Friday, October 21, 2011

Student Organization

Passing out papers to nearly 25 students for each activity can add up to a lot of wasted teaching time. My students sit at 4 tables. In the center of each table, I have a plastic paper holder. I place colored manila folders inside the paper holder. Red folders hold phonics papers, blue holds math papers, green holds science papers, etc. I place just enough papers (plus 1 for the inevitable ripped or spilled on paper) for each student at the table in these folders.
The students have learned to manage the boxes themselves. They understand that when it is time for the phonics lesson, the Paper Manager opens the box, takes out the red folder, and passes the papers to their table mates. The red folder is then set back inside the paper holder on top of all the other folders. Once the phonics lesson is completed, the student slips their paper back inside the appropriate colored folder. The Paper Manager then takes the colored folder and slips it under all the other folders. I stack the colored folders in order that they will be used each day. At the end of the day, I collect the four boxes, grade my papers, and fill the folders with the next day's papers. This is also a great time saver in the event of a need for an emergency substitute teacher.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Student Organization

Corners are great hiding places in some classrooms. How do you use yours? My first few years of teaching, I spent some of my time trying to use one corner to camouflage the stacks of unfinished work my slower students would create. It was unsightly and I was embarrassed by the disorder. I had a difficult time managing unfinished work for students and found that when I went to search for something a student might suddenly be ready to work on, it was often difficult to get to.
A number of years ago, I began to implement a plastic folder system that has saved me and my students a lot of time and frustration. I found a set of plastic folders that open at the top like a pocket. They came in a pack of 25 with 5 colors. I have 4 tables in my room. I assigned a color to each table. I then numbered each folder. My students know their number and the color of their folder. Now, when they are unable to finish something they are working on and we need to put it away until we can work on it later, the students understand they have an organizational system. They simply pack what they haven't finished into their own pocket folder and bring it over to a hanging file box. They slip the pocket folder into their numbered file and transition to their next activity. At any time, during the day, if a student has finished something and has time to go back to finish their work from earlier, they simply return to the file box and retrieve their numbered folder and get back to work without any prodding. This has gone a long way toward teaching the students personal responsibility. They are now in charge of their own organization.
Since these folders are plastic and only numbered, they can be reused year after year.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Eight weeks into the school year, my kindergarten students are finally responding well to transition time between activities. Eight years into teaching, I have finally realized that transition time can still be a teachable time. For so long, I have often compared transition time in kindergarten to something like trying to change the laundry on spin cycle. In the past, when I have asked students to stop what they are doing and have expected them to move on to the next stage of the day, I found myself grasping into thin air to retrieve one of many tools that don't really do any good. I have tried positive praising of other students near students who are transition time wasters. I have threatened with "The Great Count Down", "5, 4, 3, 2, 1" and still the same offenders were wasting time. I handed out stickers to those who obeyed and still the offenders would be anywhere except where they were supposed to be and still wasting teaching times.
Instead of losing valuable teaching time trying to lasso the wandering ones, I move immediately to where I expect my students to move to in the classroom. I have our classroom puppet, "Mr. Harry" begin to show the students who are listening something really interesting that is related to what we have learned about so far. The puppet has a really large mouth which is great for holding and hiding things. I pretend that he is telling me he has something he wants to show me and I begin talking with him about what it could be that he wants to show me. This is a great reward to those who follow my directions immediately. They get to see "the whole show". Those who have been anywhere except where they were supposed to are often drawn right over to the area I want them in by the interest we are showing the puppet. I then have the puppet reveal what he wanted to show us and I begin allowing students to ask a few questions. Before you know it, all the students are seated in a new setting and ready to hear about the next thing I want to teach them about. This has begun to work really well. Those students who are wandering about have learned that if they do not change venues when asked to the first time, they will in turn, miss out on something really special that "Mr. Harry" has to share. It has been working extremely well and we now often have enough free time left at the end of the day to incorporate a "Free Choice" activity for students.
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