Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Out of the Class Management

Kiddos are constantly getting pulled out for one thing or another: Speech, OT, Learning Support, Reading Support, Gifted Support, DIBELS testing, hearing tests, vision tests... You get the idea.

I needed a way to easily see and manage who was pulled out of the room, and who was just not in their seat at that particular time.

I'm Out Passes

This small set up is simply a cheap Dollar Store cup with a paw-print shaped Post-It note taped with packing tape. Kids know that when an adult comes to the room to pull them, particularly if I am working with a small group or another student, they don't have to let me know. They can simply walk up, grab one of these passes, and when I come back to the whole group to check on them I know they've been pulled by another teacher. They work very well, and the kids always remember because they enjoy getting to put the cup on their desk (go figure!)

Restroom Light

Our restroom situation is complicated to say the least. In 2nd grade the kids had bathrooms in the classroom, so there wasn't a huge need to manage restroom breaks, but now they are in the "big kid" 3-5 hallway, and we share a standard "stall" bathroom between 9 regular classrooms and the reading support rooms. It's hectic. 
In order to get the kiddos used to when they may be excused and when they may not be excused I ran a strand of white rope lighting across the front of my room by my Smart Board. When the light is off I am teaching and giving directions, so students may not be excused unless it is an extreme emergency. When I am finished and it is time for independent work I turn the light on and hand the hall pass to the first kid on the list. 

In order to turn the light on and off there is a lovely, fancy outlet strip (classy, right?) that I can simply flip with my foot. 

That brings me to...

Restroom Sign-Out Sheet and Hall Pass

Kids can sign their name on the sheet to be excused, and once I turn the light on I hand the pass to the first student on the list. The pass, which is a jazzed up bottle of hand sanitizer (I love fancy duct tape) sits on their desk - so I know they are out. When they return they use the hand sanitizer, highlight their name on the list, and pass the pass to the next student on the list.
Ideally the entire thing is silent and is managed by the kids. It greatly reduces the number of times I hear "Can I go to the bathroom?" each day, because the kids now know that I don't repeat directions for them if they're at the restroom, and they know when it is very important for them to stay in the room, and when they may be excused.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Organizing Common Paperwork

Paper organization is always a nightmare for me. By the end of the school day it always seems like my desk has become a ski slope of unfiled and ungraded things.

To solve that I invested in four magazine organizers and labeled them according to the four things I most need to organize: Grade, File, Copy, Hand Out

This covers most items that I encounter during the day. I had the same system last year, except I allotted myself horizontal bins, and the problem was that I could stack papers until they were nine inches high and it wouldn't be a problem.

(you can also get a glimpse into my ridiculous sharpie obsession... I know, I have a problem)

In order to curb my desire to keep stacking piles (particularly the "File" one) I got these very space-limiting magazine holders. I know once that particular sorter is full I must do something with the contents, so it forces me to keep on top of whatever it is intended for.

They were plain (and boring) black, but zebra duct tape to the rescue! I added labels in the form of my little black paw prints, and viola!

Happy organizing!

The Sharpened/Unsharpened Pencil Nightmare

This is absolutely not an original idea, and the blog I got the idea from can be found here.

It seems that my classroom pencils are just one headache after another. The kids know they aren't allowed to sharpen their pencil when I'm speaking, but sometimes that causes a backup at the sharpener, then I can't hear groups because of the noise... [insert additional problems here].

Anyway, I'm doing away with my old pencil system, which involved keeping a "Sharp and Ready To Work" bucket and an "I'm Broken and Need to be Sharpened" bucket. Why? Because I make the kids put the pencils in point down for safety, and that breaks the tip. I don't know if the kids slam them in there or not, but it's annoying.

So, I got a 3 drawer organizer from Wal-Mart and got smart and shelled out an extra few bucks at Staples for the pre-sharpened box of pencils (the extra $1.50 wasn't worth the hour I had to stand at the sharpener, or the ensuing blisters).

One drawer is for sharp pencils, one draw is for unsharpened pencils, and the bottom drawer is for bandages so the kids don't have to ask me. Yay for independence!

Organizing Exit Slips

Organizing and using Exit Slips (or a Ticket-Out-The-Door) definitely wasn't a priority last year (it kind of got away from me).

In order to not only remember to do them, but to check and catalog them I've 'donated' a front bulletin board for that specific purpose.

Each student in my class has a number, but this could easily work with letters, or the name of the student. It really makes no difference.

I bought a pack of miniature black paw prints (that I've used in previous posts) and a silver sharpie and went to work.

Students will have a question posed on the board and must respond on a sticky note. Before the exit the room they must stick their sticky note on their numbered paw print!

After the kiddos leave I can take my time in looking over the answers to see which students grasped a particular concept and which students didn't.

Student Cups

My 4th grade neighbor had a great idea about how to organize student materials. In the past I have always had a "group organizer" which was one plastic, color coded container where I kept scissors, glue, pencils, crayons, dictionaries, etc. for the entire group. The problem, for me, occurred when I no longer had my kids sitting in a traditional 'group.'

We move the seating in my classroom around a lot and many times I will let the kids vote on the set up they want. Sometimes that means there is no center of the group for the materials to sit on, so it ends up going on the floor, which is never ideal.

Anyway, my 4th grade neighbor told me about the amazing use of putting little strips of velcro on the bottoms of a plastic up (like a Solo cup) and another little strip on the desk.

My only concern was that Velcro is super sticky, and that means having to remove the lovely gunk at the end of each year.

Solution? Packing tape.

I started with a paw print cut out. They have these at any teacher store, as well as Michael's, Staples, etc. and they can usually be found in a variety of shapes and colors. I've seen everything from umbrellas to dinosaurs. I use black paw prints because of our jungle theme. They're usually around $3.50 for a pack of 36, so good deal!

I taped over the paw print with clear packing tape, the same way that I tape over the kid's name tags.

Then I stuck the piece of Velcro onto the paw print. I keep the fuzzy side on the desk, don't ask me why.

I stuck a piece of Velcro (rough side) to the bottom of their cup. These are just like the red Solo cups, except Hefty makes black ones... so of course I went with that.

Viola! The cups won't spill over and I won't have any sticky Velcro to remove at the end of the year since once I peel up the packing tape the Velcro will come with it!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Simple Leveled Library

Our school uses a color coding system to level books. In the past I've taken up all of my useful shelving for student books, and most of the time my kiddos check out their books from the school library, leaving many of my books to gather dust.

I'm trying to make my room flow more easily, so I decided to reclaim my shelving for teaching and student materials, and snag an extra bookshelf for my library.

Luckily a co-worker was tired of having too much extra furniture in her classroom, and I grabbed her bookshelf which was on its way to storage (yay!).

 I also grabbed a couple pleces of different colored construction paper to organize my library books. Next summer I would love to paint the interior shelving, but it's 10 days until school starts, so I'm not messing with a painting project right now.

 I kept one shelf below grade level (red), two shelves for on grade level (blue), and two shelves for above grade level (green and purple).

Here's to an organized school year!

Getting Crafty with Student Mailboxes

I'm beginning my 5th year of teaching, and for the first four years I've had the same red paper sorters. Last year, when I found out I was teaching 3rd grade I decided to order an identical additional paper sorter so that I would have enough to use them as student mailboxes. They're certainly not cheap, but they are pretty sturdy. They're a cardboard-type material, and fairly easy to put together (if I could put it together, I consider it amazingly easy). You can find them here.

Anyway, I was silly and taped things to the sides of my sorters, and because it is a paper product, when I removed the tape I removed a little bit of the color also. They ended up looking like a hot mess...

You can see the tape marks, which really looked terrible...

Because my room is a "jungle" theme and zebra print seems to be EVERYWHERE now (I love when shopping is easy) I decided to spray paint the organizers black. I got the cheapest spray paint from Wal-Mart and two cans covered all three mailboxes.

Cost: $1.96

If I were going to do this again I might invest in a slightly higher quality spray paint...

As you can see the coverage wasn't the best, but it looks better in person than it does in the photo.

Anyway, I decided to get a little funky with duct tape and bought zebra duct tape. It has now become my new favorite decorating tool.

I ended up using almost one roll per set of mailboxes. The rolls were a little around $3.50 each, but they add a lot of fun :)

Cost: $10.50

Total Cost: $12.46

Did these come out 100% as I planned? No. I'll be honest, after seeing the spray paint I was really discouraged, but after I dressed it up with some zebra duct tape I was a happy camper.

Happy school year!