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40 Hour Workweek

Classroom Management, Productivity Strategies   |   May 28, 2019

22 classroom systems that make my teaching easier

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

22 classroom systems that make my teaching easier

By Angela Watson


My name is Deanna Roberts and I’m a third grade ELA/SS teacher in Ohio. As a lifelong perfectionist and overachiever, the club has helped me achieve a healthier work-life balance and has changed my life for the better. I am much more intentional and productive during work hours thanks to the strategies I’ve learned in the club.


As I’ve been in Angela’s 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club for a full year now, (and then one year in the graduate program), I would like to post a short reflection of a few things I’ve gained from the club these past two years.

The strategies I’ve gained through the club have allowed me to leave work at work with few exceptions. My firm cut off time is 5:30 pm, which is 2 hours extra beyond contracted hours. (And remember, nothing comes home!)

There are several days each week that I leave work on time. I don’t go in early. I work an average of 50 hours a week.

Here’s how I do it.


Each Chromebook is numbered and has a corresponding cord in the Chromebook cart. It is their responsibility to plug their Chromebook in the correct slot. We have a Chromebook checker class job. This student makes sure each Chromebook is plugged in at the end of the day.

I won’t have to change Chromebook labels every year! I have extra labels if I need to replace any throughout the year. It is a paper sticker label with Scotch tape on top. We use class numbers (alphabetical order) for all kinds of things!

Pencil pouches get turned in every Friday. I give everyone five pencils at the beginning of the year along with a notecard with their number on it. If they have five pencils in the pouch on Friday, they get a sticker or small treat. I switch out pencils that need to be sharpened for new pencils.

We have a pencil sharpener job that a student completes during bus dismissal time each day. No one sharpens pencils during the school day at all. The pencil sharpener person uses the pencils they sharpened during the week to fill up the pencil pouches on Friday afternoons.

If a student turns in their pouch with less than five pencils, I give them new pencils and they don’t get the sticker. They try again the next week!

The morning class has blue pouches and the afternoon class has black pouches. I bought them 2/$1.00 at Walmart over the summer. I did have a few students who lost their pencil pouches. I gave them a gallon ziplock bag to use as a replacement or allowed them to bring in one from home. This works very well for me and by January it is self-sufficient.

This is one of my favorite things about my classroom! The procedure is that you can use the hall pass if the teacher isn’t talking, and during work time, as long as we are not taking a test. One at a time, place it on your desk until you get back. If you ask the teacher if you can go to the bathroom, the answer is no! Always follow the procedure! Huge timesaver!

Indoor recess toys are stored under the counter (there is also a cabinet with board games etc.) There are two students whose job is to get the toys out and make sure they are properly put back. The big gray tub is filled with recyclables and building tools with which students are free to create with at one specific table in the room- we have a procedure. The two black trays have well-wisher forms and kindness recorder forms; these are class jobs.

When students are absent the Well-Wisher writes them a letter and puts it in their mailbox. The Kindness Recorder notices kind things and fills out a form to give them or put in their mailbox.

All extra copies go in the extra papers bin and students are free to use them as needed. This is especially helpful for field trip permission slips. The turn in trays are where everything gets turned in. The book bin contains our class set of trade books for the current module.

My classroom library books are organized by genre and author. Classroom Librarians (student jobs) keep it in order. Students are free to borrow one book at a time on the honor system. I do NOT even attempt to keep track. Pillows are for bottoms only. They are not allowed to put their heads on them.

These drawers contain extra resources for each reading unit (extra copies, extensions, etc.) and there is a drawer for each social studies strand. The messy drawer on the bottom has center work that needs to be put back in the correct place. The bins on top are for daily materials. The black organizer currently stores my teacher Chromebook and makeup work that needs to be completed.

I keep blank papers in the trays: copy, handwriting, and notebook paper. The top tray is papers to be graded. The blue binder on the bottom shelf lying sideways is my “Why” binder- I keep the mementos the kids give me in binder sleeves after I take them off the wall.

All language and speaking and listening standards have a bin on the bookshelf behind my desk. I put all of my spelling resources in a file drawer in my desk, labeled with the week.

On the right are my drawers labeled with each reading standard. On the left are drawers with supplies and other needed materials. The not-yet labeled drawers contain the current vocabulary unit work, cursive handwriting, my sub folders and emergency medicals, Book-it and PBIS materials, and test prep materials. The blue bin on top is for copies that I haven’t put away yet and things that people bring me that need to be sorted.

I have a drawer for every reading standard. I put example projects, graphic organizers, and anything else that goes along with a specific standard in the corresponding drawer. This is right beside my desk.

Under the “In Progress” bin are some resources I use weekly and my meeting notes binder that I take with me to all meetings. I used to keep my sub folder and emergency medicals there, but I keep them in a drawer organizer beside my desk now.

The “In Progress” bin is where I put whatever project I am currently working on. I also put homework in here that just needs to be checked off. It is handy for when I have just a few minutes- I can choose from the more involved tasks that need to be finished or the homework that just needs to be checked off.

This hangs right behind my desk. This is one of my favorite outtakes from the club! It keeps the clutter off my desk and it is easy to go back to what I need!

My inbox, extra headphones, book return, and book hospital. The book return is managed by my classroom librarians (student job). The inbox is for tardy slips, notes from home, field trip money, and any other things students might need to turn in besides homework or classwork.

These are student maintained portfolios with monthly writing samples- other assessments go in a filing cabinet in a big pile, to be filed, eventually…

Next year, I might put the portfolios on the bulletin board in the back of my room instead. This is a high traffic area and I had a problem with papers getting torn off accidentally.

You might notice the small soccer ball on my whiteboard tray: it is an ice pack from Dollar Tree. I put it in a small ziplock bag when I hand it out and sanitize after each use. I keep several in my classroom freezer. It is essential! I also stay in supply of mints and bandaids. This saves many nurse trips!

This is how I display my goals each week. We are required to show our learning targets and for our students to be able to repeat them when asked.

This is right inside my doorway. The most frequently referenced items are the two that are currently missing; which are taken down on Fridays. These are the spelling list and vocabulary words and definitions. The rest of it is more for me than them, but I think they occasionally reference it.

The Pencil Sharpeners (class job) place all sharpened pencils here. There is another place for pencils that need sharpened. I use these pencils to refill pencil pouches and students are allowed to take them freely throughout the week. They will usually trade out a pencil that needs to be sharpened pencil for a sharp one if they need it. Our pencil problem is non-existent. Beside the pencils is the place where I put things that need to go to other places- the office, the speech teacher, library, etc. On the other side of the pencils is the pencil sharpener. Only the pencil sharpener person is allowed to use the sharpener.

I keep these handy right beside my desk. The cards are numbered so it is easy to find each student’s information. I also print out the class lists of passwords and keep them in my “To Keep on Hand” folder.

Clean desk club! Also, underneath my desk, you can see class lists hanging by a magnet clip. I use the lists for everything! Field trip money, assignments turned in, reading goals met, etc. It is very easy to get a new list when I need one.

The small numbered bins on the top contain crayons, scissors, and glue sticks. The bottom bins contain our basal readers. The books are marked with duct tape (over contact paper) to correspond with the colored bins.

Glue sticks and scissors are also color coordinated. We have a table supply manager who distributes these supplies when we need them and puts them back when we are finished. (One day I will get around to labeling the book bins–maybe!)

Cubbies are numbered, with paper name tags (not laminated!) placed inside that students can choose to keep or not. The top cubby is for my afternoon class and the bottom is for my homeroom. Students keep their Fruit Binder (binder with all of their folders and their Plickers card; it is called this because I put a smelly fruit sticker on their Plickers card), their writing notebook, pencil pouch and vocabulary journal in their cubby.

It is a classroom job to check cubbies before anyone leaves the classroom. They may look a little messy, but we literally never have loose papers on the floor. Everything has a place! Desks are turned around backwards, they do not use their desks for storage. All loose/returned work goes directly in their take-home folder.

I store classroom sets of trade books for our reading program on top of the cubbies. These are dishwashing bins from Walmart. Each bin is labeled with the unit and module. This is the only thing that I keep above the cubbies. I take each bin down as I need it and place it on the back counter. We keep the bin on the counter for as long as we need the books for the module.

I have storage shelves behind the fabric where I keep extra paper towels, tissues, etc., seasonal decorations and supplies, games, and other materials.

Papers to be distributed are in the last file folder in the back. This is a classroom job. Students pass out papers every week. If someone is absent, their work goes in their mailbox.

Beside the mailboxes is the “I Need” box our art teacher made for me! This has saved me many headaches as students write me notes letting me know people are bothering them, they need supplies, etc. and I can be proactive. It is also a classroom job to check the “I Need” box every day and bring me the notes.

A place for everything and everything in its place!

Some of my favorite takeaways from the club that are not pictured are batching, stamps and grading stations. These are all huge timesavers and totally worth it!

I would also like to mention that a huge contribution to my success is that 90% of my assessments, including spelling tests and bi-weekly vocabulary tests are on Google forms, Edulastic, Readworks, or on our ReadyGen interface. They are all graded automatically except for extended responses. I love, love, love the 40 Hour Workweek Club!

Deanna implemented these systems after joining

the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club.

This can be the year YOU get your systems in place, too.

The next cohort begins January 4th, 2020!

Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela is a National Board Certified educator with 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach. She started this website in 2003, and now serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Truth for Teachers...
Browse Articles by Angela


    1. Deanna wrote about it in the caption underneath the photo. Did you have a specific question about it?

      1. Later, she mentions the students help themselves to pencils from a giant bin anytime they need to replace a pencil during the week. Isn’t this why they start the week with 5? And how does it cut down on lost pencils if they have free access to replace them all week? And my burning question: what about erasers. My pencil erasers barely survive the day. I buy literally thousands of pencil cap erasers and they end up destroyed or stashed almost nothing immediately.

        1. I don’t use pencil tops anymore. I buy the big pink erasers and cut them in half. Each student has their own.

        2. I do this, but the five pencils need to last them all week. If they break one, they take one of the five they have left. I collect pencil pouches and sharpen what is needed on Friday’s. As far as erasers, I go through a ton, but I will try putting cap erasers on the five they always have this year with a big eraser in the pouch. A treat to those who have all five on Friday, a note that says “try again next week” if they have less (then I replace so they have five again). I give a gumball as a treat. Inexpensive and they LOVE it

        3. Hi Renee,
          My goal with the pencil pouches is primarily to cut down on wasted instructional time previously spent finding/sharpening pencils. I started the year out with this in mind more so than teaching responsibility and cutting down on lost supplies. I started the year out with the rule that students could get replacement pencils any time up until Friday. So as long as they had five pencils by Friday they would get the prize. This worked very well for me up until around March. The pencil bin was always full and I only had a few students who took advantage of the bin at all. Most students did fine with managing their five pencils. I didn’t mind at all that students took pencils from the bin because it didn’t disrupt our learning at all. However, around March something changed and this didn’t work anymore. We ran out of pencils! I had to ask parents to send in pencils because we didn’t even have enough to refill pencil pouches. Once we ran out of pencils, I did not fill the pencil bin back up. The only pencils in it were pencils that students found and placed there (probably 5-10 pencils at a time). They were still able to get a pencil if there was one available, but if not then they had to borrow one from a neighbor. The borrowing and looking for a pencil was disruptive, which is why I think I will continue to have pencils available for my students who just cannot manage to keep track of their supplies. I haven’t found quite the perfect system yet; but for the most part, the pencil pouches combined with pencils freely available ensures that 99% of the time no one has to worry about pencils in my room.
          As for erasers; I gave each student a block eraser at the beginning of the year to keep in their pencil pouches. I also handed out pencil cap erasers as they asked for them, and the pencil sharpener person would put pencil cap erasers on any pencils that needed them while they were filling pencil pouches. Students would also trade in a pencil without an eraser for a pencil with an eraser (in the pencil bin). I started the year with a Sterilite drawer full of erasers and I had almost half of a drawer full left at the end of the year.
          I hope this answered your questions!

    2. Check out pencil wars on tot. It is free and a life saver. I give 8 on first day- they then have to replace them themselves or earn them as a prize. This year require them to also have highlighter and dry erase marker I gave them ( numbers in the with a sticker) to get the prize. I have saved a LOT of money and they are more responsible!

    1. As the words are read aloud, students enter them into the form instead of writing them on paper. At least that’s my assumption–I’ll see if Deanna can chime in here.

  1. This is amazing—and generous! Thanks so much for the pics and explanations. I love the procedures.

    1. Hi Angela,
      I posted a response above. Please let me know if you have any more questions.

      1. I read about someone using toothbrush holders and 3 pencils A couple months ago. I’m planning on Trying that this year.

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