Friday, April 10, 2015

Five for Friday - April 10, 2015

It has been way too long since I've linked up with Doodlebugs Teaching for Five for Friday! I haven't had stability in my classroom routine in weeks! Between spring break happening and the mad rush to prep for Smarter Balanced Assessments, I've had a few subs and a plethora of a appointments to attend as well. I feel like I've been all over the place.

This got me to start thinking about how I stay on top of my workload during these times. Being out with a sub is enough to drive anyone batty...dealing with getting your work done too can be hard.

So...I'm using today's Five for Friday post to talk about 5 things that I do to keep myself on-track at work. I almost never bring work home. I designate my time off to myself, family, my TpT store, blogging, or projects that I'm really invested in. I don't regularly do the day-to-day administrative teaching stuff at home. I get asked a lot how I make this happen. It was a goal of mine early on in my career and I'm proud of myself for maintaining it.

Ready to find out my tips and tricks....?

The first thing that I do each year is set up a lesson planning template in Excel. I have a FREE downloadable file here that may help you. I color code it and customize it to my schedule for that particular year. This helps me save time because part of the planning is done for me. The subjects are there. I can add places to circle recess duty or specials that rotate. I can draw lines across for things that continue and I can mark out lessons in advance when something special is coming up!

Here's a picture of my planning pages for this year!  This isn't my exact schedule but it's close to what's on my real planner.

Once I have this basic structure, I can fill in my day! Early in the year, I date all of the weeks and add in all the fun pre-planned things that are on the school calendar. This minimizes last-minute surprises because I forgot something was going to happen.

The second most important thing that I do to keep my work flowing is to set up a parent volunteer early in the year to make copies for me. If you have access to a volunteer, get this set up right away! If you don't you can still do this step, but you'll just have to budget time to take care of it yourself. I'll let you know how it works for me both ways.

With a Volunteer: If you can get a volunteer, figure out a day that he/she can come in for at least an hour, preferably two. This will be your copy day. Always, always, always have copies masters ready on this day. I leave this copy date up to my volunteer. Any time that he or she can come in, I'll get the copies prepped. It's worth it. Trust me. This year, my volunteer comes in on Thursdays. So, I always have my masters set up and in the copy bin by then so that my volunteer can walk in, grab the tub, and get going. This means that I spend significantly less time in the production room. I can use that time for other things. The catch here is, your copy masters must be ready in time!

Without a Volunteer: If you don't have a volunteer, pick a day that you can come to school early to make copies. In my experiences, it's so much easier to get to the copiers before school. So much time is wasted waiting in line to make copies. I skip all of that by coming in 45 minutes early one time a week (6:45 am) to do all of my copying...or at least the huge bulk of it. I love not having to worry about making someone wait while my packets are running and not getting interrupted for all of those "quick scans." The trick here is....pick a day of the week and stick with matter what.  Every week. Always. Again, this means that your copy masters have to be ready the night before. You won't have time to prep them and copy when you come in early. 

So...get a day of the week set up and always get your copies done on that day.

Plan your upcoming week at the same time every week. I do this the day before my copy day. So, this year, I start planning for the following week on Wednesday. Yes, Wednesday. Sure, I haven't finished teaching for the week (but more is taught for the week than not) and, yes, things might change. However, if they change, I'll likely run behind on using my copies and, thus, prepping something else is only going to make me one copy ahead on that subject...I won't be getting behind in any way. So, although my plans may change and I may not use that particular lesson as soon as I had originally planned, I'll still use it and it's there when I'm ready.

Get those lessons outlined. At least in skeleton form so that you get as many masters as ready for copying as possible. It's amazing what you'll notice you're missing for your week once you start laying out all those skeleton plans. The sooner you notice that it's missing, the less likely it is that you'll be standing in line for the copier for 7 minutes right before school starts. 

Stack your copy drawers on Fridays. On Friday morning, I take all of the copies that my volunteer (or me on an early morning) made and put them into files for the coming week. I sort them by day so that everything is ready to go in one place for that day. It helps clear my copy clutter and I just have to grab one stack and go. I like to do this on Fridays because, once I pull out the stuff I'm using that day, my drawers are empty and ready to be reloaded. Of course, I need those skeleton plans to figure out which day to place each copy into. 

I use this cart for my copies.  I have a drawer labeled for each day of the week as well as a drawer for "to be copied," "to be graded" and "to be filed." In the "to be copied" drawer, I put all of the master copy pages as I'm gathering stuff throughout the week.  The "to be graded" drawer holds homework or assignments that will take longer to grade. I put important papers that need to go into student files in the "to be filed" drawer. The other drawers hold papers that are copied in advance and don't have a day of the week yet.

Lastly, set specific grading times and don't let it get away from you. As soon as I drop my kids off at the bus, I come back in and grade my math exit tickets. No matter what. It really doesn't take that long if you shut off the distractions and get to it. I have them graded and entered into the gradebook in 15-20 minutes. Doing this daily, at the exact same time, means that I don't ever have huge piles of paper to grade and I always know how my students did on that day's lesson. I do this every afternoon and I get done around the same time as everybody else. I do not grade at home.

If I have longer assignments to grade or essays, I'll grade those during my prep periods for the week. I almost exclusively dedicate those to grading papers. The only exception is on Wednesday when I'm planning for the following week. I review my morning lessons before school starts and refresh my afternoon lessons during lunch. So, before school is typically busy for me so reserving any additional grading for preps is essential.

I do recommend, however, that you grade with intention. Don't grade everything for the sake of grading it. Be intentional about the standards you're assessing in that assignment and assess for that standard only. You don't need to grade everything. Pick your battles when it comes to grading. Get the important stuff done and use the rest of your energy for high-quality instruction.

So, there it is. There's my linkup for the week. That's how I stay on track. I'm very meticulous about what is done when and I stick to it as much as possible. It's not perfect but it works for me!  

What works for you?!


  1. Well written and very informative! Validated a lot of what I'm doing, but definitely did not have the excel spreadsheet before, thanks for the great resources. I love how you call the plans for the week "skeleton plans". That's just what they are and I feel informal assessments of student behavior, needs and understanding fill in the rest of the "skeleton plans" for the week!

    1. Hi Amanda!
      Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment so we can chat! I am happy to read that your work flow is similar to mine. It works very well for me and it helps me to ensure that I haven't forgotten to do anything when I do the same things at the same time each week!