Welcome to the first of a series of posts this month about Clearing Teacher Clutter. I was inspired to write this post after I was reading the most recent Real Simple magazine and it was talking about how so many of us vow to organize and clear out the clutter in our homes this time of year. Who says we can’t do this at school as well?
Many of us start the new school year with high and lofty goals of being better organized but we all know by October we are done for. This is the time to put some action in place and get on the ball. Over the course of the month I am going to hit on 6 different topics and get you started in the right direction for the second half fo the school year.
Spring Semester for many of us not only brings new student schedules (for secondary teachers) but also a whole new calendar to get used to. Deadlines are getting closer and we must re-evaluate where we currently are and how much time we have to get there.
First thing I want you to do is look at your class schedule. How long are EACH of your class periods? If your were anything like mine were I had one period that was 42 minutes, some were 45, another was 48 and then that dreaded lunch period was 94 minutes. Yes, this means that I must adjust my scheduling for each period so that I make sure and fill that time FULL so we have no idle hands.
So remember how I just said to look at your class schedule and look at how many minutes each class period were? Think about those class periods last semester and how they flowed. Did you use the most of your entire class period? Were you left with extra time in some of them because the class just seemed to finish quicker? Was that class longer maybe?
How can you tweak things in your classes to make things flow best? The best thing I can suggest for you to is to plan your week out and plan for the SHORTEST class. Yes, the shortest. I planned my 42 minutes class to the minute! I wanted to pack that class because it was also my rowdiest class of 28 kids with 17 of them being boys and right before the first lunch period.
That was when I first created a post on how to use the most of your time with an Interactive Notebook. I knew that I had to plan them to the minute to stay on top of them and get all the necessary items in. As you can see I did have some flexibility in this schedule with timing but it was something I had posted in my room and I adjusted it for each class. So when 3rd period started at 10:13am, I had the schedule go 10:13-10:17 for Prep Time, 10:17-10:23 for Intro/Vocabulary, 10:23-10:43 for Mini Lesson in INB, 10:43-10:53 Practice/Apply and then 10:53-10:58 Exit Ticket. Yes, this honestly helped me keep my sanity to have it up for every class. It also helped if I was out of the classroom for some reason because then someone who was filling in for me knew my guidelines.
Once you have this done in your classroom and you know how to fill your shortest class, you can either add time in for further investigation in the mini lesson, more time to practice/apply what has been taught or even time to evaluate prior materials. Other fun things that I included during my longer classes were a few task cards under the projector together or Order Ups or Math Libs independently.
Every year I print out a blank calendar. Yes, it has to be cute so it keeps me interested. I use that calendar for my long-range planning. While some districts may do this for you I always found it invaluable to have one for myself.
First thing, print out the pages for the rest of the school year. I happen to likebig open calendars like this that have plenty of space to write in. Make sure to have a pencil ready and some fine line markers (or my favorite Flair Pens). Once you have your supplies ready, pull up your school calendar. Mark off testing dates, any known field trips, days off of school, etc. These are the non-teaching days and you will need to account for those when you are planning.
Now that you have your actual teaching days open, look at your curriculum that you have left to teach. This is where I get out my pencil and start marking down concepts to teach in certain weeks/groups of days. This helps me get a plan for where I need to be before state testing and end of the year. I add in my time for review as well and it allows me to see if I can add in some projectts, do some extra days for practice for concepts I know will be difficult, etc.
If you have never long-ranged planned before this will be your BEST FRIEND! It will help you when you are doing your weekly lesson plans as well because you already have a road map.
By now you are probably wondering how can class procedures help affect scheduling in my classroom? Remember when we talked about time management earlier and how it was important to plan for your shortest class? Well, when you have procedures in place for your students to just follow through there will be no reason for wasting time in class.
We all set those procedures in the beginning of the year but as we are now back in the swing after holiday break it is time to start reviewing those even with our upper elementary and secondary kiddos. I promise they need it just as much, if not more, than the younger ones.
If you didn’t have procedures set up with your students, now is the time to start! My students knew to come into class and pick up the papers for the day (flippables for their notebooks, exit tickets, homework, etc.) from the table by the door. They also knew the SMART Board had all the information they needed to know to get ready for the day. You can do this on your white board, the projector, etc. just DO IT! Students need structure and you will save your sanity from having to say it umpteen times and wasting class time!
And if you have stuck with me through all those tips then you deserve to jump in on the giveaway I have for you below! Jump on down to the RaffleCopter and enter to win some goodies from NixieKnox Designs to help you get started in organizing your schedule and To Do List for 2015!