Before I share some teacher organization tips for managing student assignments in your classroom, I would like you to pause and think about this question: In which of the two classrooms described below 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.
I know which one I prefer!
Kids work at different paces, on differentiated assignments, and come and go from interventions and services throughout the day. That’s why it’s so important to have clear expectations, routines, and procedures for turning in and completing assignments in your classroom. Read below to get some teacher organization tips and ideas to help you manage student assignments!
5 Teacher Organization Tips for Managing Student Assignments
If you feel disorganized, stressed and overwhelmed, try these 5 easy-to-implement teacher organization tips for streamline managing student assignments.
1. 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. These teacher checklists may be helpful!
2. 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 recommend having a designated spot for each subject area. This will be the one central area that all completed assignments get turned in. Students will learn this procedure and be able to quickly turn in their work and move onto the next activity. This will prevent them from wasting time standing around waiting to ask, “What do I do with this now that I’m done?”
Tips for Setting Up Turn-In Bins
Let’s talk about turn in bins. Below are my best tips for setting up turn-in bins.
Choose a Type of Container.
I found dishpans worked great, but other teachers have found success with boxes, baskets, binders, folders, and other containers. It doesn’t matter what you use; however, there are some things to consider. First and foremost, you need to make sure it is large enough to hold 8.5 x 11 papers or larger. Another thing to consider is using a different color bucket for each subject area with color-coordinated folders. Also consider using an ELA bucket as opposed to a reading bucket, a word study bucket, and a writing bucket. Finally, if you alternate between teaching a science and social studies unit like I did in my classroom, put those two labels (science and social studies) on opposite sides of the same bucket. You can rotate it around to reflect which subject you are teaching.
Label Your Containers
Label each container with the subject area. You can stick laminated labels to containers easily using tape, glue, hot glue, or Modge Podge. You could also tie it on using string. You may find these turn-in bin labels helpful!
Tips for Managing Turn-In Bins
Utilize Student Helpers
At designated times during the day (e.g. snack and dismissal), have students help you. They can first sort the work into piles by assignment. Next, they can arrange them in numerical order using the number in the corner. Finally, they can clip them together with a number sheet on top. By doing so, you are able to quickly see who has not turned in an assignment.
Log Grades Weekly
Consider using a printable to track the assignments. If it is being graded, record the grades directly onto these sheets. I log grades in once a week. This lets me return the graded work quicker. It also makes it easy for me to record grades when I do sit down to do that.
Store District Assessments
You may find that your district requires you to hold on to certain assessments. It is helpful to set up a box, file drawer or plastic tub in advance for this purpose. I have a box designated for this purpose. At the end of each marking period, I staple together any assignments that serve as support for a student’s grade and house them in this same box. Typically I don’t need to revisit these documents, but they are handy to have if a parent questions a report card grade or I decide to bring a child up for testing.
The picture above gives a glimpse into how I set up my turn-in work area. I designated one specific space in our classroom to house all of the incoming and outgoing papers. As you can see, I used a single shelf in the front of the classroom for everything students need to turn in (folders, worksheets, homework, etc.). I included a basket for the students to place their folders into each morning as well as a tray for collecting homework. In addition, I provided labeled bins for the students to use when passing in their assignments. This whole bookcase was dedicated to managing so many of the papers we deal with daily.
In addition to those materials, I used the bookshelf to house my daily lesson plans and daily work boxes. The only other thing I kept in this area was the district-wide assessments that the children take throughout the year on the bottom shelf as well.
3. Use student numbers.
A third teacher organization tip is to use student numbers. 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. Check out these student number cards!
4. 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.
As a side note, I purchased two literature organizers. One was for student mailboxes and the other was for unfinished work. These two organization tools, as well as a large paper sorter for construction paper are 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.
This system is great because it allows the teacher to tell at a glance who is falling behind on classwork. You can easily see who has work to complete and who has A LOT of work to complete. You can also tell when children are making “may do” choices when they should be doing their unfinished work from the “must do” board.
It is beneficial to have everything in one place. Your “late finishers” are often your more disorganized students. You no longer need to spend time helping them find their missing assignments before they could finish it. Now it’s all in one central location.
Tips for Setting Up and Managing Unfinished Work Boxes
Assign Each Student a Box
I used a paper sorter so each student had a slot that was labeled with their student number. I chose to label them with student numbers rather than student names so I wouldn’t have to replace the labels every school year.
Empty the Box at the End of the Week
At the end of each week, empty the unfinished work boxes. You could have students come in before school or after school to finish the work. Another option is to send it home to be completed over the weekend.
Don’t Keep Long Term Projects in Unfinished Work Boxes
If you are working on a whole-class ongoing project, collect the student work and hold onto it until the next time they are going to work on it. However, if the children have not completed work during the allotted time, tell them to put it into their unfinished box. The students will then slide their assignment into their box until a time arises when they can finish it.
5. Create a “Must Do / May Do” Assignment Board.
The last teacher organization tip on this list it to create a Must Do May Do Board. You can do this using a whiteboard 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, and enrichment activities such as animal research or making 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 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.
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