Solution Sunday: Paper Organization
The Problem: Paper organization is out of control. In fact, there’s a very real possibility that papers may soon take over the classroom. They’re in desks, on desks, on tables, under tables, in boxes, in hanging files, on shelves, on the floor, in bags, and, in some cases, have been known to hang from the ceiling. It’s become such a problem that the trees on the playground have begun to cower in fear that they may be next. Students have to wind their way through a maze of boxes to find their desks and when they turn in homework it only gets worse. You, the teacher, are buried under mounds of sheets of copy paper, construction paper, and card stock. Will it ever get under control? Have no fear, Really Good Stuff Solutions is here!
The Solution: Sort, purge, organize, maintain. Unfortunately, there’s no catchy acronym to remember (SPOM just doesn’t have a great ring to it), but once you understand the process it will be difficult to forget. Before you even start thinking about the work involved in the process of organizing papers, you must first understand the benefits.
5 Benefits to Organizing Papers
Now, let’s start. The first thing you need to do is decide which area of the classroom you are going to work on first. If your small group table is the biggest offender of paper clutter, start there. Sort through the piles of paper, throw away what you don’t need, organize the remaining papers, and establish a filing system or paper tray system that is easy for you to maintain. You will repeat this process throughout the classroom in every spot where paper piles collect. Sound too easy? Let’s break it down.
When you are sorting through the papers, decide: if you can throw them away (in which case they go right to the purge stage), if they need to be handed back to students, if they need to be graded, if they need to be kept for portfolios, or if they need to be filed. In most cases, the only papers that will need to be filed are those that you will need for evaluations or student records. Consider keeping digital portfolios instead of paper ones and pass back those items after snapping a photo for students’ end of year portfolios.
Organizing the papers can be a challenge if you do not have the right baskets or bins in place. If space is limited, consider using a pocket chart, like the Doublewide Paper Pal Pocket Chart, for returning students’ work. Label each pocket with students’ names and keep a manila folder in each. When you are organizing the papers, simply organize them by student and place them directly into the appropriate pocket. If you label the pockets alphabetically and organize the papers that need to be graded in alphabetical order, it will make the process of grading, recording, and returning even easier. Some teachers give each student a number and have them place that number in the upper left hand corner of their paper along with their name. That might be another option and way to organize if it appeals to you.
Maintaining the system that you are setting up can sometimes be the most difficult part of the process. It is easy to slip back into old routines and ways of doing things, but if you want to enjoy the benefits of having a classroom that is free of paper clutter, it is important to take the time to be consistent. Make sure that you have paper baskets that are not only the correct size for the paper you work with, but that can be easily labeled and are attractive. It is much more fun and a lot easier to stick with a system when you enjoy it. If you have to cram papers into an awkward size basket or the containers are unattractive and unlabeled, it can be a lot easier to get discouraged. Set yourself up to succeed.
Remember, a well-organized classroom is more conducive to learning, fun, and productivity. In fact, once you get your papers under control you might even find yourself finished grading and filing as you leave school at the end of your contracted day. You can do it!
Let us help you get organized! Leave a comment below sharing your best paper organization tip before 11:59pm EST on Sunday, January 6th, 2013 and be automatically entered to win. One lucky random winner will be chosen to win a set of the Classroom Paper Baskets with Labels. The contest is open to those who are over 18 at the time of entry and who are living in the United States and Canada. Good luck!
UPDATE 1/8/13 – Congratulations to Allison B., the random winner of the baskets!