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5 Easy Ways to Manage Student Assignments

In which of these two classrooms 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 tips and ideas to help you!

Check out these easy classroom organization tips and strategies for how to manage paper and student assignments through using must do and may do activities, student work boards, fast finisher activities, long term projects, packets, printables, and more!

How to Manage Student Assignments

If you feel disorganized, stressed and overwhelmed, try these 5 easy-to-implement ways to 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. 

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 found dishpans worked great, but other teachers have found success with boxes or a variety of baskets or containers. It doesn’t matter what you use, but you do need to make sure it is large enough to hold 8.5 x 11 papers or larger. Label each with the subject area. 

3. 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. 

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. (Sidenote PSA: I purchased two (one for student mailboxes and one for unfinished work) as well as a large paper sorter for construction paper and consider those to be 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. 

Teachers can improve classroom management by creating a system for managing student assignments. This article explains how to create an easy plan to log and track student assignments so elementary school students always know what is expected.

5. Create a Must Do / May Do” Assignment Board.

This can be done 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 make 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.

Teachers can improve classroom management by creating a system for managing student assignments. This article explains how to create an easy plan to log and track student assignments so elementary school students always know what is expected.
{Click to Access All The Printables Shown Above}
Teachers can improve classroom management by creating a system for managing student assignments. This article explains how to create an easy plan to log and track student assignments so elementary school students always know what is expected.
{Click to view & download}
Teachers can improve classroom management by creating a system for managing student assignments. This article explains how to create an easy plan to log and track student assignments so elementary school students always know what is expected.
{Click to view & download}
{Click to view & download}

Each of these are available on their own via the links below or as part of my Classroom Management Mega-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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Check out these easy classroom organization tips and strategies for how to manage paper and student assignments through using must do and may do activities, student work boards, fast finisher activities, long term projects, packets, printables, and more!

Collecting and organizing student work can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be! Check out the organization tools below and learn how using a single shelf can make your life easier.

Organization Tools for Collecting Student Work

Here are some organization tool ideas for collecting student work:

  • Boxes
  • Dishpans
  • Baskets
  • Folders
  • Binders

Organization Tips for Student Work

  • Designate one specific space in our classroom to house all of the incoming and outgoing papers. 
  • Use a single shelf in the front of the classroom for everything students need to turn in (folders, worksheets, homework, etc.).
  • Dedicate the entire shelf to managing so many of the papers we deal with daily. 
  • Include a basket for the students to place their folders into each morning as well as a tray for collecting homework.
  • Provide labeled bins for the students to use when passing in their assignments.
  • Keep your daily lesson plans and daily work boxes on the bottom shelf of this area.
  • House all of the district-wide assessments that the children take throughout the year on the bottom shelf as well.

From Another Related Post: How to Collect Student Work and Keep it Organized

“What do I do with this now that I’m done?” Do you hear this constantly?  One of the most important things you can do in order to stay on top of papers in the classroom is to have a consistent procedure for students to turn in their completed assignments.  You won’t hear that question again when you have a consistent routine in place.  There are many systems to choose from and you need to find what works best for you.  Are you unsure of where to start?  Read below!

Container Ideas

  • You need a designated spot for each subject area.  This will be the one central area that all completed assignments get turned in. Because students will know this is the procedure in our classroom, they will be able to quickly turn in their work and move onto the next activity and not waste time standing around waiting to ask, “What do I do with this now that I’m done?”
  • Use a different color bucket for each subject area with color-coordinated folders.
  • Use an ELA bucket as opposed to a reading bucket, a word study bucket, and a writing bucket.
  • I alternate teaching a social studies unit and a science unit, I put those two labels on opposite sides of the same bucket. I’ll just rotate it around to reflect which subject we teach.
  • At designated times during the day (snack, dismissal) I have students sort the work in to piles by assignment and then arrange them in numerical order using the number in the corner and clip them together with a number sheet on top. By doing so I am able to quickly see who has not turned in an assignment. 
  • I use the cover sheet to track the assignments and if it is being graded I will record the grades directly onto these sheets. Because I log grades in once a week, this lets me return the graded work quicker and makes it easy for me to record grades when I do sit down to do that.
  • 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.

Ways to Stick Laminated Labels on the Containers

  • Tape
  • Glue
  • Tied with string/yarn
  • Hot glue and a hot glue gun
  • Modge Podge (and a bunch of foam brushes) ← My favorite option!

Tips for Unfinished Work Boxes

  • Assign each student a box (I used a paper sorter) and label it with his/her number.
  • 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 your unfinished box.” The students will then slide their assignment into their box until a time arises when they can finish it. 
  • 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.
  • Empty the boxes at the end of each week. This may mean that you invite the children to come in before school or stay after school. Another option is to send it home to be completed on the weekend.

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