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Monday, 30 June 2014

Three Tools to Help You Organize your Classroom

Keeping organized is one of the biggest challenges for any teacher – especially as classroom sizes are growing.

The numbers that were released last summer were astounding. A report released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said, essentially, that the UK was doing things backwards—that our large class size early in life and smaller class size later is doing a disservice to our students; that smaller classes are more beneficial to younger students and that increasing class size in the teen years probably won’t have much of an impact.

The report also released class size numbers for all of the other nations that are members of the Organisation. We in the UK have the third largest class sizes. The only two countries with more students per class are Chile, with an average of 30.4 students per class and China, with a whopping 38 students per class. No wonder our teachers are having a hard time staying organized!

If you were teaching only one class a day, 25 students (our actual number is 24.8) might not seem like a lot. Unfortunately many teachers, especially those in the higher grades, could easily teach upwards of four classes a day; that’s a minimum of 100 students to keep track of.

Luckily, there are several tools to help you keep track of the administrative end of things – class schedules, attendance, assignments, grades, and so on – so you can focus more on your students.

School-Sponsored Electronic Planners

Some schools are helping teachers and students get and stay organized by introducing 1:1 organizational devices. The schools can then install online student planner apps, like the ones made by Meridian Planners, on the devices to allow students and teachers access to a central organizational database. Students and staff can also use their own devices, or BYOD, instead of having one issued by the school.

The advantage to the centralized electronic planner is that when you update assignments or schedule tests, the information is disseminated to all of your students at once, even if they missed class that day. It also allows parents to use their smart phones, and similar web-enabled devices, to keep track of their children’s schedules and assignments, as well as school events like parent-teacher conferences.

If your school does not have an electronic planner system in place, you could suggest the Meridian Planner system, or something similar, to the administration. In the interim, here are a few other tools to help you keep your classes and students organized.

Edmodo

Edmodo is considered the “Facebook for schools.” It’s a website where students, parents, and teachers can all share information including assignments, quizzes, and events. You can post messages to students and parents, and vice versa. You can also use it to collaborate with your peers, and leave information for substitute teachers. Like Facebook, Edmodo also has an app that you can load onto your tablet, smart phone, or iPhone.

Like the Meridian Planner, Edmodo allows you to do all of your organization and reach all of your students through one simple tool. Unlike the Meridian Planner, it does not automatically load or update your student’s schedules, or school events -- that all has to be entered manually. Also, you have to rely on your students to sign up for Edmodo versus the Meridian system with is issued to the student through the school. However, for schools that don’t have the Meridian system set up, Edmodo is a decent alternative.

Remind 101

Remind 101 is a text messaging service that allows you to communicate with parents and students without using private contact information. All you need to do is open an account at the Remind 101 site, and then have your students and their parents subscribe to your texts. Then you can send out group text messages regarding assignments and other class information, and all your subscribers will receive it.

This is especially useful because you don’t have to keep track of individual numbers. Also, if someone’s contact information changes, they can still get texts as long as they update their number.

Although this service is limited to messaging only, it is a great way to ensure that all of your students have the most up-to-date information, even if they weren’t in class. You may need to check with your district to make sure they approve the use of Remind 101, and you will need to ensure that all of your students and their parents subscribe to your texts.

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