Sunday, October 16, 2011


Hi teacher friends!  I know it seems I have disappeared off the face of the Earth (or at least the blogosphere), but I am alive and well and busier than ever.  With all the committee work I am doing at my middle school and as part of the district K-12 math review, and my leadership role as middle school math liaison, to put it mildly I am SWAMPED!

I am having a wonderful school year and have really great students, but homework completion and organization is more of a challenge for this class than in past years.  My new AP is awesome and everyone really seems to like him.  I have two new teachers on my team this year so it has really changed the dynamic of my teaching team, mostly for the positive.  There are some issues that need to be resolved, but enough about that.

I received an email the other day from a first year ESL teacher in NYC.  She is feeling overwhelmed and  asked for suggestions to help get organized.  I responded to her with some tips for keeping papers and paperwork organized.

I will be sharing some of those tips in this and future blog posts.  Hope you find this helpful.

Today I will be sharing how I organize the handouts that I give to students.  In my case this would include: note sheets, labsheets, practice worksheets, and any other handouts that students use in class.  Each Module (which is another word for chapter) of our math text is divided into sections, and each sections is divided into two or three explorations.  I color code all handouts by section with the following colors:  section one is yellow, two is green, three is blue, four is pink, five is goldenrod (only a couple modules have more than four sections), and six is purple.

I use my paper sorter to organize the papers I will be handing out to students.  This year, due to how busy I am, I have had a really hard getting all my copies made as far in advance as I am used to.  You get the idea though, from the photo of how I organize the papers.  The second last column on the right is holding manipulative packets for learning stations (the white papers).  I use the last column to organize random papers that I use regularly (or my students do), there is a section for plain white copy paper, looseleaf, and scrap paper (all for student use).  I also have have some fun bright colors for special copies I make.  We do all of our own copying and that is why you see the paper reams in the bottom row.  All the copies I had out to students that go in their binders are copied on special three-hole punched paper.  Any copies that do not go in their binders are copied on regular colored paper.  The kids love getting the prepunched colored paper because it helps to keep their math binders nice and organized.  Visually they can easily find a paper by looking in the correct section of their binder.

My vertical file cabinets hold my paper sorters for copies of student handouts
Now the question of what to do with any extra paper copies is an important one.  You don't want piles of random papers cluttering up your desk and within a couple of days your desk can suddenly look like a recycling basket, instead of a desk.  The method that I use is to have a file folder for each section of that module.  Any extra copies get grouped together and then separated with a colored piece of paper.
These file folders hold extra copies of student handouts after we are done with them
Another great thing about this method is that I keep the folders from year to year, if something gets changed the next year I will just transfer the old out of date papers to my scrap paper file.  Don't you just love it when a student comes and asks for a week's worth of homework because they are going on vacation?  This happens frequently in my district.  What I do in this case is pull out my lesson plan book from the previous year, got to my extra copies files and pull out any needed papers.  I always emphasize to students that we may do something different than what I give them, but usually it ends up being pretty close to what we do.  No last minute running around making extra copies for that students.
Each module is divided by section

How often do students lose copies of something, or maybe they do something wrong on their paper and prefer to start over with a clean copy?  This happens to me and it is so nice to just go to the file and grab what whatever copy the student needs.  Do you ever have a colleague looking for an extra copy of something?  Again just grab it from the appropriate file.  My students marvel at how organized I am when I can always find any copy they need at a moment's notice.  The whole color coding method is what makes this so quick.  If they need a worksheet from Module 1, Section three I immediately know I am looking for a blue sheet.

If I find random copies of sheets I can always tell by color what section they belong to (as can students). This is a KEY factor in our organization.  We do computer grading on PowerSchool and I even put the color of worksheets in the comments section.  That way if a student is missing Wksht 1-72 and it says (yellow) in the comments, they know that they are looking for a sheet from the section of yellow papers in his/her binder.  Then they don't come to me, asking what color it was (as they can see on PowerSchool).

These are papers for sections 1-3.  

Sections 4-5 papers as well as manipulative packets for learning stations

Keeping paperwork organized is one of the biggest challenges teaching middle school.  I teach four different math classes, as well as Core Plus so I shuffle a ridiculous amount of papers.  We try to go paperless whenever possible, but students need labsheets, note sheets, and some worksheets.  It is very important to keep those papers organized for yourself, as well, as to be a good role model for your students.  It's hard to expect students to be organized if you your own paperwork and desk are in constant disarray.

1 comment:

Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. Feel free to email me at with any questions you have.