Organizational gems in the junk drawer of math class


Organization is the bane of my existence some weeks.  Those are the weeks that by Friday, I have looked through the SAME stack of papers a dozen times looking for an obscure piece of paper with some important morsel of scribbled handwriting that I need RIGHT NOW.  I know Stephen Covey’s mantra of only handling a piece of paper once if at all possible, and really, I’m trying to make myself put things where they ultimately need to be if at all possible (including throwing away paper and things I don’t need).  Although I do still struggle with paper, I have found a few things that have helped me tremendously with organization:

  • Evernote:  I’m using this year and have running notes for meetings (Leadership, Faculty, PLC, math, IB, technology, team, etc.)  This is proving to work really well as I always have my laptop and can easily access notes.  I used to keep a physical notebook but would often be pulled into a meeting and not have the unwieldy notebook with me, or spend time flipping through a myriad of notes trying to figure out which monthly department meeting had the info I am looking for.  Evernote has a search tool that I’m sure will be handy.
  • Attendance:  Each nine weeks I have one student who does attendance for me.  I use an old gradebook and have each student’s name listed (by class) and dates across the top.  The attendance person marks A for absent, T for tardy, etc. and records it in the gradebook (which I keep sitting on the corner of my desk).  If I hand out any worksheets in class, the attendance person also gathers extra worksheets for those who are absent, puts their name and date on them and puts them in the:
  • Makeup Folders:   Don’t you LOVE it when a kid comes in and says, “Uhm, I was absent yesterday – did ya’ll do anything??”  “Ah, no.  We just sat here and lamented the fact you were out and couldn’t garner the strength to move forward.”  All snark aside, I realized this was a weakness for me as I really did not have a plan for kids when they came back from an absence other than checking our online homework program.  Now they know to simply go to their class period’s makeup folder (they are taped on the wall) and look for work with their name on it.  At the end of the week the attendance person checks this folder to make sure it’s empty.  Students also know they are responsible for checking the online homework program and turning their homework in by placing it in:
  • Inboxes for each class:  Students know this inbox is for anything they are turning in to me.  I’m embarrassed to admit the first time I gave a quiz, I didn’t know quite what to say when the first student asked, “where do we turn these in?”  It’s all about communicating to the kids exactly what they need to do.  We can’t be frustrated that they come up right when class is starting to ask what they missed the day before if we haven’t communicated the procedure we want them to follow when they are absent.  Students know they need to pick up makeup work from the folder and turn in any homework to the inbox.
  • Student numbers:  We use TI-84 graphing calculators and need to make sure none accidentally walk out of the room at the end of the period, so students are assigned a numbered calculator.  I just go down the class roll and assign numbers, so Albie Adams is #1, and uses calculator #1 every day.  I also have kids put this number in the top left corner of papers they are turning in (especially quizzes and tests).  I know this doesn’t sound like much, but frequently I’ll hand the stack of tests to a student and they can quickly alphabetize them by putting them in numerical order.  This helps a ton when entering their grades into the grading software.
  • Student names on index cards:  I buy a set of neon colored index cards and assign a color to each class.   I write the kids names on them and use them to put on the desks for the first day of school to indicate their assigned seats.  I have kids correct their names to what they want me to call them (ie. Matthew becomes Matt) and also to include pronunciation help when they have names they think I might butcher.  It’s easy to see who’s absent the first day without stumbling over names (we have a fairly diverse population with at times really challenging names).  I collect the cards and use them all year to pull cards to call on students, or for things like drawing to determine who is going up to the Promethean Board.  I shuffle them and deal them out to determine groups and put them on desks before class if I want them specifically working with certain partners/groups.  I also use them whenever we have a new seating chart.  The cards are tattered by the end of the year, but I always keep them and throw them in this one box.  Sometimes I just sift through them remembering classes from previous years 🙂  Note to self: re-read first paragraph about getting rid of paper things you really don’t need . . .

Those are a few organizational tips that have worked well for me.  I’m really looking forward to reading what some of my math tweeps are doing to organize so hopefully I can find a solution for dealing with all those piles of paper on my desk!

About merryfwilliams

High school math teacher and mom of 3 amazing kids. I have a high maintenance husky and am adding a knitting obsession to the juggling routine. @merryfwilliams on Twitter
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5 Responses to Organizational gems in the junk drawer of math class

  1. Sara says:

    Thanks for all your great organizational suggestions. I also use the student numbers for calculators and responders, but I never thought to use this as their student number on tests and quizzes. Brilliant!

  2. Sometimes it’s the little things, like having the papers in order when you go to record grades, that make things just a teensy bit easier!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks – good, simple, workable ideas. I’m going to make those index cards.

  4. Love the use of the index cards for names, group activities and questioning. So helpful! #organization

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