With a busy choir program, and half the planning of other teachers, I try to make anything I do that involves paper work as simple and easy as possible. One thing that I've used year to year is a bullet journal to keep everything I need in one place. To read more about my bullet journal, click here. Today, I'm sharing my quick and simple system for classroom management that's integrated into my bullet journal.
So, What is it?
I have a whole section of my notebook called "Classroom Documentation." It's just a group of pages that I've created charts on for each of my classes. Each week of the school year is one chart, and each square is roughly the size of a sticky note in case I run out of room and need to add to it (and sometimes you just do).
I've been tweaking and perfecting this my entire career. Originally, I started out with a plain college-ruled notebook, and slowly evolved it into what I have today. I like the squares because it allows me to see the entire week with all of my classes in one place.
How do I use it?
Disclaimer: These are all fake names and documentation
I leave my notebook open on my stand/piano to whatever page I'm using that week. If I need to make a note of something, I'll just jot a name down with a code or brief description of what happened. If I write down a name and don't write anything next to it, that's for talking during instruction. I use little shorthand codes to remind myself of other common things, like fd (following directions), np (not participating), bw (bell work), ot (off task), and CB (Chromebook). If I fill up a square, then I can just add a sticky note on top of it, and continue adding documentation for the remainder of the week. I've found that this quick, and relatively discreet documentation works best in my own classroom because it doesn't take a lot of time to do, and you aren't drawing a bunch of attention to any individual students. Plus, my students know what "the notebook" is for, and will often fall quiet by just seeing me write something in it.
Make your documentation clear and transparent
Any documentation I have for an individual student gets transferred into my grade book. Each assignment in our district grade book system has room for comments, so I enter any information about students in this area for their weekly grades. Like the image above, I start off the comment with a date, followed by the documentation. Sometimes, I'll add in documentation just so it's there, but it often has an effect on student grades. Generally, my rule is that every time I have to stop my lesson to document what you're doing, I take 5 points off of your grade (unless I say otherwise). For this to work, I make sure that all of my students understand my expectations for them as far as participation, effort, and performance in class. All of my students start off every week with a 100. It is their job to maintain that grade. I know they aren't perfect, so I'm ok with reminding them once or twice about expectations, but after that I consider it an interruption. To learn a little more about my grading policies, check out my chorus handbook. Transferring documentation into our grade book does several things:
Gives clear explanations about grades/expectations
Drastically cuts down on the parent phone calls and e-mails wondering why a student has a particular grade (especially with those parents who are under the impression that Chorus is an "easy A")
Provides extensive records of in-class behavior in the event that a student needs to be referred to an administrator
Gives students immediate feedback to students about their in-class performance.
This method has really made a difference in my room over the years, so let me know if you try adapting it in your own classes!