I know you’ve heard this question in class, "When am I going to use this in real life?” This question is commonly asked when my students are frustrated with the standards, or are not organized to do the work. They aren't sure what to make of the information and how it applies to them. Well, one of my first focuses from the start of the year is their organizational skills. My 4th graders often come in struggling to stay organized. This is a MAJOR skill that will benefit them their whole life. It also sets them up for success in learning new material.
The following tips and tricks have helped cut back on these frequent questions I hear from my students:
"Where is my math notebook?"
"What happened to my red pen?"
"Where is the notebook paper?"
"Where are my notes?"
I have always been a proponent of color coding materials, from my planner notes to my lesson plans. Using colors to match subjects and topics fit perfectly. In my second year of teaching, I decided to start showing my students this organization skill. Color-coding allowed them to quickly pull their items from their desk when materials are needed, as well as when we switched subjects. I organized their materials using red for Reading, blue for Math, purple for Social Studies, green for Science and yellow for Writing. We placed colored masking tape on the spine of our notebooks and placed them stacked in their desks sideways. This allowed them to see the materials very easily and pull out what is needed. They also have folders in the matching colors. These specific colors have been on the school supply list every year. For students who did not bring the correct colors, I purchased them in bulk so I always had enough to make sure they had the correct ones.
This is HUGE and makes so many of my students excited to take notes! Students can use pens in their notebooks, as long as they are using them effectively. Some students would use colored pencils or highlighters if they did not have "fun pens". As you probably already know from previous posts, I use anchor charts in almost all of my lessons. My anchor charts are colorful and eye-catching. So why would I not allow my students to do this as well? These colorful and erasable pens are my FAVORITE! Students loves getting them as a reward to use.
At the start of every lesson, students take out their colored utensils (if they plan to use them) and their notebooks. Once my lesson starts, students cannot switch out colors or trade colors with another student. This rule keeps the focus on the lesson and not just coloring. The color-coding for notes is also shared with parents so they can also see what is important when supporting at home.
RED or PINK = Vocabulary. Vocabulary words and definitions are written, underlined, or highlighted in shades of red.
BLUE = Must Remember. This is information I highlight as being very important to remember. Information is underlined or highlighted in shades of blue. (Including a date of a quiz, test, project, etc.)
ORANGE = Examples. Students write the word EXAMPLE in orange next to any examples we do as a class. This means I wrote the full problem, work, and answer on the board. This helps parents when they are supporting their child at home.
GREEN = Active Engagements or Practice. Any problems students work out on their own during the lesson for warm ups, active engagements, or closing is written in green. This stands out as students did them on their own.
Start & End of the Day:
I am not always the best at having an introduction and closing for each lesson. However, my students always start and end their day with the same routine.
Morning work always has two steps.
1) Get organized for the day. Do you have everything you need? Notebook, homework, folder, writing utensils.
2) Work on assignments or projects you have not finished.
At the end of the day, get organized for dismissal and prepare for tomorrow. Do you have everything you need for homework? Is everything back in your desk and ready for the next day if it is not needed for homework? Pencils sharpened?