Just like our students, we are most successful when we have systems with clear and easy to follow procedures and routines in place. Systems like this provide structure. And again, just like our students we crave that structure when it comes to learning and forming new habits.

 

Yeah, but where do you get one of those?

As teachers, we’re familiar with the concept of procedures and routines. I mean that’s nearly all we think about at the beginning of each school year, right? And you may be thinking that a system is the answer to tackling some of those headache-causing issues, but where should you begin? You definitely don’t want to be adding one more thing to your already full plate. You need a system that is easy to implement, efficient, and one you’ll actually to stick to in the long run. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered 😉


I want to share a system that has completely transformed how my classroom runs. This system has helped me to plan ahead, get my work done at work (hello free weekends!). It also has helped my students develop crucial time management skills, as well as kept my classroom organized and running smoothly. And the best part? Once it’s in place, your students will do most of the work to keep it running. Isn’t that the ultimate dream of teachers everywhere?!?

 

 

At its core, this is a system designed to help you better manage paper assignments in an upper elementary classroom but as you read this blog post, I have no doubt you will agree that it really is so much more.

Here’s a quick look at what’s included in this resource:

  • Digital and printable monthly/weekly assignment planning page 
  • Assignment labels
  • “Turn in” drawer labels 
  • “Current Assignments” Poster (a.k.a. a visual aid to support student independence) 
  • Assignment check off sheets with students name/number 
  • Digital grade book/assignment tracker
  • Missing work slips to be sent home as needed
  • Student progress reports for communication with families
 

Is this system really for me?

What I’m going to share with you is a system that I have successfully been using in my classroom for the last four years. It has worked wonders with both my third and fifth grade students. The beauty of this system is that you can easily tweak it to fit your grade level, unique needs of your students, specific content areas or curriculum, and your classroom. The rest of this blog post will focus on how I have used it in my upper elementary classroom but fear not my primary friends! I have no doubt there are pieces of this system that you could easily change to better fit with your little ones 😉 

 Now let’s dive in to the specifics. 

 

it all starts with a plan

Remember, this is all about assignment management so to start I categorize the types of assignments my students do on a recurring basis (for me that’s each week). For example, even though the lesson and skill changes from week to week, my students have the same spelling practice pages to complete as part of the curriculum. Similarly, my students always take a math quiz on Fridays to assess their progress with concepts taught that week.  

These “recurring assignment categories” become the basis for this whole management system. Once you’ve identified these assignment categories, the planning part of this routine quickly and easily falls into place. Whether you are following a district-mandated curriculum or your own scope and sequence, all you have to do is fill in the specific assignments for each category. I like to start using the month at a glance planning template for the big picture followed by the this week planning template (both pictured below) to keep my weekly plans on track. I’ve found that this routine makes planning go so much faster than if I were starting from scratch each week or month. 

Month at a Glance Planning Template-I print one for each month and put them in my planner ahead of that month’s calendar.
This Week Planning Template-this one is laminated so I can reuse it each week!
Quick tip: As I’m planning these assignments, I also like to think about which of them I plan to take grades on versus check for completion or go over together as a class. This helps later on because I will already know which assignments need a quick once over and a cute stamp because we already checked them in class versus which ones I need to put aside to more thoroughly grade. 

Next up, prep and organization

Once I have all of the planning squared away, I focus on prepping and organizing so that my assignments are ready to hand out to students. This system makes it so easy to get ahead and avoid any last minute panic. Speaking from experience as a teacher who has definitely run to the copier 5 minutes before students arrive (while praying their isn’t a line!). 

 

Here are my top 3 tips when it comes to organizing and prepping:

1. When prepping assignments batch your work. 

I like to pick a consistent day each week that I have a good amount of prep time (for me that’s every Tuesday because I have back to back specials classes). On those days I work through prepping assignments for subjects one at a time. For example, on the first Tuesday of the month I will make all of the copies for math that I need for the next 3 or 4  weeks (or maybe even 5 if I’m planned super ahead). I may only get through math prep that first week but that’s okay! The next week I pick up right where I left off and prep the next subject. As long as I continue to make copies weeks in advance, I never fall behind or find myself running to the copier last minute.

Quick tip: I like to take my month at a glance planning template with me to the workroom so that as I make copies I can cross them out. This helps me stay focused and on track each week during my prep period.
 

2. Find a storage solution that works for YOU.

Now remember, this system is all about paper management. When it comes to finding a place to store those papers, there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach. Here are some ideas for ways to store those copies in your classroom:

So, what’s my preferred method of organizing and storing prepped assignments?

These Sterilite 3 Drawer

Why do I love them? I find it so easy to pull open a drawer to find the copies I need. And honestly, I love anything that hides clutter 🙂 

 

3. Label all the things.

Of course since we’re talking about functional storage, you know we have to talk about labels. If you know anything about me, you know that I love to label. Labeling steps up your organization game. Remember the saying, “A place for everything and everything in its place?” You should definitely be applying that idea to your classroom if you’re not already. When it comes to labeling those prepped copies I’ve found two options that seem to work equally well. 

Option #1: label by day of the week. This means you will separate your copies out one week at a time based on the day you plan to teach each lesson. This works well if you plan to pass out your assignments one at a time (more on that a little later).

Option #2: label by subject. This means you will separate your copies by subject (be sure to keep them in sequential order so you can easily pull the next lesson without having to dig through a pile of copies). 

If you’re looking for some cute labels for either of those options to fit those Sterilite drawers (and a ton of other things in your classroom!) check these out in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

 

Can we skip to the good part?

Here’s where the real transformation starts… 😉 

Now that all the prepping is done, you’re ready to actually teach and use those copies! As you’re thinking about how to easily and efficiently get those assignments into your students’ hands, here’s something to consider:

Of course you can just pass them out as the lesson comes up. Or if you’d like to further develop your students’ independence try this:

1. Label dry erase sleeves, this wall pocket file, or more of those Sterilite drawers with specific subjects or the assignment labels included in this resource. 

2. Hang the sleeves or pocket file on a wall, or put the drawers on a shelf somewhere in your classroom. This creates a centralized “hub” for your students where they will go to get all of their assignments throughout the week. 

This has been an absolute game changer in my classroom because not only does it eliminate the repeat questions of where to find an assignment, it also helps my students anticipate what’s coming each week. As students become more comfortable with this system, I guarantee you’ll find they will automatically go to wherever this hub is at the start of each week to check out their upcoming assignments. Bottom line, the more structure and routine you create in your classroom, the more independent and successful your students will be.  

Another benefit to this whole system is how it makes me feel – the central hub and those weeks of prepped assignments means that on a Friday afternoon when you’re exhausted from a week of teaching, all you have to do in order to prep for the next week is to pop some fresh copies into whichever assignment holder you’re using. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself skipping out to your car ahead of your colleagues 😉  

 

Let’s double down on student independence for a second  

So having a place for students to find their assignments is great and all but how about getting students to actually complete their work and turn it in. Am I right? 

Here’s how this system tackles that – One of the components included in this resource is a current assignments poster. This is meant to be printed out, laminated, and hung in your classroom where your students will be able to easily reference it. At the start of each week I update this poster with the assignments that my students will complete that week. Throughout the week my students use this as a visual support to make sure they are on track to completing their work on time. This assignment list could also be easily transferred to student agendas each week for additional accountability.

  

 

 

In addition to the assignment and due date columns, this poster also has one labeled “Turn In #” Here’s why – my students turn in each assignment to a designated spot. In my classroom that happens to be a drawer (because as you know, I love a labeled drawer). Like these:

 

 

 

Each drawer is labeled “turn in” and a number that corresponds with the number on the current assignments poster. As students turn in assignments to those designated drawers, they will place a check next to their name (or student number) on these turn in checklists. I also like to go the extra step and have my students put their papers in alphabetical/number order.

 

 

 

Here’s where the magic happens…

On Friday mornings, one of my students has a series of very important jobs. First, they go through each turn in drawer checking to make sure the turn in checklist is correctly marked. They also double check to make sure the papers are in alphabetical order. Next, they bring the checklist to me so I can make a quick note of who still needs to turn in which assignments. After that they take the checklists and hang them on the whiteboard. From there, students know they are responsible for checking the lists to see if they have any work that still needs to be finished and/or turned in. 

I seriously cannot tell you how much easier this system has made it both for my students to independently stay on top of their assignments as well as for me to track down missing assignments from students before they leave for the weekend. 

 

But wait there’s more

Remember this system is also designed to help you leave your work at work and better communicate with families about student progress, right?  

Here’s how – When it comes to grading, I like to pull out and grade one assignment at a time. They are already in alphabetical order so scoring and putting it into the grade book is a breeze! And don’t forget, there is a digital gradebook included in this resource 😉 Once all of the assignments for the week are graded, I assemble each student’s work into a stapled packet with a student progress report attached so families can easily see how their student is doing. Did I mention these reports are editable so you can type in your assignment categories and grading scale ahead of time? This makes grading and communicating progress each week go so quickly!

And for any students who have unfinished assignments at the end of the week? I send home a missing work slip so parents are aware. This also gives students the opportunity to finish that work over the weekend. You could always require a parent signature on that slip for an extra measure of communication and accountability as well. 

   

Missing assignment slips and editable student progress reports make parent communication easy as pie!

 

And that’s it my friend! After that, the whole routine starts over the following week. 

 

Ready to give it a try?

If you’re convinced that this is a management system your classroom absolutely needs, click here to grab yourself a copy of this amazing resource. It has everything I’ve outlined in this blog post and will help you have this system up and running in no time

I truly hope this system helps you transform how your classroom runs each week and makes your already full plate feel a bit more manageable 🙂 

 

Leave a comment below and let me know how this system is going in your classroom! And before you go, make sure you grab your FREE copy of the Ultimate Class Website Setup Guide.

 

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