Working smarter not harder?

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by lemonhead, Nov 23, 2008.

  1. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    Nov 23, 2008

    How do you do this? I'd like to hear some things that you veteran teachers learned about dealing with the stress, paperwork, organization... ANYTHING that you can share. I teach first and things seem to take me so much longer than other teachers on my team. I don't know if I am totally focussing on the wrong things or what.

    So, what are some big revelations you have had since your first year? Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently?

    Please don't tell me just to go home by 4pm and take time for myself because that will get me further behind. I am not burnt out.
     
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  3. Tasha

    Tasha Phenom

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    Nov 23, 2008

    I use weekly homework packets. I keep a binder of homework that I can pull out and look at each year. 90% of the time we are learning most of the same things at the same time and my homework is truly review from at least a week - 2 weeks before anyway. It really helps to not have to pull out all of my resource books every week to make homework packets! If you use morning work regularly, you can do the same thing. However, I have cut morning work way down by teaching my kids to use whiteboards and stay on task without too much supervision. Some days I tell them to write numbers, other days, letters/words. If you teach with themes, spend some time making folders for the themes you teach and put them in the order you teach them in. Make copies of the things you actually use out of your resource books and file them by theme/subject. It is much easier to pull out a file than to have to pull out the book every time. Also, many times the books that are sold by the month have things in them that you use at a different time of year and you may not remember when you get to that theme. (Ex. March Mailbox has zoo activities and we teach "zoo animals" in May. I can make a teacher copy and file it in the zoo file when I see the idea in March and not have to look through all my books when we get to zoo animals).

    I hope that all made sense!
     
  4. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    Nov 23, 2008

    Thanks Tasha. As of now, most of my morning work is paperwork but I can see how white board activities would help. I could easily change one of my activities to that.

    Do you have a hard time getting things you need to get done during the day? I just feel like I am constantly, I mean every minute, helping a students or actually teaching. Not that there is anything wrong with that, or maybe there is, but there is one teacher on my team who comes in at 7:30 and leaves empty handed at 3:30. How does that person do it?

    Then I see a silly email come through and all these teachers have the time to respond to it multiple times before I even look at it. I never care to respond anyway but still, what are they doing that they have that time?
     
  5. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    Do you practice handwriting on the whiteboards?

    Also, I'm trying on the files but it is hard to keep up with that too.
     
  6. sevenplus

    sevenplus Connoisseur

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    Nov 23, 2008

    This probably won't reassure you, but this is my NINTH year and I feel the same exact way. I am overwhelmed by work. However, other teachers at my school feel the same way, so I'm not feeling it's something I'm doing wrong, really. I also know how you feel about always teaching or helping students and not having time to actually accomplish anything else.

    One thing I do that helps is keep a little notebook with to-do lists, ideas to put in my weekly newsletter, etc. That way, when I have a few moments, I try not to waste it just figuring out what the priorities are.

    I try to delegate as much as I can to the students. Students can pass out the morning journals, giving me 3 or 4 extra minutes in the morning. They can also unstack the chairs in the morning, open the blinds, etc.

    Delegating helps, too, when I have parent volunteers. I don't have someone who comes in consistently, but I always have books that need to be staples and if the stack of books and a stapler is sitting there then if someone does come there is something to do.

    I also keep all of my things in files. I add new material every year, but I have my old standy-bys. I usually spend lots of time planning, but if I'm in a crunch I have stuff I can pull out. And when I'm planning I always refer back to last year's plan book. I use the stuff I felt worked really well and then add some new things.

    I just went back and read your original question. I've come a LONG way since my first year. I used to do daily behavior sheets. Then I went to weekly. Now I just glue a monthly calendar on the front of their home/school folder and that also serves as the behavior log.

    I used to spend hours sorting out student work and return it all at once one day per week. Now I have students put it in a complete work tub and I grade it as I get to it. I have 5th grade helpers for a few minutes each morning and they can put checked work in students' cubbies for me.
     
  7. MissFroggy

    MissFroggy Aficionado

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    Nov 23, 2008

    I can't think of too many specifics (and this is the third time I tried posting but kept deleting it before.)

    Homework-

    I used to do nightly HW relating to something we did in class. Then I did weekly spelling packets at 3 levels. THEN I finally learned to do a weekly packet and do similar enough things for each group that I didn't have to copy 3 packets for the different groups. Each group has the same assignments, just different words. They copied their words down after their lesson on Monday. This worked much, much better. I also did a whole week worth of fact practice for HW and only did a time test on Friday. I used to do them daily as the math warm up but went through too many copies.

    I used to set up centers for our literacy block. The kids would have games, etc. Not only that but I CREATED each game. I literally made games for 3 different leveled groups all weekend. Yuck! Now I do Daily 5 or we all do the same thing more or less. It's not as differentiated but I differentiate in other ways.

    I used to do color coded flip charts and behavior bucks and things. Now I do responsive classroom and don't deal with any rewards at all... tangible rewards anyway. I used to run out and have to scour the dollar store for dumb pencils and things. Now rewards are extra free time, doing a cheer, a low-key party, etc. Much better!

    there are many other things too, but I can't seem to think of them all!
     
  8. Tasha

    Tasha Phenom

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    I can usually get things done and leave by 4 (about an hour after school is over) most days and leave on time at least 1-2 days a week. The biggest thing is getting busy during your conference period. Don't waste time chatting if you can avoid it, run your copies well in advance so you aren't rushing around trying to find the paper and make copies for the that day. Also, I take things home that I can do on the couch because it is better than staying at school to do it! Also, as you have taught it and your files are built up it gets better because you know what most of your activities will be and how long it will take. This changes some with the group, but overall you get a feel for what takes more/less time. Also, K-1 teachers just have to be more involved. There are very few times that you can say, "Ok you do this and don't ask me any questions". You have to have an example of most things and you have to be on hand to explain/reteach.

    I do use white boards for handwriting. One of the tricks I have found with the white boards is to give them some time to draw at the end of the planned activity. At the beginning of the year I give them 5 minutes at the end of each activity to draw (and I tell them this every time we get them out). The catch is that anyone drawing before that loses the white board and gets to write (whatever it is) on paper and doesn't get drawing time at the end. After a few weeks, they get used to not being able to draw and they have drawing time only when we have time (say once or twice a week) for 5 minutes. For morning work on the white boards I am not very structured. I usually say they can write any words, letters, or numbers that they want. At this age they seem to instinctively work at their level. One of their favorite things is to write the names of their friends. We have a boy list and a girl list in ABC order with their pictures up on the wall and many of them will spend the entire time just writing names. For the purpose of practicing forming letters, I say this is great. If we are using the white boards during actual handwriting time, I am very specific about what to write. After the winter break I ask them to write words on the white boards during morning work, but names are still fine. When we are learning word families I encourage them to change the onset to make new words and see how many new words they can find.
     
  9. mom2ohc

    mom2ohc Habitué

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    Nov 23, 2008

    great ideas about the white boards!

    I like to let the students help me out by checking papers, they love to be the teacher assistant, so this is a big help!, I also have them do all their spelling homeowork in a notebook, and they have to hand it in in a bakset, in abc order, open to the page that I want to check that seems to help me go faster
     
  10. shouldbeasleep

    shouldbeasleep Enthusiast

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    Nov 24, 2008

    Check homework with the students, don't save it for later.

    Also, you know all those little numbers you have to write for standards? In our district, the teacher has to record on the lesson plans SS5H1a etc. If I don't have time to look it up, I make it up. P isn't going to know.

    I also type everything since I'm a faster typer than writer. So lesson plans are typed. And that means "cut and paste". Which is faster than typing it over again.

    I also have written down the plans that are in the T. Ed. even if I'm probably not going to use them. I pretty much know by now what I'm going to do if I make a quick jot list the night before.

    And I never bother trying to remember where kids are supposed to go. If there's a special chorus rehearsal, I give it to the most responsible one in the class and tell him/her to remember.

    I have a race trying to get the lunch count and agenda check in before morning announcements. Half the time I lose, but the kids think it's funny. They'll help me by saying it really fast. (I don't do the kids make the lunch choice with popsicle stick thing. I'd rather call roll and have them say 1, 2. 3, brought, etc. for an answer. I don't have to hunt down kids who didn't make a choice that way, and it's usually fast.)

    We do a lot of collaborative planning. Wednesdays are business days during planning. Anything that has to be done and turned in we do altogether.

    Thursdays are planning days. We'll pick a unit or two and go through the week's plans likety-split. (We finally started doing this.) Got math and Science done for a week in 40 minutes. And those are the two most complicated to plan for. Most of us are piloting different reading series so we can't plan together on those.

    Post is getting too long. Sorry
     
  11. yearroundteach

    yearroundteach Companion

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    Nov 24, 2008

    I haven't read all the other replies so forgive me if I repeat things.

    First of all, those teachers are able to finish quicker than you for a few reasons. They have had more practice. They probably know what to do with each item of paperwork for the office due to past experience. They also, most likely, have ideas and materials from previous years' lessons so they don't have to spend as much time thinking about that. Teachers who have been around awhile also know what to grade and what to just take a look at or go over with the kids. New teachers tend to grade more than they need to because they just don't know.

    I don't mean to discourage you but you are probably going to spend more time at school than them all year. The good news is that each year will get easier and easier and quicker and quicker. But that will only happen if you put in the work now. I spent ALOT of time my first year organizing but I am SO grateful I did now (4 years later). The first thing I did is I went and bought 7 binders. (2 for math, 1 for Language Arts, 2 for my themes, and 2 for holidays) I also bought alot of tabs (enough to cover all my standards in math and L.A., themes, and holidays) Yes it did cost alot the one time but I'll never have to do it again.

    Then I sat down a few nights at home in front of the TV and made the tabs for every standard I had in math and L.A. and put them in their respective binders. Same for themes and holidays. Once those were ready all I had to do was make an extra copy when I made the copies for the kids and place it under the correct tab in the correct binder. The most work is getting the binders ready. Once that is done the "filing" is a piece of cake.

    And while I'm on that topic... I always, and I mean ALWAYS, file every paper immediately. When I make those copies, I immediately take the one and put it in the binder. If I get something from the office that can be taken care of immediately, I do it. If a student brings a note, as soon as I'm done reading/responding/acting on it I drop it right in their file. Basically I avoid having anything sitting on my desk if I can help it.

    On the topic of student files. At the beginning of the year I got a rubber maid tub with the foldable top flaps that holds hanging file folders. I labeled the hanging file folders with the numbers 1-20 (20 is the most number of kids I'll have in my class) and put them in the tub. I then got file folders and labeled three folders for each child. One is for notes home, notes from parents, progress reports, etc. One is for reading data (DRA, running records, etc.). The last is for conferences (samples of work, notes, etc. that would be needed for conferences). Each of these files is labeled with the title and the number corresponding to the hanging file. I use numbers for students rather than names on things like these so I'll never have to make them again. This way every paper I have on a student has a place and I can just drop it right in right away.

    Another thing that has helped me a ton is to really trully use before school and during prep as planning time. It is tempting to go talk to other teachers to let steam off but I try to save that for Thursday or Friday when I'm all (or mostly) caught up.

    Make to do lists for yourself. I sometimes make to do lists that are a full page long. You would think it would be overwhelming but it really has the opposite effect (at least for me). I find that it motivates me and I have a true sense of accomplishment and stress relief when I can cross something off. Plus it saves me time because I don't have to think about what needs to be done. It's all right there because as soon as a task pops into my head, I write it on my list. I don't wait because then I would surely forget.

    Work some planning time into the day. Find morning work that students can do independently so that you can use that 10 minutes to check in homework and read any notes and things coming from home. I don't actually grade homework during this time. I just check whether it's done or not and then call the students up who didn't turn HW in so I can write a note in their agenda about it. Another time I catch up is during 5-10 minute journal writing after lunch. This isn't something I need to help with because it isn't graded; which frees me up to quickly grade a stack of papers, get something ready for the next lesson, send a quick email, or whatever.

    I also try to build grading time into my day. For example, we always grade our spelling test together right after we take it. This gives the students immediate feedback and saves me from having to grade 17 papers later. It took 2-3 times to "train" the kids how to properly grade it but now they're experts. I try to fit time in to do this with other tests, quizes, or work when I can. It really saves a ton of time and helps students make immediate corrections to their mistakes which will hopefully be retained.

    Last thing I can think of right now is another way I use the student numbers. The student numbers are given to the students in alphabetical order by last name. So my student who has a last name that starts with an A is number 1 and so on. This way they are in the same order as in my grade book. If I get a new student I just add their name to the bottom of my gradebook (no matter what their last name is) and give them the last number. I make sure the kids learn these numbers right away and they write them on every paper. I save time with these in 2 major ways. For most papers, I have students turn them in by backwards ABC/number order. This way I don't have to spend my time sorting the papers in order to enter grades. Again took a bit a practice but now it's simple. I also rarely hand back papers myself. I got a pocket chart (free from Highlights) that has 24 or so individual 8 1/2 by 11 pockets. The first 17 pockets are labeled with the almighty numbers again. Any graded papers that I have, I stick in an unlabeled bottom pocket. I have a "mail person" job. That persons job is to file the papers into each students' "mailbox". This is why they write their numbers on their papers; so that the mail person knows which number pocket to put it in.

    Wow this is a LONG post. Probably the longest I have ever written! I certainly hope you can find at least one thing that you can use or adapt in your own way to help you. I promise, it will get better as time goes on. Just think of it as investing the time now to make life easier down the road.
     
  12. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    Nov 25, 2008


    Thank you so much
     
  13. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    Nov 25, 2008

    Lemon
     
  14. MissFroggy

    MissFroggy Aficionado

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    Nov 25, 2008

    Lemonhead,

    The Daily 5 is a reading framework, which is mentioned on this board a lot-- I think there is a daily 5 book group somewhere on this page..

    or were you asking about differentiation? Meaning ways to alter assignments to fit the needs of your low, average and high students. It could also mean working in small groups instead of whole group. I find this year my class is able to function fine in whole group lessons, because the majority of the class is on the same level more or less... very unusual!

    If you are doing rewards and feel it works, that's fine! It just doesn't work for me.
     
  15. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    Nov 25, 2008

    I was asking about the daily 5. I will research this.

    Thank you!!!
     
  16. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    Nov 25, 2008

    Thank you so much
     
  17. firstgradeteach

    firstgradeteach Comrade

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    Nov 25, 2008

    I am trying to work smarter not harder as well. I am on my third year of teaching. My first year and a half I got up at 5 am and worked until 9 when the students came in and then stayed at school until 9. I also would go home and work at least another hour.

    THINGS THAT HAVE HELPED ME HAVE TIME DURING THE DAY
    1. Assigning buddies for peer tutoring in math and sight words as well as reading. When buddies work, I can work one- on- one with students in the same areas.
    2. Students write in their journal every morning for morning work. They keep this in their desk and know to get it out every morning. This keeps them busy.
    3. While students are working on their journal, I call students up in ABC order to show me their folders. I quickly grade their math with each student and give tiny mini- lessons if needed. The students then go turn in their homework to their finished work file. (Getting through the entire class takes me about 17 minutes.)
    4. I have a "kid centered room" Many call it, "A lot of stuff" but this way I never have to pass out anything. There is a spot for writing materials, discovery tubs, academic journals, centers etc. They students get up and freely use items.

    THINGS THAT HAVE SAVED ME GRADING TIME
    1. Grading homework in the morning. It is too easy to get behind.
    2. Students turn finished items into individual hanging folders.
    3. More "hands on" center work or reading, less extra practice worksheets to grade.

    THINGS THAT HAVE SAVED ME PLANNING TIME
    1. I "mapped out" when I will teach what by laying out all of my curriculum and standards.
    2. I have a very repetative schedule format. I just simply fill int he sight words, vocabulary words and a few key phrases or circle items.
    3. Our first grade just started rotating one day a week to teach Social Studies and Science. I teach the same lesson three weeks in a row.

    THINGS THAT HAVE SAVED ME TIME PREPARING
    1. Copy and work two weeks at a time. (Entire unit)
    2. Save master worksheets in clear protector sheets. Ex: My whole writing unit printables are in 1 clear protector sheet.
    3. Save things as you go. (My first couple of years, I tried to work so far ahead that by the time I got to the lesson, I changed my mind.)
    4. Print all of the monthly things like calendars or weekly poems off at the beginning of the year. You will just have to pull them out as needed.
    5. Buy the Walmart 10 cent notebooks. Use these as poetry notebooks, vocabulary notebooks, journals, and math notebooks. I never have to staple anything, and the books are fairly sturdy.
    6. After a group reads with me in small group. I immidiately choose a book and place it in the file for them to read next time.

    These are things that have helped me save time. I agree with another poster that with time you will know the curriculum well and be able to find short cuts. ;)
     
  18. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    Nov 25, 2008

    Wow firstgradeteach! Thank you so much.

    When you talk about this: Assigning buddies for peer tutoring in math and sight words as well as reading. When buddies work, I can work one- on- one with students in the same areas.

    When are they doing that? Is it something you do every day?
     
  19. firstgradeteach

    firstgradeteach Comrade

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    Nov 25, 2008

    We do math peer tutoring every day, sight word tutoring three times a week( sometimes playing a version of hang man or another game), reading is every day as well. (I use a combination of the daily 5 read to self and buddy reading, as well as centers like the Debbie Diller, I can. signs)

    The reading buddies are during my reading block. I teach a mini- lesson. Then the students read to self for 20 minutes. I read one-on-one with students during this time. I teach another mini- lesson. Then the students work in "I can" centers. There are many different items that they can choose to complete in their designated center. This way I just add choices every other week to the long list. I work with reading groups during this time. Then the students read in buddies (same book if their normal buddy and different book if it is a buddy with a different reading level.) I also call back reading groups during this time. It keeps the students quiet and I have almost zero to little worksheets to grade.

    During sight word study they tutor, play a game, write words in sentences etc. Their buddy is there to help them with anything. I call back students one at a time and work on their individual list or test the student.

    We complete the math worksheet together. Students work in math center groups then start peer tutoring with their individual flashcards. The students each give their partner two practice rounds and then one test with their cards. After the test they mark an X on the back if it was wrong and smiley face if they got it correct. Once they have 3 smiley faces on the back of any of the cards, they sit it in my "test me" tub. If they pass the cards with me fluently then I give them the next set. I usually have to test the students the next morning. While they are in centers and tutoring it gives me time to teach small math groups.

    Peer buddies do a lot of the teaching for me and they also help each other with small problems. I also am able to differentiate reading, sight words, and math lessons/ flashcards thanks to the buddies. Therefore it saves me time.
     
  20. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    Nov 25, 2008

    I am with you on this-I can't, for the life of me, figure out how the other K teachers can leave at 3:45 every day. I am usually at school until about 8:00 each night, plus weekends! But, it is my first year, so I'm doing a lot of creating filing systems, organizing materials, creating materials, etc., so I think next year will be a lot better.

    One thing that REALLY saves me time is doing the little things right away. For example, when I emptied my mailbox in the office today there was a brochure for some in-service and some papers that needed to be added to my spelling curriculum binder. I flipped through the flier and threw it away and filed the spelling stuff right away. In the beginning of the year, I'd stack it on my desk and go through the pile every few days. If you just do it right away it seems less overwhelming, and it's not this big pile of junk just waiting for you.
     
  21. maroki

    maroki Comrade

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    Nov 26, 2008

    I keep all my originals and reproducibles in 3" binders organized by subject, and within the subject by specific topics. I use file folders as dividers, and throw anything that I get (whether I've used it or not) into those binders.

    Everything else I also keep in binders, from notebooks w/ meeting notes, handouts from admin, and paperwork I turn in to the district. I have a red folder that I keep all my school/district paperwork in (basically anything that requires an admin. signature). One side is blank forms I need for this year, and the other side is copies of everything I've already turned in, with the date I submitted it.

    I keep a short filing cabinet next to my desk with my weekly work in the top drawer and my student files in the bottom drawer. The top drawer has all the days of the week, with color-coded subject folders behind each day. Whenever I copy any work or prepare things for a lesson, I file them in the appropriate day/subject and pull them out when needed.

    I keep a pocket chart (the kind that holds 10 file folders) hanging on the wall next to my desk, and I keep things that I need frequently in those folders. My folders include parent contact, book orders, to be copied, school forms, classroom forms, district forms, conferences, etc.

    I get to school early and work with my door closed to get as much done as possible. I pile things up to copy all at once, so I don't make frequent trips to the copier. If I have questions/need to inform colleagues of something, I usually try to use email. It isn't as personal, but it sure saves me a lot of time. I keep a desk calendar that is color-coded with everything that is going on that I am involved in. I write all my meetings, weird schedule days, special assemblies, meetings w/ admin, bus duty days, library days, doctor's appointments, etc. on there so I can see my days/weeks at a glance (usually just from the color coding). It helps me keep my available time in perspective, so I know how much time I have to get things done. I keep an ongoing "to do" list on my desk, that I write both little and big things on. It doesn't overwhelm me, and I feel accomplished when I get something crossed off. When I leave at the end of the day, I make a list of what I need to do when I arrive in the morning and put it in the middle of my desk so I start on those right away the next day. I email back and forth between my work email and home email a lot; for me, it is the fastest way to get work back and forth. I email myself "to do" lists, and I work a lot in front of the TV at night. (That is usually when I work on creating forms or papers or lessons I've never done before.)

    That is a lot. If I think of other things that help me streamline my days, I'll come back and post. I like to think I'm pretty efficient, but we all know there is always more to be done. I get to work about 6:15 and leave between 4:00-4:30, working more from home every night.

    *On a side note, one thing that makes me less efficient is my need to get everything done RIGHT AWAY. I'll get really excited about some new idea or project that I think of, and it immediately goes to the top of my to do list, even if my kids aren't working on it that day or even that week. I'm really working on letting my to do list be dictated by need, not by excitement. :)
     
  22. firstgradeteach

    firstgradeteach Comrade

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    Nov 26, 2008

    Wow Maroki! You have a lot of great ideas! I think that I am going to try a few of those things! I am a big LIST person myself but I really like the idea of leaving yourself a note for the next morning. That way I won't sit around and "think" about what to do first. I can write it while I am still in the right "frame of mind".

    Thanks for sharing!
     
  23. maroki

    maroki Comrade

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    Nov 26, 2008

    Thank you!

    I just thought of another thing that I do that has really helped me. I did this my first year (took me a lot of time) but it has saved me hours since then. I made permenent copies of all the "consumable" papers that we use for our math program and put them in a hanging file folder. When it comes time for us to use those number cards/game mats/dot cards, I just pull them out of my math file folder and use them before filing them again. Then when that same game/activity comes up later in math, I don't have to recopy or prepare anything again; it is all done for me!

    Of course, we are getting a new math program next year so I'll have to do it all over again...but for the rest of this year I'm going to continue to get use out of it. :)

    I also keep a 3-drawer tub on my desk (the 12"x12" size that holds scrapbook paper) and I keep papers and binders and folders in there that I need daily. It keeps the clutter off my desk but allows me easy access to all the things I need- attendance folder, bus list, behavior slips, etc. It is also where I keep all my pads of paper for writing lists and notes.

    My room is organized by tubs and baskets (everywhere) and almost everything is color-coded so the students can clean up and organize themselves. All my books are color-coded and go back in the appropriate basket, and I have a "helping hand" (classroom helper) whose job it is to sort books, so I never have to do it. My math/puzzle bookshelf has different colors for each shelf (I just taped little die-cut apples to each shelf) and they match the colors and put it back on the correct shelf.

    My lesson plans are pre-written (and copied) with blank spaces for lesson, activity, student understanding, assessments, and standards. I keep my lesson plans in a big binder along with all copies of standards and implementation guides for first grade. That way, I can take my binder anywhere to plan, and I have all the info I need right in it. The lesson plans are divided by this week/previous weeks/blank, and all my standards/implementation guides are divided by subject in the back of the binder. (It is a 3" binder, but it is wonderful having everything in one place.)

    I keep my frequently used resource books on the shelf behind my desk for easy access; I'm most likely to grab those first when I'm looking for a new lesson/activity. They are in plastic magazine holders that are labeled by subject, so I immediately go to the subject and grab a book. I have a ton of resources, but I don't normally have enough time to look through all of them when I'm trying to quickly come up with a lesson or activity, so I go to my most used resources.

    As far as grading goes-my students also have an unfinished work folder where they put work in they don't finish or work from when they are absent. If they frequently don't finish work, I'll try to have them finish it some other time during the day (instead of morning work or something). If they are absent for a day or two and miss assignments I grade, generally I leave those assignments empty in my gradebook (it doesn't count against them). I grade enough each quarter that their grade still accurately reflects their abilities, even without a couple of assignments.

    Each time I have planning (in the afternoons), I have at least one or two things I try to get ready for the following week, to keep a consistent schedule. Monday I grade papers/homework from the previous week. Wednesday I copy and pass out reading homework for the next week. Thursday I put together my literacy centers for the next week. (Tuesday and Friday I don't have planning.)

    Although it is a drag, I try to stay a little later on Friday to get things prepared for the next week. (By later, I mean maybe 3:15 or 3:30- we can leave at 3:00.) Everyone clears out at 3:00, and I don't get bothered or have to wait in line at the copier. I change my jobs, my calendar, my daily schedule, my literacy centers, my center rotation names, and my points sheet. Basically, I leave feeling really good for the weekend because I know I could walk in 5 minutes before the bell rings Monday morning and be ready. (Of course I never do, but mentally it does refresh me and help me believe I'm prepared for the next week.) And that way, any work I do on Monday morning is only getting me further ahead- not trying to get ready for that day!

    I ran out of steam in my earlier post but these are some of the other things that I do. Sorry it is so long!
     
  24. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    Nov 26, 2008

    wow! I need to finish dinner and find my glasses. What I can see so far looks great. BBL
     
  25. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    Thank you for all of your help. I so want to get there some day.
     
  26. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    UGHH... Ya know I feel like I am doing some things right but then failing at the other things, especially after reading how organized some of you are. I stay late on Fridays ...but by late I mean easily 6pm. When do you do your guided reading lesson plans? Do you need to put all your plans in the computer program? Ours have to be so dang detailed it is ridiculous.

    I am going to seriously analyze what I am doing with my time next Tuesday when I go back and see where I am lagging.
     
  27. maroki

    maroki Comrade

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    Nov 26, 2008

    I have a husband but no kids, and he works as much as I do so it works out well for both of us right now.

    My reading lesson plans aren't nearly as in depth as it sounds like yours are. We are a Reading First school and we use a very scripted reading program, which we pretty much can't deviate from...so much of my reading is already planned for me, and that is a good 90 minutes of each of my days. (They also provide most of the activities and consumables needed to go along with the lessons, so it is very little prep work on my part.)

    I don't have to put any of my plans into the computer. We aren't required to turn any plans in; they just have to be current and available when admin does walk-throughs. We have specific language in our contract about turning lesson plans in; I'm not sure it if used to be a problem in the past in my district, but it is very regulated now.

    The best way I was able to get organized was to take big chunks of time (3-4 hours) and get one part of my room organized, and I've kept it that way since. During conferences a couple years ago I had one day where almost no one was scheduled/no one showed up, so I spent hours reorganizing my room. (It was my first year and I'm sure there were better things I could have been doing with my time, but I couldn't think of them then.)

    I wish I could say I was organized enough that everything does get put away right away, but it doesn't. What works for me for now is that I have a "must be dealt with right away" pile and a "can be dealt with later" pile. Then I try to do the "right away" pile within several days and the rest as I get to it. I also don't file all of my graded papers right after I grade them; that is too much work for me. I save up and do the filing in big chunks. Every time I grade an assignment, I paperclip it together and put it in the empty file folder I keep in front of all my student files. I know exactly where it is if I need to grab it quickly, it is already graded, and I didn't have to spend any time filing it right then. Then, every couple of weeks I'll take a 30 minute chunk and file a bunch of papers at once; it seems to go faster that way because I'm filing so many I know exactly where all the students are, practically without looking. To me, the important part is that the papers got graded and in the gradebook, and that I know where they are if I need to access them. I know I could file more often, but that is one of the things I don't have time for, so I give it up to spend time on other things...

    And about the binder thing...one thing I love is that I can get away with not filing things right away (again). Usually if I've taken it out of the binder to copy it, I won't be using it again during this year, so I stick it in a "to be filed" basket in my closet. Once a month or once every other month, I take the basket to my big table and pile everything into subject/topic piles, then put them back in the binders. I used to do file folders and I thought those worked out really well, but now I love my binders. Maybe just try one binder for one subject you use often and see how it works. You might just love it! :thumb:
     
  28. Kinder Preppie

    Kinder Preppie Rookie

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    Nov 30, 2008

    I use binders with document protectors to keep my students photocopied work in. The day before I need a certain paper, I copy it for the class. I do not save any extra copies, and I only keep the originals in my binders. (Extra copies for absent students go home with them upon their return)

    My students do independent morning words upon arrival. 8:30 to 9:00 a.m. It is six writing sight words 5 X each. Upon completion, they bring their paper to me. I give them a reward, file their paper (in a hanging file folder with their name on it), and give them the next task. (The next task is writing their numbers 1 to 100). Upon completion of their second task, they bring it to me, they are given a reward, I file their paper, and they are given the next task which is a comprehension sheet. Once they have completed these three tasks, they are allowed to play with a center provided to them.

    From 9 to 9:30 we have a flag ceremony in which we say the Pledge of Allegiance, sing patriotic and Christian songs. (Centers are cleaned up prior to this time)

    9:30 to 10 we do math. We accomplish this together, and I go around throughout the lesson to ensure everyone is keeping up. From there, each child files their own paper in the folder and lines up for snack and recess.

    Snack and Recess 10 - 10:45

    10:45 to 11:15 Resource - at my school we often do not have a break for resource classes. We often double as the resource teacher.... although sometimes we do have time off. On these days I just relax.

    11:15 to 12:15 - Independent Reading Groups (or individual reading groups for 20 minutes each - 3 groups) As other students are reading with me, my students who are waiting are engaging in art projects or educational centers silently. I am very strict during this time and they learn the rules quickly.

    12:15 to 12:30 - Math Drill and students swap for corrections.

    12:30 - Lunch... then home... 1/2 day kinder

    I file their homework papers in their daily file as they work on their first paper of the day (morning words). When they bring their homework back the next day, it is very easy for me to check briefly as they are kindergarten age.

    If you have something special you want to do at home, rather than sending yourself an email, write it down on a little piece of paper. This saves you the time of looking up numerous emails.

    Although I only teach 1/2 day kinder, I taught full day in the past... I come to work a few short minutes prior to my children arriving, and leave within 45 minutes of their departure.

    I would love to try to give you additional pointers to help you have this life also... please write me if I can help you.
     
  29. dizzykates

    dizzykates Habitué

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    Nov 30, 2008

    Lemon, this is a great post. I love reading this stuff because I am an organization freak. I have tried the binder thing, it doesn't work for me. I like file folders and I try to make sure I have a generic folder for everything and then I make sure I put the most recent paper in the front of the folder. In theory this generic folder (ex. for reading) is in choronological order and I can break it down into trimesters sometime down the road. I usually start the year off really well saving originals, etc., but by now I am realizing I have tossed originals and will have to make them again at some point. However, I am never in the same school twice, I have been cut every year due to budget stuff. I think my organizational skills have regressed because of this. I won't need the stuff again b/c I won't be teaching it again. This year I think the budget might allow me to stay so I figure I will do the best I can and then over the summer I will spend some time fine tuning my files. The generic categories (reading, math, reading games, math games, student tests (to be thrown at the end of the year), assessment forms (to be divided into categories) allow me to put things away, but to also find them later. I also have inservice stuff divided into topics. We have had a lot of training this year on SIOP, collaborations and co-teaching, and differentiation. I have folders for those topics so I just put the inservice papers in there. If I need them later great, they are there, if I want to look something up it's there, if I never want to look at it again, it's in a little folder out of sight. :) I will deal with all of it in a more careful fashion next summer.
     
  30. Irissa

    Irissa Cohort

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    Nov 30, 2008

    When I taught I kept a file with 3 slots for do TODAY do TOMORROW and Look at again on Friday. Then when paperwork came in from the office or parents it got filed into one of those 3 slots. That way I only did the paperwork that HAD to be done that day. Then I just move the tomorrow stuff to the today basket at the end of the day.

    I also kept an extra copy of anything I did or that went with my subject in a file folder. (I had to spend one weekend organizing this but boy was it worth it) Like others said this helps when you teach the subject again next year.

    Another thing I learned was you don't have to grade everything!!! Some practice work I check about 3-5 questions on the page if they are right it gets a check. If they are wrong I look at the paper more to determine if they know and just missed those or need more help. Those get a check minus. Practice is just that practice. You can check as you walk around. Also I like to use the whiteboards. The less paper you have the less you will feel like you HAVE to grade.

    Also train your students to do as many jobs as they can handle. I think I had 18 jobs in 3rd grade. One less thing I had to do.

    I was one of those leave right at the teachers end of day. If it can't be graded during the day (with few exceptions) I was giving to much paperwork.

    I don't grade homework for a grade. It is practice. Did they do it does it look correct? Put the correct answers on the board and let the kids correct their HW for morning work after you have checked that they did it. Let them use colored pencils to check their work they love it. If I see a trend of no HW then I watch that child more carefully.

    Oh and I number each student and they know their number. It goes on every paper they turn in. They line up by number, they get their jobs by number, I pull a stick with a number on it if I am looking to randomize my calling on students. This also helps when someone is putting papers in the student mailboxes. They file by number no more I can't read this name. Using numbers instead of names also lets me keep the job, lunch, and answer sticks and the mailboxes from year to year.
     
  31. frogger

    frogger Devotee

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    Nov 30, 2008

    Thanks everyone for sharing all these tips! I am a real organization junkie as well and want things easily organized but not all over the place so I can find them next year. A lot of ideas here that I am going to start implementing - a little at a time so I don't get too over worked! :) I too have made myself cut down on the paperwork and grading and taking things home just so I can have my own time and sanity and not have school take over my entire life. :)
     
  32. Hoot Owl

    Hoot Owl Aficionado

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    Nov 30, 2008

    Veteran teacher here...

    Most simply:

    I wrote reading & writing lesson plans in the summer & lined up all my read alouds. My students read independently for 30 minutes daily, this is when I really get a lot of "my" work done.

    Students & I orally check daily math work unless it's a test, & I check it.

    This year I arranged for 2 groups of teachers to write the other lesson plans, one group wrote them the first semester and then we'll rotate after semester.

    My only homework assignment is for students to read 30 minutes each evening which is monitored by the requirement of earning at least 3 Accelerated Reading points a week. Research doesn't substantiate homework.

    I have an eager beaver parent that volunteered to make copies for me, she's copied all my Problem Solving/Enrichment math for me for the entire year.

    I send recorded papers home on Friday and keep caught up with recording & the filing as I go. I don't keep a "paper" grade book, grades are posted only on Edline.net.

    Choose your battles with discipline, there are some things that can be ignored.

    I do arrive early, but rarely stay past 3:30 unless I'm meeting with my Mentee.

    I work extremely hard while I'm at school, and I don't have time to diddle with emails that are pleasurable.
     
  33. Luv2Learn

    Luv2Learn Companion

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    Nov 30, 2008

    I personally think this should be a sticky! It's got a lot of good organizational tips and I'm sure that there are many experienced teachers that could add their tips.
     
  34. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    Nov 30, 2008

    Thank you everyone! I am actually grading papers as I sit here. I just threw out a class set of a math page. :eek:GASP. I had a sub one day and the kids did horribly. I don't think it was the sub's fault but I can tell they didn't try. They were assessed 2 other times on the work (3 addend addition) and I graded that. I guess I shouldn't do that but what is the point of grading a mess?


    Anyway, I am seriously going to analyze my time. It's not so much that I am not organized it's that I don't have any time. Maybe that is the same thing. I'm getting ready to find out.


    I truly appreciate all of these suggestions and I hope people keep contributing to Working Smarter Not Harder.

    :love:
    Lemon
     
  35. Mr. K

    Mr. K Rookie

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    Nov 30, 2008

    I didn't read all four pages of responses, so forgive me if these things have been posted. Here are a few things I do:

    1. We have a central copying place. I send most of my copy work there about ten days in advance. (I usually send a chapter or units worth) and it is copied and returned within three days. I also do this with my seasonal work. I just got back work for Decebmer and January. I have forms that I use all year long (spelling rep sheets, spelling activity sheets, spelling take home tests, reading bubble answer sheets, home reading slips, etc, run for the year)

    2.Train your students very well at the beginning of the year as to procedures and routines...it is well worth the time.

    3. After I enter scores into the computer, students file their own work.

    4. My Morning Work Routine stays the same throughout the year, so it is already run (over the summer)

    5. Delegate to anyone willing to help. We have some volunteer who want to work with students, but we have others who want to do clerical tasks. I do not have them correct papers, but they do run extras off, cut letters, assemble booklets, etc. Our school LPN also does this type of things for the teacher as she is tied to her desk because of health problems.

    6. Develop a binder for each unit oro subject. For my reading binders, I do them by theme. Behind th ecover sheet for each story I place all of the transparencies and activity sheets I do. I also place a pocket with each story to put in extra resources that I might use such as additional photos or trade books. I also make notes here about video clips and /or websites that I use with that particular selection.

    I have been teaching 20 years and this is always an evolving process. I changes grade levels and buildings two years ago, and in many ways, started from scratch again. I WAS easier this time around. Hope these help.
     
  36. firstgradeteach

    firstgradeteach Comrade

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    Nov 30, 2008

    Maroki,
    My lesson plans are pre-written (and copied) with blank spaces for lesson, activity, student understanding, assessments, and standards. I keep my lesson plans in a big binder along with all copies of standards and implementation guides for first grade. That way, I can take my binder anywhere to plan, and I have all the info I need right in it. The lesson plans are divided by this week/previous weeks/blank, and all my standards/implementation guides are divided by subject in the back of the binder. (It is a 3" binder, but it is wonderful having everything in one place.)


    I do this same exact thing and it makes planning so much faster and easier! It is nice to just lug home one notebook and I can plan ahead. I also keep my "forms to complete" section in the book so I can take it home and fill out the forms as well as plan. I take this home every night regardless if I am planning on completing lesson plans or not.
     
  37. Alegre

    Alegre Rookie

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    Dec 1, 2008

    Thanks to everyone who participated in this thread! What a great set of ideas!!
     

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