos. 

Here are some times of the day to think about the operating procedures in your classroom;

-Morning/arrival

-Transitions between subjects

-Turning in work throughout the day

-Retrieval of materials from cubbies

-Transitions to other locations, like; recess, specials, lunch, etc…

-Clean up and pack up

-Dismissal

My first day of teaching, I could not believe that the kids kept getting up to sharpen their pencils! While I was talking! I went to my principal after school and asked her what to do about the pencil sharpening problem. She told me that I just needed a good system. I developed and refined a few systems around this issue over the years. Check out Teachers Pay Teachers and search ‘pencil sharpening procedures’ on Pinterest for great ideas and materials to begin or change your own system!

I know I keep saying this, but it’s important, every teacher and classroom is different so do what works for you! Don’t be afraid to try something new, and refine as you go! Smile and be the teacher you always pictured yourself to be!

Have a great year, Teach!

-Ellie

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