Friday, 17 October 2014

Homework Wall To Organise Your Students!

As a teacher, even though I only teach A-levels, I am constantly having to help my students (and myself) get organised. In particular I find it difficult to keep homework assignments organised.

It's very easy to end up in a state of confusion once, inevitably, homework deadlines start to be missed and you end up with a pile of this weeks homework, plus a few from last week, plus a few from the week before, in addition to the pile you have already marked to give back. Then you have the pile of nameless assignments and the students who insist they gave in their homework to you but you must have lost it.

Collecting homework in can also be an issue - tell them to leave it in your pigeon hole and some will inevitably forget meaning you have extra work chasing them down. Collect it in in class and you waste valuable lesson time and have to deal with a big pile of loose sheets of paper, almost never stapled together with only the front sheet named, that is the last thing you need when your desk is already full with 3 or 4 other piles of paperwork that you prepared for the lesson.

Then you have the issue of keeping track of who's handed in their homework on time, who handed it in late and who hasn't handed it in at all, so that you can dish out the appropriate rewards or punishments. All in all it's  all to easy to end up with yet more work to do (as if you didn't have enough already!).

Until recently I've been lucky (in some ways) to teach only small classes of no more than 10 students and hence have got by with no real system of organisation. However, when I found out I would have 20 this year I realised I'd better come with something to make things easier - it took a bit of setting up but I can now present to you my HOMEWORK ORGANISATION STATION!

I've received quite a few compliments from colleagues since I created this, including our principal, so I thought it would be good to share my idea here. 

I created a pocket for each student by stapling lots of folders together and then pinning them to the wall (I found a set of 50 folders reduced to £5 in Staples) and, in our first lesson I got them to write their name on a sticky label and attach it to their folder (in alphabetical order). One folder I saved for 'spare homework' - I normally print out a couple of extra copies and put them in here each week.

I also attached an A3 sheet to the wall consisting of a table with one student per row and enough columns for terms worth of homework; each week I write in a brief description of that week's homework. 

Finally I have used lengths of string to attach a stapler, a hold punch and pens to the wall/desk in front.

When my students come in, or during the lesson at an appropriate moment I get them to put their homework in their pocket and tick their name off on the A3 sheet. If they have more than one sheet they have to staple them together. If they missed a lesson or lost their homework they know where they can find a spare copy before the deadline (spare copies also available for them to print from our VLE). They can also use the hole punch to help in filing away their work. 

This system has several benefits:
  • I don't have to spend time in the lesson collecting homework
  • I don't have to staple lose sheets of paper together so as not to lose them during marking
  • I don't end up with any random nameless pieces of paper as they are all stapled to a sheet that does have a name on.
  • Even the ones who forget to put their name on I can identify by which folder they are in
  • Once students have left I write 'L' in red in any blank gaps on the tracking sheet. This enables both myself and the students to keep track of missed deadlines.
  • My stationary doesn't get lost!
  • 'I lost my homework sheet and have no printing credit' is no longer a valid excuse
  • I can use the folders to put notes in for students or attach stickers for good work
  • When I collect them in they are all in alphabetical order; I try to keep them in the same order when marking so it's easier to put grades into my Excel tracking sheet.
  • I can easily see during the lesson if anyone hasn't handed in their homework and challenge them about it without having to waste time looking through the pile and trying to work out why I only have 16 instead of 20.

There have been some glitches, such as students ticking their name off but not having handed in homework, but this is rare and I normally do a quick check when collecting them. 

Let me know if you have any good organisation ideas! My next challenge is how to get my students to file away every single handout and sheet of notes they make in class in order, as opposed to losing half of them and filing the other half in a big mess!!

p.s. The poster in the middle is for 'Geographer Of The Month' (an award for which they receive a bar of chocolate) and some reminders and inspirational quotations either side to encourage independent study.

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