Picture of a computer with a calendar and the title "How to systematize and manage your classroom"

Five effective ways to systematize and manage your classroom 

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Teaching is not a job for the faint of heart! A teacher’s to-do list is always a mile long, and there is never enough time to get everything done. When I first became a teacher, I would often spend hours before and after school getting things ready for the next day. My weekends were jam-packed with grading and planning. My family was falling by the wayside because I could never catch up with everything I needed to do. It was out of pure necessity that I started re-evaluating what I was doing in the classroom. I began to look for things I could change in my classroom to make my life easier. So in today’s blog post, I want to share with you five ways you can systematize and manage your classroom. 

What do I mean by “manage your classroom?”

This blog post will not be about behavior management. Instead, in this post, I will share with you some systems and procedures that you can put in place to manage your workload. I will talk about some of the things you can do to manage all the work that needs to be done on a regular basis to keep your classroom running smoothly. And because this will help you be more effective in the classroom, it will probably help you curb some unwanted behaviors, too. 

Things to consider when designing a plan to help you manage your classroom

As I said earlier, I learned the tips I am about to share with you out of pure necessity. I had no boundaries or work/life balance. I barely spent time with my children and husband. I was constantly thinking and talking about work. There was always something that needed to be done immediately. 

Now, I am not trying to say that I have it all figured out. I still struggle with creating a healthy work/life balance sometimes. But I have come a long way! I have found ways to simplify some of those tasks that absolutely have to get done. This frees me up to spend more time with my beautiful family. I don’t have to stay after school every single day. I don’t have to work all weekend long. Can I do even better? Yes! But can’t we all?

A picture of a monthly planner to demonstrate to teachers how can you manage your classroom through systems and procedures.
How can you manage your classroom with systems and procedures? Keep reading for five simple ideas that will help you decrease your workload and regain your weekends.

Be specific! 

When you are considering ways to help you manage your classroom more effectively, think about those repetitive tasks that need to be done every single day or week. It helps to write a list, so you don’t forget anything. Now ask yourself:

👉Can I delegate some of these tasks to my students? 

👉Are there ways to simplify what I am doing? 

👉Can I set up systems that will keep things running smoothly without me having to intervene all the time?

👉Can I combine similar tasks and do them at the same time?

👉How can I fit these tasks into my daily/weekly schedule?

By answering these questions, you can implement a classroom management system that will require less time and effort from you because it will be automatized. 

Be brave! 

Many teachers struggle with delegating tasks. There is this fear that by giving students “power”, they will set the classroom on fire. But the truth is, giving your students responsibilities helps create a sense of community. Everyone likes to feel important. And when students realize that what they do keeps the classroom running smoothly, they tend to step up to the plate. 

So, think of your students as allies when it comes to classroom tasks. Find ways to get them involved, so that you can become less involved. Be a guide on the side! Not a sage on the stage!

Be consistent! 

The best way to systematize and manage your classroom is to stay consistent. You and your students will need time to practice any new routines you set in place. Don’t become discouraged if things feel a little rocky in the beginning. 

It is easy to get frustrated when you feel like you are wasting your time teaching your students what you want them to do. But you have to stay consistent and think of the big picture: a classroom that can basically run itself! That is the goal! 

A picture of a computer, to do list, and other office supplies with the title "How to manage your classroom with systems and procedures."
In this blog post, I am sharing how to manage your classroom, so you can regain your weekends.

Five ways to systematize and manage your classroom

I wanted to start this blog by sharing how to create your own management system because every classroom is different. However, if you are anything like me, you need some concrete examples. So, let me share with you five ways that you can manage your classroom by implementing systems and procedures. 

1. Managing pencils (or other supplies)

This may sound silly, but hours can be spent trying to figure out who has or doesn’t have a pencil. I could never understand how my students could not keep track of their pencils. I am ashamed when I think about the amount of money I had to spend on pencils during my first couple of years as a teacher. 

But how do you keep pencils from falling into your classroom “black hole?” You know, that place where things go to die and never be found? Here is how:

👉 Choose two responsible students to be your pencil managers; 

👉 Get a pocket chart with multiple small pockets, and put your students’ names or numbers on each pocket. I like this positive reinforcement 30-pocket chart because the pockets are deep enough to hold pencils. 

👉 Place two sharpened pencils in each pocket; 

👉 Hang the pocket chart in a place in your classroom where students can easily access it. 

👉 Every morning, your pencil managers come into the classroom a few minutes earlier and check the pencils. Their job is to make sure that there are two sharpened pencils in each pocket. Teach your pencil managers how to use your pencil sharpener, so you never have to sharpen a pencil again. 

👉 As students enter the classroom, they grab their pencils from the pocket chart. 

👉 At the end of the day, students return their pencils to the pocket chart. 

👉 Before leaving for the day, the pencil managers check the pocket charts to make sure all pencils have been returned. 

You will need an appropriate consequence for missing pencils. In my classroom, I use classroom money to reward my students. If they lose a pencil, they have to give me one of their classroom dollars back. You could also choose to reward the students who always return their pencils instead. 

2. Managing literacy centers 

Managing literacy centers can become a full-time job if you are not careful. When I first started teaching, I knew I needed to simplify my stations because I knew I would not be able to keep up with them. Just the thought of having to change my stations every few weeks gave me a migraine. 

I did a lot of research before I came up with the systems I have in place now. But I am so glad I did it! My literacy centers run like clockwork. And I barely have to do anything to keep it running. 

To manage your classroom and systematize your literacy centers…

👉 Choose games and activities that can be completed using a variety of different texts. The activity stays the same, but the text changes. 

👉 Foster independence by teaching students how to select “just right” books. They will use these books to complete the activities in each station. 

👉 Spend the first few weeks of school teaching students the procedures for each station. Give them time to practice while you observe and assist. You want students to be 100% confident on what they have to do, so they don’t interrupt your small group instruction later. The time will spend now will pay off ten-fold in the future. 

👉 Refrain from changing stations too often (or at all!) Every time you change stations, you have to reteach the rules and procedures. That takes up a lot of instructional time and creates chaos. 

Some examples of stations that meet these requirements are:

Reading board games 

One of my literacy stations is a reading board games station. I have a few varieties of these games available for my students in every genre. These games have open-ended questions that students can answer after reading any text! All they have to do is select the genre. 

In this station, my students choose what they want to read each day and play a game based on what they read. This means that I don’t have to provide the text – my students select it independently. It also means that my students can play the same game throughout the entire school year without ever being bored. Every time they choose a new text, they are essentially playing a new game. 

If you would like to see some of the reading board games that I have created, you can click here. I have tic-tac-toe boards, regular board games, and Diamond Finder, which is a mixture of Battleship and Minesweeper. All games are available in English and Spanish.

Reading response choice boards 

Another great way to manage your classroom by systematizing your literacy stations is to use choice boards. In my classroom, I use choice boards to help my students practice writing reading responses. 

Every two weeks, I put out a new choice board. My students glue the choice board to their reading response journals. They choose either a text they are currently reading or something they read recently on their own. Then, my students look at the options of activities on the menu. Each menu has nine activity options: 3 for fiction, 3 for nonfiction, and 3 options that work for both. On the next page in their journals, they complete the activity they selected. Every few weeks, I collect their journals to check their work. They know that for each menu, they must have at least two reading responses completed. 

This literacy station is extremely easy to manage because all I need to do is put out a copy of the new reading response menu every two weeks. To make my life easier, I created choice boards for the entire school year. At the beginning of the year, I make all the copies and keep them organized in file folders. It only takes me a few seconds to switch choice boards. 

If you would like to give this literacy station a try, you can check out my reading response menus by clicking here. Each set comes with 24 menus, a writing page, and a rubric. They are available in English and Spanish.  

If you would like to read more about literacy centers, I have written an entire blog post about it. You can click here to check it out!

3. Systematizing your morning procedures 

When students walk into your classroom, they should know exactly what they are expected to do every single day. There should be a procedure or a sequence of steps they must take as they get ready for the day. You should also have some type of work that your students are expected to complete each morning. 

To manage your classroom effectively, your morning work should be the same every single day. Every morning as students walk through the door, there can be dozens of things happening at the same time. A student is handing you a doctor’s note from the previous day. Another student is letting you know they will be picked up early today. Someone else is coming to your classroom with a question. The last thing you should have to worry about is explaining a new activity to your students. 

So,  how can you set up a system that requires little to no effort from you? I’ve got two words from you: writing prompts! 

How to use writing prompts to automatize your morning work

👉 Create a folder or binder for each student in your class with writing prompts for the entire year; 

👉 Practice with students how to come into the room each morning, unpack, and begin working on their writing prompts; 

👉 Develop a system to collect their binders/folders frequently to check their work. I like to check folders every other Friday. I divide my class into two groups. One Friday, I collect the folders from one group. The following week, I collect the folders from the other group. At the beginning of the year, I add multiple copies of the rubric I use for grading to their folders/binders. When it is time to grade their work, all I need are their folders/binders and a pen. 

If you are a dual-language or bilingual teacher, I have something for you – a free set of 36 monthly-themed writing prompts. You can download them for FREE by clicking here. 

I also have a set of 125 writing prompts that you can use throughout the school year. You can purchase this set by clicking here.  

4. Managing assessment corrections

When I used to teach fourth grade, one of our district policies was that all students had to be given a chance to make up their assessments if they scored less than 70% on them. The make-up had to be done in class. Although I love the idea of giving students another chance to go back and fix their mistakes, I struggled at first to fit that into my schedule. I would often forget to give the assessments back to them because we were busy doing other assignments. I knew I needed to figure out a better system to manage assessment resubmissions. 

One day, as I was walking around the classroom while my students were taking a test, it dawned on me. If I start grading their tests as they turn them in, I can immediately determine their grades. This means that if anyone gets a failing grade, I can immediately give the test back to them for corrections. This simple system created a huge change in my classroom. And the benefits were much greater than simply helping me manage resubmissions. 

Why you should grade tests as students finish them

To manage your classroom effectively and save yourself time, grade your students’ tests as they finish them in class. This will serve three purposes:

👉 It will save you time! You are already walking around and monitoring your students. Grab a clipboard and a pen, and use that time to grade their exams as well. 

👉It will help you identify misconceptions! Weekly tests should be viewed as another opportunity to help students (without giving them the answer!) If I notice that a handful of students are struggling with the same question, I stop the test. I tell students to go to that question on their tests, and we discuss it. I don’t give them the answer, but I clarify any misconceptions. Don’t worry! The testing police won’t come after you! I have done this while my principal was in my classroom, and she loved it! 

👉 It will keep students from rushing to finish the test! Once my students realized that if they rushed, they would just get their tests handed right back to them, they stopped rushing. They realized that it was better to take their time and do their best than to have to take the test again. 

In my classroom, make-up exams are worth 70%. For example, if a student gets a 40 in their first submission, the most they can get after resubmitting the test is 70%, even if they get all the questions right the second time.

Picture of an open planner. Title, "How to manage your classroom as a teacher"
Wondering how to manage your classroom as a teacher? These simple tips will help you delegate tasks and simplify your planning routine.

5. Managing early finisher work 

I remember one time talking to a coworker who didn’t know what else to do for her early finishers. She taught math. Some students in her classroom needed a lot of help and time to complete their work. Others were done in just a few minutes. 

I understand how frustrating that can be! We all know that to manage your classroom effectively, you must keep students engaged in a meaningful task. And how can we do that when everyone works at different paces? 

My suggestion is to come up with a few choices of activities (no more than three) that students can work on when they are finished. These activities never change. Make sure the activities you choose are different enough from each other to give all students the opportunity to choose something they enjoy. 

👉 Some examples of early finisher activities for your ELA block: 

Independent reading

Students in my class knew that once they finished an activity, they had to take out a book and read. They loved that they were getting a chance to read on their own in class. I loved that they were spending time in class reading, and I didn’t have to prepare any extra work for them. There were no strings attached! No reports, responses, or graphic organizers. Just reading for the pleasure of reading. It was a win, win situation! 

Independent writing

If my students didn’t want to read, they could take out their writing journals and write about anything they wanted. I had a lot of very creative students who preferred this activity. Sometimes, I would randomly walk up to one of these students and ask them to share their stories with me. They loved it! And they were engaged in a meaningful task that didn’t require any extra work from me. Score! 

Independent research 

If you have any curious little minds in your classroom, this could be the activity for them. 

You will need to introduce this activity to your students and practice it as a class, but once they know the procedure, they will be able to work on their research projects independently. You will need some materials for this activity, but you can organize all the copies at the beginning of the year, and then just check periodically to see if you need any other copies. You can also assign this digitally, so you never have to worry about making copies again. 

This is also a great way to integrate science and social studies into your ELA block.

I have some research units available in Spanish that would work perfectly as early finisher activities. You can check them out here. These research units come with exploration packets, writing graphic organizers, and publishing booklets to guide students through the entire research and writing process. They are available in digital and printable forms. 

👉 Some examples of early finisher work for your math block:

Fact fluency practice

Look for games that your students can play independently to practice their fact fluency. There are several digital options available that would be perfect for that. 

Write your own math problems activities 

Give your students some dice or spinners, and let them practice creating their own math problems. They can roll the dice or spin the spinners to come up with the numbers they need to use in their word problems. Then, they must write word problems that make sense. Make sure they create an answer key, so you know they actually know how to solve the problems. Make it even more challenging by asking students to come up with answer choices. You can make it even more exciting by choosing a few of their word problems to use in the classroom. 

Project-based learning activities

If you want students to dig even deeper and apply what they are learning to solve real-life problems, PBL activities are the way to go. Most of these activities involve using a lot of math to solve real-life situations and are so much fun. There are many options available in the market already. Just print multiple copies and put them out in your classroom or assign them digitally. 

If you want to give these activities a try, you can check out some of my project-based learning activities in Spanish. Just click here to check them out. 

There you have it…

…five simple ways to systematize and manage your classroom, so you can save your sanity. Do you have any ideas that I did not mention? Will you be trying any of these ideas in your own classroom? I would love to hear about them! Just leave me a comment down below. 

And as always… Happy teaching! 

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Hi, I'm Rebeca!

I help upper elementary dual language teachers with resources and ideas that promote bilingualism and biliteracy.  

Learn more about me and how I can help you here.

36 FREE Writing Prompts in spanish

FREE WRITING PROMPTS IN SPANISH FOR GRADES 3-5

36 FREE writing Prompts in Spanish

FREE WRITING PROMPTS IN SPANISH FOR GRADES 3-5