#16 – How to stay organized: Our paper organizer hack (no special tools needed)

The running joke regarding my classroom is that it’s a fire hazard. Sure, at the start of the year, the countertops are all clear and clean. But, by the end of term (and especially by the end of the year), assignments, test papers, extra handouts, and student projects lay all over the countertop and each other. Like sedimentary layers, the layers at the top represent the newest work and the layers at the bottom the oldest. I joke that there is a system present (besides using sedimentary layers) – that there’s a semblance of organization within the chaos. But, even I have to admit, I need a better organization system. At least for the assignments and tests. I at least need a system to better indicate what’s been handed in, if it’s been marked, and if it’s been recorded before giving it back to students.


Unfortunately, I don’t like to use file folders or letter trays to organize my work. I find file folders to be too restricting and bulky. And, I never seem to have enough during busy times (and then I have a whole bunch laying around when it’s quiet time). I dislike letter trays because it takes up space on my desk. Like constructing a multi-level parking lot on waterfront land, the land on my desk is valuable space. So, how DO I stay organized?


Paper Organizer to the Rescue

Some of the best solutions are sometimes the simplest. I like to use paper as my organization tool of choice. Taking a sheet of 8.5” x 11” white paper, I fold it “hamburger” style (ie. if holding it in “portrait” orientation, in half top-to-bottom). Then, I fold this innovative piece of technology around a stack of labs or assignments. Instant organization! This set of student work is now separate from the rest, and I can take this stack around with me easily.


Ok, so a folded piece of paper really isn’t that innovative. However, just recently – and out of nowhere – I decided to write a few things on the front of the folded paper organizer. Three things: a line on which the class name will appear, a checkbox with “Marked” beside it, a checkbox with “Recorded” beside it. This little twist changed everything. Now, when I have a stack of such paper organizers with assignments stuffed into them. I can tell which ones need to be marked and which can be handed back to students. Part of the reason my desk is a mess is from assignments that have been marked but not handed back yet. This small twist helps to resolve that issue.


I also love the act of checking off lists (I seem to get a good kick of endorphins every time I check a box off), this twist is also fun and gives me a sense of accomplishment. That I’m finally making a dent into the pile of marking that accrues on my desk. You can download the sample I use myself at the end of this post.


Field notes

There is a vast number of ways you can modify this to suit your needs.

  • Add the date on which you received the assignments.
  • If there are multiple parts of the assignment, perhaps have multiple “Marked” boxes to split up the work.
  • Perhaps have a few lines that allow you to indicate who hasn’t handed in an assignment or test so that you can better track them down.

These are just a things I plan to do in future versions.


Wrap up

Staying organized will help to stay sane in the teaching profession. Every hack that helps to shave some time off a task – or at least helps to conserve and rest a few more brain cells – can go a long way. Click on the link below and join our email list. You’ll get our sample paper organizer template delivered to your inbox and you’ll be on our list to get our weekly newsletter.


To Get a copy of our Paper Organizer Sample, Click Here


Until next time, keep it REAL.

Posted on October 2, 2017 in Strategies

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