Monday, October 18, 2021

5 Routines to Keep You Organized This School Year

An organized, clean classroom truly makes my heart happy! A clutter-free space relieves stress and makes my second-home a joyful place to be!  Here are 5 ways that I keep my classroom organized even during a chaotic school year.

1. Set aside a big chunk of time at the beginning to get your systems in place!

 As teachers, one thing we don't have a lot of is extra time. Sometimes it seems easier to just live with the clutter than take time to organize. But, investing time in developing organizational systems that work for you will save so much time in the long run! So grab a venti iced coffee and enjoy some quality alone time organizing!

 Everyone’s system will be different. You don’t need to go out and buy tons of new storage containers. Instead, gather what you already have and make a plan. If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to change it! My first year teaching I made so many teaching binders for every subject and unit. Then I realized it was so much work to get out what I needed quickly, and put papers back after copying. I would have papers pile up on my table because I didn’t feel like putting them away (see tip 2). I ditched the binders and went to file folders the next year. While it was a pain to make a switch, I saved so much time in the long run!

If you are interested in reading about the organizational systems that have worked well for me, let me know in the comments and I will write a part 2!

2. Make sure things are easy to put away.

Have you seen the viral tiktok videos that tell you "Don't put it down! Put it away!"?This now plays in my head all day long. As teachers, we use so much stuff on a daily basis. It's easy to let everything pile up until you have a huge, overwhelming mess!

For me, the trick is having a place for every paper, center game, book, and math manipulative. Every single item that I use in my classroom needs to have a home. And these homes need to be as convenient as possible when it comes to putting things away. Because at the end of any exhausting school day, no teacher wants to run all over the classroom cleaning up materials! By making my storage systems as convenient as possible, I am able to clean as I go and avoid clutter piling up throughout the day.

3. Give students ownership of the space


An organized classroom also helps to create a positive classroom environment for students. I want my students to feel a sense of ownership in our classroom. When students know where learning materials are located and have access to them when needed, they feel empowered. If a student is working at a math center and needs a number line to solve a problem, my students know exactly which drawer number lines can be found. They also know that the number line should be put back as soon as they are finished with it! My last guided reading group of the day knows that it is their job to clean up the materials at the table. Students can also volunteer to be designated Classroom Organizers. After packing up at the end of the day, these students spend time looking for things out of place and returning them to their homes. When students know where things go and are able to put things away themselves, it will save so much time and energy for the teacher!



 4. Closing duties

Even after following tips 1, 2, and 3, there always seems to be some clutter at the end of a school day. This is where closing duties come in (this idea is also from TikTok- I might spend too much time there) This is my favorite tip! Every day after dismissal, set a timer for 10 minutes and play a favorite playlist filled with whatever makes you happy and energized. For me this includes a lot of Olivia Rodrigo and Taylor Swift. Use this time to put things away and make sure things are organized for the next day. It is amazing how much more I get done with a timer going. I love leaving school knowing that I will walk into a clean space the next morning!

Find Monthly Bin Labels here!

5. The Friday Reset

One of my favorite routines is a Friday Reset. I spend a little extra time after school doing some deep organizing for the next week. I make all my copies, switch out my seasonal books, sharpen dull pencils, restock my small group materials, and anything else that will help me to feel refreshed and ready to go for the next week. This helps me to truly be able to rest over the weekend!

You can find more organization products here!

What are your favorite routines and tips for staying organized? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Simplify and Streamline your Math Centers!

During my second year of teaching, I made the jump to guided math and it was hands-down the best instructional decision I’ve made! It allows me to support my learners at all levels and really get to know them as mathematicians. By working with all students in a small group every single day, I got a much clearer picture of what students were able to do and where they needed to grow! Read more about how I structure my guided math time in this blog post!

But you know what I didn’t love about guided math? Math centers. I loved the concept of students practicing and reviewing previously taught skills. I loved that they are able to practice these skills in fun, hands-on ways. But, every week I seemed to run into the same issues. It was taking me too long to introduce math centers and give directions to students. Introducing 5 new games and centers each week was a huge waste of instructional time! And even after taking this huge chunk of time to introduce the centers, I still had students interrupting my teacher table because they forgot how to play one of the math games. It was also taking me way to long each week to plan out my math centers. I wanted to simplify the process of changing out my centers!

Overtime, I realized that the key to engaging and productive math centers (like most other things in a primary classroom) is streamlined, structured routines! Instead of 5 new games each week, I found and created centers that students could visit every single week with minimal time spent giving directions. I simply taught procedures at the beginning of the year and we practiced the routine!

Here are five of my favorite weekly math centers.

1.     1. Solve the Room- this is a favorite in my classroom! Each week students visit our Solve the Room center. They grab a clipboard and a recording sheet and walk around the room searching for task cards. They solve the problems on the cards and write their answers on their recording sheet. Students know the procedures for this center so all I have to do is change out the cards each week!

(TIP: one of my classroom jobs is math station helper. I have two students who are responsible for taking old cards down each week and taping up new cards! They usually complete this job on Friday afternoons after packing up!)

To save time on grading Solve the Room recording sheets, I set up a grading station in my classroom. I leave the answer key and some special ink joy pens for students to grade their own work. Students learned that they should only visit the grading station if their recording sheet is complete. When checking their work, they should circle any incorrect answers. They can then go back and find the task card that they did incorrectly and try it again!

2.    2.Solve and Cover- this is another fun center where students practice and review different skills each week, but the structure and procedures for the game stays the same! Students can play this game with a partner, small group, or independently. This is a self-checking game as well, which helps students to be independent.

For this game, students need a box of task cards, a Solve and Cover mat, and some sort of manipulative. Students take turns choosing a card and solving the problem on their mats. When all students are ready, they turn the card over and check the answer on the back. If they were correct, they add a manipulative to one of the spaces on their mat. The first student to cover all the spaces is the winner! Students know that if they still have extra time, they can play again. I like to switch out my Solve and Cover Mats and manipulatives every few weeks to keep students engaged! Grab this game here! 

3.     3. Fact Fluency Center- Students visit this center to practice and grow fact fluency with addition and subtraction facts. Materials include flash cards, sand timers, and dry erase fact sheets. Students love to time themselves and their partners as they race to complete the fact sheets. Sometimes I’ll also switch out materials and add simple fact fluency games like POP!, Splat, or Shut the Box.

4.     4. Independent Work Station- I like to give students the opportunity to review important math skills independently. I always make sure these skills are review so that students are able to complete the work on their own. This is also an easy station to differentiate. I like to keep work in different color folders. Students know that they should grab work from the folder that matches their group color. 
OjColor by Code is one of my favorites for independent work or a fast finisher activity. Here are some differentiated Color by Codes I love!

5.     5. Differentiated 120 Chart Station- This is a favorite for my students! Check out this amazing resource from The Brown BagTeacher!

These are my five go-to stations that I use throughout the year. I, of course, like to throw in some fun, seasonal centers occasionally as well to keep students engaged and excited for guided math time! However, these are tried and true activities that I can use over and over. Students are reviewing and practicing the skills they need and they are able to be independent!

What are your favorite weekly math centers? What questions do you still have about our guided math time? Let me know in the comments!