My classroom was a pretty organized place. My students had cubbies and folder boxes where they kept their materials. The classroom library was full of baskets of books carefully sorted by topic, and all my students’ materials had homes.
But behind my desk was a different story. There lived piles upon piles of papers, clipboards with notes scrawled on them, and bursts of random sticky notes. Strips of paper taped by my desk said things like, “Rose–level D” and “Next step for writing workshop: sensory details.” Papers shoved in a binder housed anecdotal notes about students’ reading, and stacks of math work held crucial information about my students’ abilities to explain their reasoning.
Amongst the meaningful clutter, I realized the challenge wasn’t just to organize paper. If it had been so simple, I would have brought out the recycling bin and thrown half of the paper away. The real challenge was to organize the assessment data that I was constantly collecting. Lately I’ve come across several tech tools that I wish I had had when standing behind that messy desk:
1. The Together Teacher
In my work with new teachers, one of the most challenging skills to teach is organization. Lately, I find myself recommending this site, thetogetherteacher.com. If you register with the site, you can download templates for lesson planning, to-do lists, sub plans, and much more. Though the resources are helpful, I really appreciate the blogs. Check out “Pump Up The Planner,” which includes concrete recommendations for getting the most out of your lesson plan book. Other posts you should read are “Grading: Let’s Make It Faster, Stronger” and “Getting the Most Out of Google Tasks.”
2. Confer App
One of the first grade teachers that I coach turned me onto Confer. She uses this app to take individualized notes about her students as she conferences with them during reading and writing workshops. After jotting down notes on your iPhone or iPad, Confer lets you tag them by “strength,” “teaching point,” and “next step” — and later, you can organize your notes by these tags. No more unorganized notes in random binders! I used to make crazy spreadsheets to try and organize my students into needs-based groups, but it always made my head explode because each student had varied needs and strengths. This app helps you quickly organize the needs of your students and plan next steps for instruction — hopefully saving you a bit of sanity.
3. Learn Boost
At the beginning of the year, one of the middle school teachers I work with searched for a way to organize all of her student data. We looked at various costly virtual-grade books, but eventually she found a free option: Learn Boost. This app helps teachers record, organize, and sort student data. You can also plan lessons and share data with colleagues and parents. Learn Boost can also live in your Google Apps, which is super convenient if you live a Google-heavy life. It’s a serious time saver!
When you use tech tools to stay organized, the benefits are two-fold: less headaches and less clutter. How have you used technology to simplify your life in the classroom? We want to learn from your successes!
Lily Jones taught K/1 for seven years in Northern California. She has experience as a curriculum developer, instructional coach, teacher trainer, and is also a contributing writer for Teaching Channel.