Saturday, August 15, 2015

8 Organizational Time Savers To Maximize Your Class Periods

OH, THOSE SHORT CLASSES WE HAVE! As elementary language teachers (and even many middle school teachers!), we are used to having brief periods of time with our students, sometimes only once a week, more if we're lucky. Making the most of this time is critical as we know we have a LOT to pack in! Here are some ideas for organizing yourself in an effort to maximize those precious minutes with your students:


*HAVE A SEATING CHART: Whether you use the gen ed teacher's chart or you make your own, I can not overstate how helpful a seating chart is! When you get to class, you don't want to waste time having kiddos futz around finding a place to sit or bicker about next to whom they want to be. Though using the gen ed teacher's chart is fine, I have found I prefer having control of the seating arrangement myself- in my experience, that other teacher's chart is not static; it gets changed without you knowing, either in whole or in part, which is not a great discovery upon entering a room and all YOUR charts need to be changed because of another teacher's prerogative. And, over the course of a few years, you know the students better than the new teacher for that year, meaning you have a better idea of who should sit next to whom (and who shouldn't!). Kids get used to their 'Spanish spots', as I call them, very quickly. (If you use tables regularly, I would keep with the gen ed teacher's chart as kiddos often have materials in the desk's cubby or over the chair). Looking for a handy way to make your seating chart? Check this out- easy to alter as necessary!


*ORGANIZE YOUR ASSESSMENT CHARTS, class lists and more according to your seating chart, not in alphabetical order. With hundreds of students, trying to remember not just a first name but last name, too, becomes a Herculean effort- how much can one brain remember? Write the names of your students on your data charts, etc in order as to how they sit in your circle or groups- this will make it far easier for you to find students' names and record your assessments. Make that seating chart work for you!

*USE FOLDERS? Keep them in order of your seating chart as well (wow, that seating chart gets a workout!). This makes it far quicker when passing out the folders- I go right round the circle every time- no hunting for Sophie on one side of the circle and then over to the other side to give Liam his. I collect my folders in the same order at the end of class so they are ready for passing out the next class. Now, that's a time saver!

*DID WE MENTION FOLDERS? Stuff those puppies before class! If your activity sheet is already in the folders when you get to class, this is one less thing you need to hand out- now, when the folder gets handed out, so does the activity, all in one! If you are between buildings, this is a little more challenging, but doable if you are organized (and really, that doesn't always happen, does it? :) ). I used to have my Kindergarten classes in another building first thing, so would go over a little early to stuff the folders and have them ready to go in class. If time is an issue, nix this idea for separate buildings- you are amazing but not a magician!


*HAVE CLIPS, MAGNETS, ETC already attached to any visuals you plan on using. Fumbling for them in the moment is no party, and try as you might, you know some kiddos are going to squirrel out while you hunt for a magnetic clip in your cart. And for those of you who use your computer in class, try this simple hack to keep your cords at your fingertips!


*USING LOTS OF LITTLE MANIPULATIVES? Bingo chips, counters, small items fit nicely in ziploc bags for easy distribution and transportation from room to room. Have all the bags in a basket to pass around the circle or wing them across the room to the kids (yes, sometimes I do this, carefully! and my students think it's hysterical!)

 

*MULTI MATERIAL PROJECT IN THE WORKS? Related to the tip above, collate your materials into sets so you can hand out all the necessary items in one go to each student. So, for example, when I make tissue paper flowers with my kiddos, I would put together a chenille stem and paper leaf (for their name) and tuck those into their folders ahead of time or have them in baggies or envelopes ready for passing out. Or, when my First Graders make paper collage representations of Salto Ángel, I have brown and blue construction paper along with a label saying 'Salto Ángel' in their folders before class. This eliminates the step(s) of passing out a variety of materials and saves you time to get right to the project! (Want to know how to make tissue paper flowers in just a few steps? See our post here!)

*CHOOSE A SECRETARIO/SECRETARIA! The gen ed teachers have a helper a day, so why not you? Though it's a bit of work to set up initially, this will pay time saving dividends down the road. Whether you make the system like I have which hangs in the hallway outside my classroom, or just have a list in your binder to tick off names, having a helper work simultaneously with you means less time you need to spend on the "little stuff" and more time on the meat of your lesson. And, it's a great way to practice classroom materials, routines, and procedures in the target language. Have your helper turn on/off the lights, pass out pencil or crayon cups, close/open the door, whatever "chores" you need. I like to balance this with several priviledges, including getting to hold a stuffed animal and being the first one to have a turn if we are playing a game or other activity. As to my system, I used a 1-100 numbers pocket chart, separated by grade level horizontally with a set of names for each class in the pockets. At the beginning of each class, I pull a name (who becomes the secretario/secretaria) and put it in the next pocket over so I know who has had a turn. The first year I made this it was a bear- 385 flowers and leaves to punch out and put names on. However, now, before school starts again, I rearrange the names into their new classes and only have to make my Kindergartners and any new kiddos who move into the district. Still an amount of work, but they love being our class helper (and the perks they get along with it!) Oh, and a good friend of mine from Argentina gave me the name 'secretario'; it's what they use in her daughter's elementary school :)


HAVE GREAT TIPS OF YOUR OWN? Share them in the comments! We would love to hear more!
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2 comments:

  1. Stuffing folders before class is GENUIS! And I can recruit kids from our after school care group to help me.

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    1. I am so glad the tip helps! It has made a huge difference for me in terms of getting the most out of my classtime- I still do it even with a classroom. I love the idea of recruiting kid helpers to do it!!

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