There is so much for a teacher to do before the students even set foot into the classroom! With the large numbers of students in middle school classes, it’s important for routines to be established at the onset of the year. In order for that to occur effortlessly, the classroom needs to be prearranged with that goal in mind. There was a new teacher at a school where I was teaching. He had no clue how to organize his room, and, unfortunately, that contributed to the fiasco that kept escalating….lost papers….students roaming….not a good thing! Don’t underestimate the impact that a teacher’s well thought-out plan has on the entire climate of the classroom. Each teacher is individual, yet most have common managerial needs. I spent many years trying things one way, then changing them…you can probably relate if you’ve been in the classroom for a number of years. These tips to keeping a classroom organized might help you…
Organizing the Classroom
- Student Area: Set this up in a place that will cause the least number of distractions. Include a pencil sharpener, books, tissues, first aid kit, teacher’s daily planner (absent students can use this for copying homework and objectives they’ve missed), basket where pencils can be donated, and so on. In this way, students don’t have to ask where to find a certain item, because they know the answer will probably be “in the student area”. Of course, rules as to when they can go to this spot need to be in place. Include your “Extra Papers File” here as well.
- Extra Papers File: Use a plastic file crate for each type of class (I had one for basic math and one for accelerated math). Whenever papers are distributed, the extras will go into these files. Absent students will then have easy access to homework sheets, and so on. This eliminates the excuse of “I never received that homework” or “I lost it”. As an added bonus, parents will be surprised at conferences when they find out how simple it is for students to retrieve required papers in your class!
- Individual Turn-In Box: A Tupperware container with a flip-up lid works well. Students place papers here that aren’t turned in with the entire group. For example, if a student is absent when a paper is collected, or perhaps he/she does an assignment over again, it would be deposited here. This eliminates 3 or 4 students each period waving papers in your face as they enter your room!
- Group In-Box: Papers collected from the whole group are placed in the “In-Box”. Be sure there is a slot for each different class period. Chances of misplacing students’ papers are fewer when this habit is established.
- Out-Box: Once papers are graded, place them here for distribution. Be sure to have a slot for each class period. Also, including such items as handouts from the office in this file is reassurance that you won’t forget to disperse them. .
- Today’s Papers: Have one spot where the worksheets that will be used that day are housed. Mine were kept on a table in the room. Be sure to set them out a day ahead of time since mornings before school can get hectic.
- “No-Name” Papers: Invariably, there will be nameless papers. Place all papers without names into a pocket folder. Make sure to write the period number in ink on each paper in order to eliminate some of the “false claims”.
- Grab Box: As a general rule, there are many occasions when students can earn rewards. They’ll particularly like the “add 10% to homework” cards, which cost no money. Keep your reward box in a spot where students cannot easily reach it.
Your next step, an important one, will be to assign student managers. Read my article entitled, Middle School Teachers: Assign Jobs to Students and Breathe Easier! It goes hand-in-hand with this one. You don’t have the time to collect all the papers, make sure the extra papers go into the file box, and so on. The students love to help, so don’t drive yourself crazy doing everything on your own!
Take the time and forethought to set up your classroom before school starts. Once school is in full swing, you’ll appreciate your organization, and so will the students. It’s a comfortable feeling for all of you knowing that there’s a place for everything in your classroom.
Other related articles:
A Middle School Teacher’s First Day: Plan to Succeed
The Whiteboard Jungle: Discipline Tips for New Middle-School Teachers
If you’re a math teacher, you may be interested:
An Interactive Approach to Adding Positive and Negative Numbers
Don’t Be a Square Teacher: Have Fun Teaching Squares and Square Roots