Thursday, October 4, 2012

Establishing routines and procedures #1- Papers

One thing I have learned over the years is the importance of establishing routines and procedures with your students the first several weeks of school.  If you take the time and have the patience to train your students well, you will benefit greatly from this investment for the rest of the school year.  I think it is said, that it takes 21 days to establish a habit, and the same goes in your classroom.  Today's post is going to focus on routines to establish in your classroom regarding paperwork.  I have established these routines so we do not waste precious class time and also to preserve my sanity.

I do not collect daily assignments.  Students self correct their papers and I walk around and stamp them with my initial stamp "SN", for some reason many students think it is so cool that I have a stamp with my initials on it.  I found it at a store many years ago and just lucked out than they had my initials.  I also have separate stamps for late or absent work.  If a student is absent or does not have the assignment finished I will give them the answer key to check their paper, once it is completed, I answer any questions they have and they keep the paper.  I NEVER collect or keep absent or late work.  I figured out several years ago, that if the paper always stays in the student's hand and I just stamp it, then they cannot claim I have their missing work.

Of course I have to have a pink stamp pad.

Absent work stamp.

My initials stamp.

Late work stamp.

When I hand out papers to students that will be passed back in to me, I always remind students to put their first and last name on the paper, along with their class hour, and the date if needed.  I remind them of this over and over.  Three of my math classes had a quiz the other day and numerous students only put their first name, or first name and last initial.  When I handed the quizzes back the second day to finish up I reminded students that they needed a first and last name on the quiz and that if they turned it in not labeled properly, I would consider that not following directions.  I always think at the beginning of the year the kids must think I am the most anal retentive person, but I explain to them that I teach them routines that make my life easier and our class time more productive.  I have to say, that throughout the years I do not get papers turned in with no name because of the obsessive harping constant reminders I give students about labeling their papers properly.

I have one turn in basket for papers that sits on my desks and students always know where they are to turn in papers because it's always the same place.  If I collect papers that will need to be returned to students the next day, I will collect them in table groups instead of them handing them in individually.  That way the next day I just pass out each set of papers to the table, instead of needing to pass out each paper individually.  This saves time and gets us started much more quickly.  Every class uses the same turn in basket so I make sure that I paper clip the papers together after each class hour and remove them from the turn in basket so the basket is empty for the next class.  I grade the papers and then put them in the daily file for the next day so I don't forget to hand them back.

Where students place papers that get turned in.

Class Hour Files on the left and Daily Files on the right.

If students do not finish the assessment during class, they need to come in during Core Plus or Homebase and finish.  I have students who are not finished hand me their papers (anything in the turn in basket is finished and ready to be graded).  I then clip the unfinished papers together and put them back in today's day file, so when they return later in the day I know right where the unfinished papers are.  After they finish the paper gets clipped with the other completed papers from that same class hour.

Papers stay clipped here until they are entered on the computer.
When I hand back assessments that have been graded, I call students up to me to get their papers.  I tend to call about five students at a time and hand the papers as they get to me.  This goes much more quickly than me walking around the room and finding each individual student.  After we discuss the assessment I collect them back in alphabetical order (again students bring them to me).  That way, when I go to enter grades in my online grade book, I can enter the scores in probably less than two minutes.  I like to use the desktop computer for entering grades because it goes much more quickly with the keypad.  I hang on to assessments and keep them clipped by class hour.  The papers are filed together so if I need to find a paper I know right where to go.
Graded papers that have been entered on the computer get placed here.

I have done previous posts about how I handle paperwork for absent students and hand outs for the day.  If you want to read more about that check out this post Daily Files and Class Files.  I will do a separate post in the future about how our school handles missing assignments through a program called Working Lunch.  It creates a bit of a paper shuffle for me, but more importantly it hold the students accountable for completing EVERY assignment.

Just for fun my new label for my scrap paper basket.

ETA 7/1/14:  I get lots of emails asking where I got the black plastic five slot organizers where I put my daily and class files.  I got them several years ago at Office Max and I believe they are made by Rubbermaid.  I have searched high and low online to find a link to something similar and unfortunately I haven't seen anything like that.  Sorry I don't have better news for those of you wishing to purchase the file holders.


  1. How do you record grades for the daily assignments?

    1. Hi Rebekah,
      Daily assignments are a completion grade of 2 pts. If students do not complete their homework they are assigned a working lunch.

  2. I began the year not collecting late assignments and just stamping them as I went around. Unfortunately, some students would do a whole bunch of assignments at once, slowing everything down. I also have about a third of the class that doesn't do homework in a timely fashion.

    For the new grading period I switched to requiring late assignments to be done on a separate piece of paper they turn in and then tape into their notebooks when they get it back. I waste less time that way.

  3. I totally agree about setting routines! Thanks for sharing your policies and procedures!

  4. Do you carry around all three stamps as you're walking around? Also, how do you remember who did and did not do their homework so you can mark it in the gradebook if you don't collect them?

    1. I only carry around the initial stamp with the pink stamp pad. If they are absent or not finished there paper does not get stamped at that time. The next day when they return from absence they would get the absent stamp. Once they finish the missing assignment they would get the late stamp. They would come up to me once it is finished (during work time at the end of class or they would come to my homebase at the end of the day and show me the completed assign and then I would late stamp it and hand the student the answer key to check the work). I do not collect any late or absent work.

      I have a class list that I write next to a student AN if the assignment is not done and AB if they are absent. If there is nothing next to a student's name I know the work was on time.

      I use an online gradebook and I reference my class list to see who is missing and they get a missing on Powerschool. Once they turn it in the missing turns to a completion grade of 2 and then I put an L on powerschool so it shows up as late. HTH

  5. I wish more teachers would be this organized and set an example for the students. I tutor a group of middle school kids for math and science, and they seem to always be so unorganized. :/

    1. Thanks! Organization is definitely a struggle for many students this age, so I try to model for them how to be organized. It helps the vast majority, but there are always a few that seem to struggle despite the modeling. ;)

  6. Could you explain the working lunch that your school follows?

  7. So what assignments do you physically collect, other than quizzes/tests? Do you keep their assessments in a file in the classroom or let them have them?

  8. I want to start a process for my middle school math classes so I am not drowning in grading papers. My plan is to give 10 points for a HW assignment that is completed and a 0 if it is not completed or if they do not even have a paper to turn in. Then I will give them until the end of the week to complete it and turn it in for partial credit. The HW will not count for much of their grade so I do not plan to grade for correct answers. Instead, we will go over the HW in class and I will have students show how they answered the questions or I will just give answers so students can self-check.

    My question is how do you make students accountable for learning the material. I'm sure a lot of students copy their friends assignment just so they can get a good grade as my experience is that all they care about is making sure they have the correct answer.

    Also, my school requires that we have at least 800 points per 9 weeks with at least 1-2 assignments per week. I'm a little worried about how to get enough points if I am only counting HW worth 10 points. Anybody else deal with any of these issues?

  9. I only grade homework as a completion grade as well because I feel that homework is their practice and some kids get more help at home than others, some don't get any help. To establish an assignment grade based on understanding of the concepts I do a weekly "checkpoint" with 5-10 problems from the past week's concepts. The students are able to use their note to help them as well as receive minimal guidance from me. This way they are getting a grade for an assignment, however the playing field is level for all and the more time the spend on understanding the concepts in their homework and understanding why they may have gotten a homework problem incorrect after we correct together in class the better they will do on the checkpoint for that week.

  10. Where did you get your plastic file folder containers that you use for you class hour files and daily files? Thanks!

    1. Jennifer I updated the post at the end to let everyone know that those file holders don't seem to be available anymore. I bought them several years ago at Office Max. Sorry.


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