Organization is one of my biggest challenges as a special education teacher. Between work samples, reports, IEPs, modifying their work, study guides, graphic organizers, and checklists; I feel like I am constantly drowning in paperwork! Every year I find a new way to organize myself that I think is going to be the trick to keeping myself organized. But, every year something does not work the way I expect it to, or there is something that I just do not keep up with. After a lot of trial and error, here are the best products I have found for organizing my classroom and an explanation on how I use them.
I love these mailboxes, there are so many different uses for them. When I taught small group math and reading classes, this is how I kept my students’ work sorted. Every student has their own mailbox and in it is kept their ISN so they don’t lose it (we know kids can find a way to lose anything) and with their ISN we also kept any work that was still in progress. This way everything they may need is all in one place. When they are in my room and I tell them to take out their unfinished work, it is in the same place every day and they can grab it and work on it.
Another use for these is for sorting colored paper or blank paper for students to use. I do not use these for that purpose, you will see what I use for that purpose later in this article. Or, if you have a home room, you can use these for passing out paperwork. Another use of the mailbox method, allowing you to pass out papers before the students arrive, before the chaos of the school day. And students know where to go to find anything that they need to take home. It can be used for notices or for passing back graded work.
Whenever I have students in my room taking a test, they are constantly getting up to ask me for scrap paper. So what I have done is, I have a letter sorter like this and I use it to sort all of my scrap paper.
The tiers allow me to have options. I have a tray of lined paper, that the students use when they have to do writing. This also is useful for students who have OT struggles and cannot write on the blank paper that the teacher provided. I use one tier for graph paper or students to use for math quizzes. Graph paper is great for students who struggle with lining up math problems, like solving equations or long division, among other things. I use a tier for blank printer paper, that students can use for a variety of things. Some prefer it for math problems, sometimes a student finishes early and they just need to draw.
This solved a unique problem that I have. In the state of Massachusetts, the standardized testing is called the MCAS, and the MCAS offers reference sheets for each subject and students who have the accommodation in their IEP are allowed to use the reference sheets. Plus there are different checklists that I use regularly with my students. This amazing organizer hangs on my wall and takes up little to no space, yet is a place where all students know to go to find whatever reference sheet they need. All I have to do is keep it stocked!
This is my newest addition to my desktop. It is a little large, but I think that it is worth it. I use this to sort student files that I am currently working on. There is a section for the students that I am currently testing, one for students whose testing reports I’m working on, one for students who have IEP meetings coming up, and one for students who have IEPs that I am currently writing. There are times when I can be simultaneously working on 5-10 students and this thing is full and then there are times that I have a lull in meetings and it is mostly empty. When I purchased this I really wanted the white one, but it was much more expensive and I just could not justify the purchase. As hard as I tried to!
No matter how hard I try, there is always paperwork that just does not fit into a category. Or there are days that I just do not have time to sit and file away all the loose paperwork that has accumulated. This organizer looks adorable and it is a catch-all for my miscellaneous paperwork. And then before I leave every Friday, I have a personal rule that it must be empty.
I know I am a huge nerd, but I love when my life is color coded! These hanging file folders are great in my file cabinet to keep things organized and color coded. I use one color for all of my working files, one color for all of my professional paperwork. Another color, I use for tests and quizzes, and the last color for miscellaneous paperwork. The only thing that would make me happier would be to find a way to order custom amounts of colors.
This little card is one of the biggest time savers that I have ever found. When you are grading a test it does the math for you to tell you grade percentages. If you are grading a test that has 28 questions you slide the card until there is a 28 in the top box, the card tells you what the score would be for one wrong, two wrong, three wrong, etc. I can not say enough good things about this simple little device!!
I use these binders for organizing my student work samples. I purchased enough binders to have one for each student. In the binder, I keep all work samples that will be useful to have handy when progress reports come around. They are also useful for parent/teacher conferences, or their IEP meeting. It can be time-consuming to file all of the work but I make a goal to take time to file it at least once per week so that it does not get away from me.
I know these are not really for organization. But, I just cannot write a blog post about classroom essentials without talking about my favorite item in my classroom. Every year I buy a new pack of these and spend a little extra for the fourteen pack. I find having the different color options so useful. When I am teaching math, I use different colors to identify different steps or rules. I use them for ELA to dissect a sentence or writing passage. Sometimes I just use them to write inspirational quotes on my board.
This is just a list of a few of my favorite things that work for what I need them for. I’m sure there are products that are life-changing that I have not even discovered yet! What are your favorite products for organization? Let me know in the comments!
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