Every year teachers spend the summer thinking through all the new things they want to implement in their classroom. You might dream of changing the way you do centers, implementing flexible seating or changing the way you collect papers. However, if you aren’t doing this one thing…. you should be!
Keeping yourself organized is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your sanity.
You need to find a way to organize your lesson plans and materials so that you can build on what you’ve done every year.
I have moved around a lot during my teaching career. As a result, I’ve had a lot of “first years” teaching. I didn’t always have the opportunity to bring the plans and resources I made at one school with me to another. However, I can’t count the number of times I have thought to myself “Oh, I wish I had that worksheet I used last year” or “How did I do that science experiment last time?”
We all know that your first couple of years teaching are the toughest large in part to the fact that you have to create everything from scratch! If you can come up with a good strategy for storing those plans and resources you will save yourself soooo much time not having to recreate things year after year.
Write and store your original lesson plan on the computer
Some of you might be thinking … what?! Here are three reasons:
-You are most likely getting ideas for your lesson plan online. It saves time if you can copy and paste directions for an activity from the website you found it on right into your lesson plan. No need to rewrite! Copy and paste the link for the source so you can go back and look at it if you need to.
-It encourages collaboration with other teachers. It is a lot easier to email someone your plan or drop it in a shared folder than to go make multiple copies and hand it out to everyone.
If you use grade level planning in your school I would strongly suggest you create shared folders on Google drive. That way you have instant access to the most up to date plans your fellow teachers are working on.
-If you ever need to move you won’t have to carry so much stuff with you!
Now, you need to create a system to store your digital plans. You might create folders on your computer if you are just starting out. However, I recommend using Google Drive so that the documents don’t take up all your computer memory and they are accessible from any computer.
The key to storing your plans is NOT to store them by date or week, but by topic! Topics can go from general down to specific. For example, you might have large folders for each subject (Science, Math, Reading, Social Studies etc) Within those subject folders you can break it down even more specific. You might have a folder on animals, plants, cells etc. I do not break my folders down into grade levels. The reason I do not is because many lessons can be used for different grade levels just by tweaking it a bit. You never know when you might switch and start teaching a different grade level. If your files are stored by topic/skill you can still easily find your lesson plans for addition that you used with 1st grade and adapt it to use it with your 3rd grade lower level students. You can make the file name very specific and include the grade level if you want but not the folder. Within the same document as your lesson plan try to include any worksheets that you’ll need, attach links to different websites where you got the idea. That way everything you need to deliver that lesson is right there in the same spot.
2. Store physical copies of supplemental materials together by topic
Create a file cabinet storage system the same way I described above (BY TOPIC). You can use binders,crates or folders to differentiate the different subjects. Personally, I do not like the binder method for storage because:
1. You have to hole punch everything and I don’t want my visual aids having holes in them!
2. Binders get full really quickly! You’ll end up with 20 binders for each subject.
Hanging files are a big hit for a lot of teachers but how many of you have every grabbed a hanging file only to have all the contents dump on the floor?! I’d recommend, if you have a lesson that requires multiple resources to go with it (flashcards, cut-outs, worksheets) slip all the items into a mailing envelope. Then put the mailing envelope into your hanging file or subject crate etc.
Inside each topic file/binder or crate I also store pictures of bulletin board ideas, pictures of charts or posters I’ve created that are too big to go into the file, fast finishers, centers etc. Basically, the idea is that every single thing you have related to the topic of double-digit addition is together.
Another method of storage that I think works well are expandable file folders (contains affiliate link)
You can make one file folder for each subject and then further organize materials inside.
3. Write notes or updates on the digital lesson plan after you teach it.
Let’s be honest, not every lesson works out the way you planned. So after you teach a lesson, write a note on the plan. You can either type a note onto the bottom of the plan or if you use Google drive you can add a comment to the plan.
Jot down things that didn’t go so well and why they didn’t. Make notes of anything the students brought up during the lesson that you could add for next time. This teacher even uses google comments to add comments to her students’ papers. The comments are saved as a part of the document until you mark it as “resolved”.
4. Keep it simple
Too many files and you won’t be able to find what you’re looking for. If your system is too time consuming or inconvenient then you won’t use it.
So, if you are looking for one thing to implement next year begin with getting organized. Ensure that all your hard work that follows will be saved for years to come.