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Have a Fair & Organized Classroom

By Patricia Gable

Organize your classroom procedures to promote fairness and save yourself some time!

Here are some handy teacher organization techniques that may help you have a better school year. Included are teacher organization tips, time savers and hints to promote fairness access and equity in the classroom.

Start at the Beginning

Grades 3-12: On the first day of school, ask the students to put themselves in alphabetical order according to last names. Starting with the first person in line, assign each student a number from #1 through the end of the line. Tell the students that the number should appear in the upper right hand corner of all papers, projects, folders, etc. If the students change classes throughout the day, you may choose to add a prefix to the student number. This might be the first initial of their homeroom teacher or the period in which they are in your class. (i.e. Aaron Adams in your third period class may have the number 3-1.)

Grades 1,2:

You may assist the students with putting themselves in alphabetical order. First do the girls, then the boys and then the whole class.

Uses of the number system:


a. Students can place finished work in the designated place. Inexpensive plastic trays work well and come in different colors. At the end of class-time, you can quickly put the papers in number order to see who has not turned in work. Papers will be in order so that you can easily mark the grades in the grade book or computer grade program. A student can also easily put papers in order, also.

b. Need two teams? Divide by odd/even numbers or 1 through 12 and 13 through 24

c. If you need to keep samples of student work or if you only send papers home weekly, use numbered folders in a hanging file container. This can be used year after year since you are not putting names on the files. Quickly file the papers, which are in order, into the folders, which are in order. You can have a student file them, too. ***If it is a test paper that is for a particular student’s eyes only, give it to that student to put in his own file folder. If a parent walks in to have a quick conference, you can reach into the numbered file and have a quick sample of work.

d. For lower grades that have “classroom” helpers, go down the list in order. For each day the chosen students (one boy, one girl) does everything. That might include: line leader, paper passer, take out playground equipment, etc. They are called “Teacher Helper” The next day, those jobs go to the next boy and girl on the list. It’s easy to keep track and you don’t have students saying, “I never get to be line leader, etc.”

Multi-Function File cards

Write each student’s name on a file card. If you have several different sets of students, you can use different colors. Keep the cards handy and shuffled. Secure with paper clip, rubber band or zip-locked baggie.


1. Having a discussion or question/answer lesson? Pull out a random card and call on that student. This prevents a situation where only a few students volunteer to answer and keeps everyone paying attention.

2. Need small groups to work on a project? Pull out cards to form groups.

3. Need to review spelling words with pairs of students? Pull out sets of two cards each.

4. Do you have a list of choices on the board for an assignment, project or report? (vocabulary words, biography subjects, book lists, countries, etc.) Pull out a card and have that student choose what they want. Continue until everyone has a choice. The students can’t say, “That’s not fair!”

5. Have an errand for someone to do? Pick out a card.

Set up your classroom with teacher organization techniques and you will have a smoother year. Your tracking and grading of papers will be smoother. As you promote fairness access and equity in your classroom, you will notice a better classroom atmosphere.