I occasionally get asked by my fellow teachers how I organize my teaching materials and what kinds of tools I use. I’m not sure I am the perfect organizer but for what it’s worth, I’m putting down my method here.
First, I keep big folders of material sorted by kind of lesson. Every Xerox, every print-out, every article I clip from the newspaper is in a 3-hole punch binder and organized into the following categories:
You may have your own categories or organizational system.
I also have seperators in with the name of the lesson on it so I can easily find my lesson on stereotypes or the describing people vocab sheet. Putting things in binders is good for being organized but it’s also good as a way to store extra copies. If I make 8 copies of a worksheet and only 2 people show up, I put away those 6 extra copies to use next time. Saves time, paper, and ink.
I also have files saved on my computer, downloaded from the internet, or worksheets that I have typed up. Those are also organized into folders and for lessons that have a lot of files–like a lesson that has a teacher’s guide, a worksheet, a role play sheet and a vocab quiz, I make a seperate file. I also rename files to things I remember. And if I see something on the Net I like, I save it. Even if I don’t need it right away. I used to bookmark the page and try to remember to go back to it. That never happened. I prefer to have lessons I’ll never use to forgetting to save a really good lesson.
And any worksheet I really like, or book pages I use a lot, I tend to scan and save away so the book binding doesn’t get worn out from endless copying. For books, it’s time consuming but I like to pick and choose what I scan. For example most TOEFL books have questions and then a lot of explanation. I scan the pages, and then use a snapshot program to pick and choose what I want to give my student. I can cut a 13 page lesson down to 5 pages. Saves paper. And obviously I tell them the explanations.
I also really think it’s important to take time to rearrange worksheets you don’t like or to modify things. I teach adults and children and there are some conversation books I really like, but the lessons aren’t suitable for children so I retype them and save them. That way I always have the kids’ version ready.
One huge help is a desktop search program like Yahoo Desktop Search. It’s much better than the Windows search because it’s extremely fast and I can easily find all my lessons that have the word “Christmas” in them. And you can easily refine the program to search only your lesson plan folder.
The other big thing I personally recommend is saving CD files to your computer and using iTunes or another music program to organize them. Working off the computer instead of a CD player you have more control about starting at a particular place and you can name the files so you don’t have to keep checking the track list.
Those are my brillant tips. What do you use to stay organized? Any good programs or toys out there that a teacher, or a student, must have?