As teachers, we always end up implementing a dozen different ways of doing things until we figure out what works. In this case, these are three tried and true procedures that have save me countless time over my career and I continue to implement year after year! These are 3 separate procedures that, when used together, will allow you to maximize your time and save your sanity along the way!
Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links and referral codes. This allows me to earn a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for helping me provide my classroom with more great materials!
STEP ONE: SEPARATE TURN IN BINS FOR EACH SUBJECT
Hear me out: it's magical! I know, I know, it takes up a lot of valuable counter space. I used to think having separate bins for each subject was a huge space waster, until I had to deal with 4 different daily assignments in the same bin (spoiler alert, sorting it all is a NIGHTMARE!) I bought these turn in bins from the Target Dollar Spot, slapped a neon label on them, and they are good to go for years to come! These bins would also be a great alternative if your Target store is out of stock or you don't have a Target near you.
STEP TWO: HAVE STUDENTS CHECK THEIR OWN WORK IN!
Even with separate turn in bins, I used to spend 15+ precious minutes a day checking to see which students had turned in work and which hadn't. I had a post it note for each stack that inevitably got lost in my sea of papers. I finally had an epiphany that I could put the responsibility on my fourth graders to ensure their work was turned in on time to the correct turn-in basket.
I simply printed these checklists and copied them on different colored paper for each subject. Then, I sliced them in half and each time I handed out an assignment, I wrote the name of the assignment along the side and the date (to help when I enter into the computer later). Then, I stuck it in the empty bin for whatever subject we were in the middle of. If a student is absent, this is where I wrote an AB in the checkmark column to remind myself when I started entering grades. The students were in charge of the rest!
I trained the kids to put a checkmark (and a checkmark only) in the middle column. They are not allowed to check off anyone else's name or make anything other than a simple checkmark. I know some teachers have checking in assignments as a class job, but for me, I prefer each student does it themselves. I think the time it takes for one student to check them all in would be better spent reading or working on other content material. Plus, our end of the day job time (when most of our jobs are completed) is only 5 minutes and would not be enough time to get them all done! I do have a student each day who paperclips the checklist to each stack of assignments and places the stacks on my desk (so I remember to take them home to grade!)
What if a student forgets to check their assignment off, but insists they turned it in?
This can be a common occurrence early on in the year, but can be extinguished quickly if you do it correctly! Any time I notice a student didn't check their name off, I tell them I am missing their paper. If they insist they turned it in, I hand them the stack and say, " Can you find it for me, please?" If they find it, I have them hand it to me AND check their name off. This gets them to realize it will be their responsibility to track down their assignment if it was not checked off. I usually do this as the class lines up for recess, and 30 seconds of missed recess time while they sort through the stack is usually enough to get them to remember it next time! Another thing that worked well for me was for the student who paperclips the stacks and checklists at the end of the day to touch base with any students whose name wasn't checked off. They will ask, "Turned in or homework?" and students know to either look through and check their name off or reminds them to take the sheet home to finish.
What if an assignment is missing, but the student checked their name off?
I've had VERY few kids who have tried to check their name off without turning it in. I give them the benefit of the doubt and say, "Hey, I see your name is checked off but I don't have your work. Can you please check your binder/desk/backpack?" That usually does the trick. If they confess they didn't do it, we have a short conversation and move on. It's only ever happened to me once! The sole fact that they have to highlight their name AND check their name off usually deters any students from trying to be sneaky. If a student needs to take an assignment home to finish, they turn it in to my finished work bin on my desk the next morning and I can add it to my stacks that have already been collected.
STEP 3: REFLECT AND HIGHLIGHT
This part is my FAVORITE! We all know how important it is for students to self-reflect on their own understanding. We do it for big projects and papers... why not for every assignment? This procedure combines the highlight-your-name procedure that ensures a reduction in no-name papers with a simple color-coded "Level of Understanding" key. Students simply highlight their name with the level of understanding that they feel for each assignment they turn in. So simple!
I put up posters near my turn in bin that remind them of the different levels and have multi-colored highlighters that have the levels in vinyl for each color (you could totally use Sharpie for this, too!) One swipe of the highlighter and you know how a student feels about their understanding of a topic and know at a glance who might need some extra help. Again, this requires a lot of modeling and practice in the beginning, but by second quarter, it's second nature!
I hope these assignment turn-in procedures will help you save time and sanity in your classroom. Please save this post to Pinterest to keep it for later or share these helpful tips with others! Comment below any questions and I will be sure to answer. Thanks for reading!