Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Morning Rush...

One of the most stressful times of the school day for me is first thing in the morning. Kids come in the classroom in a whirl of chatter, money, assignments, and notes. I've learned, like I'm sure most teachers have, that the key to a stress free (or less stressed, ha!) morning, is a solid and consistent routine! I'm going to use this post to share how I handle some of the most common morning procedures, and I hope you'll find something helpful!

1. Lunch Count

My lunch count idea actually came from a brilliant fourth grade teacher at my school. I did all of my student teaching at the same school I now teach, and Mrs. DeLoach was one of my coaching teachers. (Her website can be found here!) We are blessed to all have SmartBoards in our rooms, and we watch our morning news show through them. Because it's already up and running, it's such an efficient way to do the lunch count! Students are taught at the beginning of the year to come straight in and make a choice before unpacking and sitting down. What's great about the process is that it can also double as attendance. Any name that hasn't been moved is a name of an absent student!

At the beginning of the year, create a Smart File like the one below: 

Remember to lock the squares so that students don't accidentally move them when making a lunch choice. Also be sure to "allow move" on the students names so that they can move them where needed. Each morning, change the lunch choices based on what is on the menu. When the lunch count and attendance have been complete, close the file WITHOUT saving it, and it'll be set to go for the next morning! Not saving it each day keeps you from having to move the students' names back to the bottom of the page every morning!

2. Homework 

I believe in grading homework for completion rather than accuracy, so students generally don't have much homework to turn in every morning. Instead, one of my classroom jobs is "homework checker," and that student is responsible for making sure homework is completed by all of the students. I teach students at the beginning of the year to leave any homework out on their desks when they unpack in the morning. The homework checker goes around to each desk and stamps homework with a date stamp. If I decide to take up homework later or it is an assignment I want to check for completion myself, this stamp lets me know it was turned in on time. My class runs on an economy (I'll share all about that later!), so students who don't have their assignments are given a fine from our classroom police officer. 

If students do have a project or other assignment that will be graded, I use the same procedure in the morning as I do for tests, quizzes, and classwork during the rest of the day. I team teach, so I have a drawer for both of my classes on my desk. Students know to place their assignments in the appropriate drawer when they come into the classroom each morning! This helps keep my two classes separated and organized, too!

(Side Note: Another of my classroom jobs is "substitute." When a student is absent, the substitute is responsible for collecting an extra copy of any tests, quizzes, or other assignments. The substitute writes the absent student's name on the paper and sticks it in the "Were you absent?" drawer on my desk. When the absent student returns to school, all of his/her make up assignments are in one place!

3. Money and Notes

Nearly every morning students have money and notes to turn in, and inevitably an envelope gets set down somewhere and forgotten, a child hands you a handful of crumpled dollar bills with no instructions, or students put time sensitive notes in the homework basket and they don't get looked at until the end of the day. This year, I have decided to combat that with a separate place for money and notes. I purchased a $2 dish drying rack at Walmart to use for this purpose. It has two slender openings on the side that I am using to store envelopes and pens for those students who bring in loose money and checks. I am going to instruct students to always put their name, the amount of money, and the purpose of the money on the envelope before turning it in! Hopefully, this will keep all money and important notes in one location, and I won't feel overwhelmed by ten students handing me envelopes at once!

 That's it for now...happy organizing, and good luck on your "stress free" mornings!


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