Because you are a classroom teacher, you know setting aside an area for student mail and parent communication is essential. You have lots of options on how to create this space. I know because I’ve tried them all. There are pros and cons to each. Keep reading to learn more!
This blog post will…
- offer cheap and easy student mailboxes in the classroom
- share tips and ideas for storing and organizing all of those papers that travel between home and school including graded work, flyers and notices, and parent communication
Strengths and Weaknesses of Various Student Mailbox Types
- Folders: I put folders on their desks and passed out all of the papers at the end of the day. Excuse me while I take a moment to shudder at the memory of the daily chaos. OK. Moving on.
- Plastic Stacking Trays: I invested in plastic stacking trays. And by invested I mean I got a good deal and scrounged up enough cash to buy a class set. This was a decent option. If you have the space (I put them on a counter) and can find a good deal, it’s worth giving a try. My set met their demise when I moved home to Massachusetts from Florida. Incidentally, that was also the demise of my tan, but that’s irrelevant.
- Boxes: I bought a bunch of boxes from Ikea. I made them all cute with scrapbook paper and colorful labels. Color that a waste of my time. I don’t think they lasted a month and that was with them undergoing some emergency surgery from me and my hot glue gun. Even packing tape couldn’t revive them.
- Wire Shelving Cubes: I had used some of those wire dorm shelving cubes at home to create a system for storing scrapbook paper. I used cable ties to secure them as shelves. Eehhhh….. I didn’t care for them in the classroom for several reasons. It was hard to secure a name tag on them and the kids reaching into them made them fall apart. If you do go this route, my partner teacher laminated different colored 12×12 paper with a name label on it for each student to help them keep track of where their box was located. You may want to try that.
- Pocket charts: The following year I was moved to Kindergarten where I had two classes (an a.m. and a p.m.) so I needed two sets of mailboxes. I thought these pocket charts would be perfect. They were wall mounted so they wouldn’t take up space. They weren’t all bad. If I was in an older grade at the time they would be doable because the kids could help mail things and because the kids might be tall enough to reach them. In my situation I not only had to stuff everything into the pockets (which was a challenge because they were tight), but I also had to stand there and take everything out and hand it to my little wee ones because they couldn’t reach the higher pockets.
- Hanging Folders: I repurposed those to hold paperwork and switched to a crate with hanging folders (one color per class with #s so I wouldn’t need to remake them).
- Cardboard Mailboxes: So I followed my heart. But, much like the rest of me, my heart is uber cheap. So I bought the cheapo, cardboard version of my dream boxes. And much like when my Payless shoes dye my feet funny colors, I realized you get what you pay for. These didn’t last very long.
- Wooden Literature Sorters: Back in the day (translation: when I first started teaching), I coveted those spiffy, wooden literature sorters. I knew it would be great. But, I was young and poor and couldn’t justify the cost. Eventually, the skies parted, angels sang and my husband presented me with not one, but TWO of the sorters of my dreams. Well that’s a bit of a lie actually. The one in my dreams would be new and black, and these were a bit worn and that funky, fake wood-looking brown color. But nothing a little paint couldn’t fix. I’ve since made new labels for the new year AND repainted them a shiny, sleek, black and they are now super bee-you-tee-ful!
- Giving homework as a packet and collecting it on Friday saves time each day and teaches students time management.
- Have a basket designated to turning in homework. During the first part of the year I just have them turn in their folders and will remove the homework myself, but starting in January I make the students responsible for turning in the work themselves.
- CHECK OUT THIS BLOG POST ALL ABOUT HOMEWORK: Homework Solutions
IMPROVE YOUR CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT:
Communication Folder Ideas
- I like to use email for any non-confidential message that is not time sensitive. However, I request that parents send written notes in for dismissal changes as well as notes that need to be seen immediately as I am not always able to check email during the day. Each student has a daily communication folder that goes home for this purpose. I use it to send home graded work and important notices as well. I used to have a basket on my teacher table for notes, money, etc, but found that students would sometimes forget to turn them in or would misplace them. Now I have them place their folder on my teacher table and I quickly flip through them first thing in the morning and remove those items myself.
- The process only takes 2-3 minutes and I do it as soon as my class has settled in and begun their independent reading. After I check them I have my mail carrier put them into the student mailboxes. This lets me see at a glance who didn’t turn in a folder and I can check in with that student to see if the folder was forgotten at home or is in his backpack.
- I use a solid color folder for all students communication folders. By keeping them all uniform its easy to visually tell them apart from other folders.
- On Thursday I send home a folder with school flyers and non-graded, practice work. When I receive the flyers from the office I slide them into one of the empty bottom compartments in my mailbox sorter. I do the same with student work. On Wednesday afternoons after school or Thursday mornings before school I have student volunteers distribute them along with the Thursday folder into the individual boxes. Parents know to look for the Thursday folder and to return it to school empty on Friday.
Ideas for Storing Parent Emails and Notes
- Email: I like to use email for non-urgent, non-confidential communication. I set up a folder for each student on my computer and move the messages into them in case I need to reference them.
- Paper Notes: For paper communication, I have a hanging file in my desk with each student’s number on the tab. I just drop any notes from home along with tardy slips into the folder after I read them. While I don’t typically need to reference them again, I do think it is a good idea to hold onto all of them until the end of the year.