Let’s Get Organized!

Well it’s just about here, the first day of school! I don’t know about you but I try to get as organized as I possibly can before students show up in the hopes that I’ll stay organized all year long. During the first few years of teaching this never happened. My desk looked crazy and I could never find the paperwork I needed, or the worksheets for students who needed an extra copy, or that note I was going to give a student, or…..this list could really go on lol I don’t know why it took me 5 years to figure out how to get organized but it did and I’m here now to pass along that wisdom to hopefully spare you the countless hours of searching for items in a desk that is clearly more a Bermuda Triangle lol ;-p How do I manage to stay organized now? 3-Ringed Binders. I’m obsessed with these things! I use them to keep track of all my answer keys, for students, for general teacher stuff, and for my subs. Let me explain 🙂

Answer Keys – I teach 2 preps (3 this year) and make answers keys for just about everything. It helps keep me on track with what the students are doing so that when there’s a question I know what problem they are trying to describe. What I don’t like doing is making a new answer key every year for something I know I’ll repeat, or having to make a new one because I lost the original. Instead I now put the keys into their designated folder, place a blank copy of the assignment behind it or that’s where the left over quizzes go, and I’m done! 🙂

Students – this is probably my favorite. I always end up with left over worksheets on my desk. I make a few extras (you mean students will lose their work?!) and of course students are absent so those sheets are there too. As days go by these piles get bigger, and I have separate piles for each prep…..things can get out of hand. I now have 3-ringed binders for this. I pass out papers and the left overs get hole punched and placed in the binder. It’s become part of my routine….most of the time lol Students find “their” binder (I keep them in a crate by the student turn-in center in my room) and they can get the worksheet(s) they are missing. No more piles of paper on my desk. No more “the teacher forgot to give it to me” because let’s be real, yes that can happen….there are 30 bodies in here each hour! And, my favorite, no more “I wasn’t here yesterday so didn’t get that” from a student 20 mins into the class. Okay so that last one still happens but not as frequent. Students learn quickly the routines of the class, including to collect their missing work from the binder, and anything that helps decrease that type of distraction is good for me!

General teacher stuff – keeping track of meetings, parent contacts, ELL/IEP students/paperwork; all of this is in another folder. Each time I contact a parent I like to keep a log (paper trails are important!!!); I want modifications close by for easy access, a place to keep handouts from meetings….all the behind the scene stuff teachers need to keep track of. This folder also has a 3-ring binder pencil holder that contains teacher notes. I like to randomly hand out “your awesome because…” notes to students so having them pre-cut and ready to go is helpful. I also have “missing work” notes to remind students to turn in assignments. Both of these things happen more often when the prep work has already been done so that I can just pull a sheet out and use it.

Sub Binder – my district now refers to subs as “Guest Teachers” which I like. Prepping for guest teachers is time-consuming so anything that helps with that is awesome. so I present the Sub Binder. This binder has tabs on the inside where I place the work for each class, as well as seating charts. I don’t have to recollect this information each time. When I will be gone, I pull out the Sub Binder and just have to place directions for the worksheets into it, the rest is done 🙂

Wow, this post is much longer than I intended, sorry! I’ll post pictures once my binders are completed. If you don’t want to make your own contact logs, teacher notes, or binder covers you can find them at my TPT store, Teaching Elements. There’s a packet with everything together (contact logs, notes, and binder covers) or you can get the contact logs and teacher notes separate. As always, let me know if you have questions and I’ll help you if I can 🙂

No More Boring Syllabi

As the school year approaches and I prepare for the depressing end of my afternoon naps excitement of being back in the classroom, my mind is full of thoughts. Sometimes it can be overwhelming so I like to take breaks and peruse the wonderful world of Pinterest. Teachers make some pretty amazing things and looking at the wonderfully decorated, arranged, organized classrooms makes me happy 🙂 Somewhere in the middle of this I thought about my classroom syllabi. My students and their parents always read/understand/reference/use this right? HAHAHAHAHA That would be a dream world but who can really blame them? Students receive 6-7 syllabi in 1-2 days that are all on plain white paper with black type….easy to see how things can blend in. I decided this would be something I’d like to change so used my trusty Pinterest resource, searched “fun syllabi” and voila! What I learned from my search is that I need to keep my sections short and sweet, and maybe use an image that will help them remember. Which makes sense because our students live in a world bombarded by images used for communication (emoticons, memes) and we need to be able to get them to focus on us for more than 2 seconds. I’m in the beginning stages for my Chem 1 classes but I’m hoping the new syllabus will stand out and be easier to remember. I’d love to hear your thoughts and words-of-wisdom!

***I forgot to add how I made the syllabus in my first post, sorry! I used Microsoft Word and their newsletter options. I ended up deleting a lot of text boxes and inserting my own. I used the fill options to do the grey boxes, and found the images by using Google and Pinterest. I tried to keep the colors printer friendly (colored copies would cost a ton for 120 students!). I used colorful memes on worksheets last year that looked fine in black and white so hopefully this turns out okay too! If you have other questions let me know!!

*******For those of you who would just like to have an editable product, I’ve posted that option on my TPT account under Not Your Average Syllabus 🙂 The preview images look jumbled but I promise once it’s downloaded it will be similar to the pictures below! If for some reason it’s not just let me know and I’ll send you a better copy! Thanks!

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Student Turn-In Centers

Hello Everyone! What happened to August?! The beginning of the year always feels like such a rush! In addition I have had some health issues that have set me back on blogging. I’m (hopefully) on the other side of this battle and will be able to post weekly like originally planned!

My topic this week is simple but has always been an issue for me during the year: Student Organization/Turn-In Centers. It always seems that regardless of how I label baskets or help students in their organizing skills, papers end up in different hours, locations, and altogether disappear. Surely I’m not the only one dealing with this?! Pictured below is my solution 🙂


I’ve taken milk crates from Wal-Mart/Target (about $3.99 each) and labeled each one with an hour. I placed hanging files labeled 1-30 into each crate then a wire basket (from Wal-Mart) on top. I numbered the files so that I don’t have to change student names at semesters. Students are assigned a “random” number which becomes “their” number for the year. Really it’s alphabetical but it remains anonymous for students.

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So far they have worked really well! I place anything needed for that particular hour in the crate or in front of it. Student’s come into class and know exactly where to look for something AND where it should be returned. I love how everything I need from students in each hour is located in the same spot –  which has helped for grading as well!

In the hanging files student’s place their Student Data Folder. This particular folder is FULL of information and I will be sharing that with you this weekend! I’m looking forward to the impact of student’s checking and tracking their own understanding on concepts. It will be interesting! My classes have just finished setting up their folders so this week will be our first full-on interaction with them. Check back for my blog post on Sunday for the update!