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Organization Is Key To Effective Teaching
Often times as teachers, we find our curriculum to be overwhelming and often ask ourselves, “Where do we begin and when do we teach what?" Organizational skills play a major role in being an effective teacher. You’ll find you will spend less time on getting your plans together and you will spend more time focusing on your instructional strategies instead. This will be very helpful if you have had a teaching experience like I have, and have had various grade levels to teach in different buildings.
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The First Step
The first step in getting organized, is to take apart your district’s curriculum and categorize your lesson plans and activities. As a Music teacher, my curriculum is already broken up into categories by grade level. However, the question is “When during the school year do I teach the various concepts?" I would then categorize within each grade level by content area and/or theme.
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Topics and Events
I often found myself teaching various music concepts or topics around the monthly holidays or events. As a result, I decided to go through all of my files containing various worksheets, songs, sheet music, activities, etc. and to place them in piles according to month. For example, if I were to find a song/activity for “I’m a Nut" (a PreK-K action song about being a squirrel), I would put this in the September pile for the primary grades. As a general classroom teacher, you may find that this applies in other content areas as well. To learn more on lesson plan organization strategies, see Laurie Patsalides’ article entitled, Classroom Organization: Creating Yearly and Monthly Plans.
Once I have my “monthly" piles, I would then go to the store and purchase several 3-ringed binders (I use 1-2" ones in size and all the same color for uniformity, but color-coding works too) for each month of lessons/activities. I also use sheet protectors (the sleeve type) so each lesson and accompanying worksheets/songs stay together and are more readily accessible for me to use. I then would label each binder and store them on my bookshelves either in the classroom or at home. If I find that I have more activities and worksheets that cannot be categorized, I either create a miscellaneous binder or I would break them up by individual content topic. For example, I have September through June binders but I also have a recorder binder, a World Music binder, a Musical binder, etc.
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Focus & Organization
Having my lesson plans and activities all together has made me more of an effective teacher. In the past, I have found myself in the middle of a lesson, and I can’t find where I have put the song sheets for the class or a particular CD. Using these teacher classroom organization tactics, I have all my materials together and I don’t have to waste precious instructional time and interactive time with my students. I always find that as soon as you lose focus, your students lose focus too. I love the fact that I can take more creative liberties in my teaching and fix any instructional challenges I have instead of worrying about just making sure I cover what I need to. It is all there, in black and white (no pun intended of course).
If you are a new teacher or even an experienced teacher with lots of materials, getting organized and keeping your materials and plans all in one place will make your job so much easier. If you are a traveling teacher, which many of us are nowadays, these helpful classroom organization tips will take the stress, or at least some stress out of your teaching day.