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Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Clearing the Clutter and An Apple a Day

At times,  I get asked how I manage to find time to do everything. I won't lie to you... its tricky.

I have also been told that I am a very organised person. But you see... most 'organised' people don't actually think they are very organised at all, and that things could always be a little more... well... organised, or prepared. Have you heard of the analogy of the calm swan gliding along the pond, with the flippers under water flapping wildly.

 That is kind of how an 'organised' person feels at times. For everything to glide along smoothly, there is lots of effort underneath the glossy exterior.
 
I am lucky, for some reason, some things in my life just seem to come together in the end. I don't know if it is good intuition, or just lots and lots of practise at planning ahead. Maybe 12 years of trying to manage 5 year olds has helped...
 
Anyhow, my very top, all time, number one tip for being organised and having it 'all together' is very simple - and I try to live by this rule at home... but I ALWAYS live by it at school work. 

It is

 to handle things ONCE

 Mostly paper. But it also applies to other things.
 
And that really boils down to having a spot for everything - or as I tell my kinders - a home for everything. How many time have you picked up things time and time again to try to sort them out... this is wasted time.

TIME is precious to teachers. I believe it is the MOST precious thing we can utilise as teachers. Time is like gold to a teacher, and a learner. The better you can organise your time, the better your teaching and the learning within your room will become. Money and resources do not make great schools. Time and the wise use of time is what will make a great classroom and a great school.

Back to handling paper ONCE.
 
In my classroom, I have 3 filing cabinets, a series of 5 'working folders' and a 'teacher tray'.
 
When I get a piece of paper (and let me tell you newbie teachers reading this post... you will receive, hundreds and hundreds of pieces of paper in a year that have the potential to literally flood your desk), I have trained myself to handle it once. It goes in one of five places.
 
I read it straight away if I can and decide if I can file it. It might go:
 
1. In my 'resource' or 'content' filing cabinet (files in here are things like 'Phonics', 'Frogs', 'The Seasons'... you get the drift - worksheets, units of work etc)
 
2. In my 'boring' 'theory' filing cabinet - here, I file things like policies and  curriculum notes
 
3. In my 'day to day' filing cabinet - near my desk - here I put all current school newsletters, staff memos, spare notes, proformas, class lists. In the top draw of this cabinet, I also have a file market 1 through to 10 (we have around 10 weeks in a school term). If I get a piece of paper that pertains to a particular week, for example, a seating arrangement for a school performance in week 6, I will file it in file #6. I always go through my week files on a Friday afternoon ready for the week ahead.
 
4. In one of my 5 working folders. My folders are always either in my 'school bag; to take home, or in a magazine holder on my desk. They include my 1. Day Planner, 2. Program 3. Assessment Folder 4. Payments and Permission Folder and 5. My Teacher Bible.
 
I cannot take all the credit for my Teacher Bible. A fabulous teacher that I taught with for a few years introduced me to the idea, and I LOVE it. It is nothing fancy, I want it to be as light as possible to carry around and simple. No time for fancy pants covers and pretty title pages with this one. You just get a plain but functional display book and your label maker. Label each plastic sleeve pocket in your display book in the top right hand corner. This is where I store all those bits of paper that are essential for the every day running of my room and program, but are not 'officially' part of the formal program documentation.
 
I put these basic labels in my teacher bible:
1. Class Timetable (I copy at least 5, so if anyone asks, I can give them one)
2. My Class Lists - I am not sure if you have these at your school, but we have official class roll lists and I copy 20 blank ones and have them handy for anytime I need to create a checklist of roll. Ours have a list of names and around 15 columns, in a grid like formation
3. Rest of School Class Lists - I get a class list of every class in my school, and have 2 copies of each. This is particularly good for the Kindergarten teacher! You need to be able to track down siblings, buddies and helpers and what classroom they are  in. It is also helpful if you are coordinating a school wide function or activity.
4. My Filled Out Class Lists - Here I keep all the checklists I have made for my class for things that are current, e.g which students have permission to use the Internet, groups, sport houses, etc
5. School Timetables - copy of any school timetable going around! Halls, fields, RFF, Library etc
6. Notes Home - I keep a master copy of the notes sent home in the last 5 weeks. After 5 weeks, they are filed in the filing cabinet
6. Things to Photocopy - Here I put anything I need to take with me to the office to get copied or filed in the school office
 
I add other labels as they are needed. The teacher bible gets regularly cleared out to keep it as functional as possible.
 
If I cannot decide where to file it, or don't have time to think about it (yes, sometime my mind is actually on the twenty or so 5 years olds in front of me), I will put it in my 'teacher tray' or for a better name, my 'clutter bucket'. It saves my desk from getting cluttered and I have a rule that I do NOT go home until I have worked through the teacher tray and emptied as much as I can, filing it properly.
 
 
I have 'clutter buckets' of one sort or another in just about every room at home. It helps me feel organised and tidy, which is sometimes difficult with little children in the house. They help to get the house under control, and maintian my 'lets handle it once' philosophy when sometimes, there is no time to get it sorted straight away. Clutter buckets are like holding bays....
 
I ask my daughter to tidy her toys every afternoon after a day's play. Most things have a place, as we have quite an organised play space. I do have clutter buckets for her, where she can just put little bits and pieces that otherwise do not have a place to live, until we can either find its proper home, or file it in the recycling bin ;)

It is a stand, that has lots of little baskets that rest on the shelves. Here, my daughter can place any little toy that seems lost of that does not have a 'proper' home. It is a great way to organise the 'un-organisable' and is also, in itself a wonderful place where she can go (along with her cousins and friends that visit) to 'dig for treasure'. Because there are so many little odds and ends, she enjoys having a poke around to see what can be discovered.
 
 
Today, on her 1001st 'mum, what can I do nooooooowwwwwww?' I asked her to sort them all by colour. She had a blast! We got all 12 baskets, emptied them out onto the floor in one big clutter pile, and then we just sorted it all by colour. So she put all the red toys in one basket, orange in another and so on...
 
Which started us thinking about colours... and then we read these books....
 
 
 
And found this great idea for an apple tree in the colours book.... ( I love Play School!)
 
 
Then, we just HAD to make these cute apple trees... just a green circle of paper in a cardboard cylinder with red sticky dots....
 
Cut a slit in the cylinder and slide the green circle in....

 
Which led us to read these books.... and I told her that she should appreciate the 30 Grug books she has, because when I was a little girl, I had JUST ONE! It was a very well read book.
 
If you have not seen Grug books... you need to! Grug is awesome! Ted, the author visited our school a few years back and showed the children how he writes and draws for his books. Grug is a little Australian character that started his life as the top of a Burrawang tree. Grug books are PERFECT for beginning readers and my daughter is now discovering the delights of reading Grug as I did almost 30 years ago! And Dick Bruna.... L-O-V-E..
 
 
Then we made an apple tree on the door of the play room....and I couldn't help but turn  it into a reading activity. We wrote some words on the apples.....

 
 
She pulled off the apples that she was able to read.....
 
 
And put them in the 'Good Apples' basket....

 
I put all the apples in a row, and pretended I needed some help making story...
 


It took a few tries, but she made a 'story' with the words....
 
 
 
 We talked about how you could change one of the words to make a new story....

 
We also made a cute little adding apples book... she loved cutting the shapes out of coloured paper and also using red sticky dots to make some patterns for the numbers
 
 
 
 
 
If you would like to make some 'apple' themed resources, you may like these free graphics at my TpT store. They are very basic, I made them when I just started learning the graphic design software. If you download them, perhaps you could leave feedback higher than a 1 for me! Ha! Some people are hard to please :)
 
How do you keep organised in your classroom? Do you use 'clutter buckets'?

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I'm off to finish prepping some 'desk motivators' to help students stay on task and remember the order of steps to complete. Find it in my TpT store HERE.


Have a wonderful day, thank you so much for stopping by!