Losing equipment was costing me money
How many times has the bell rang and you’ve just realized that you have lost yet another calculator? Or set of markers or colored pencils, etc, etc? This was happening to me at an alarming rate! I always forgot in the chaos of collecting assignments and cleaning up to count my calculators before the bell rang. And simply reminding students to “Please remember to return my classroom supplies” was simply not cutting it.
Not having enough calculators created problems
While I didn’t have a class set of scientific calculators, I found that about 15 was enough to supplement those students that didn’t have them. The rest of the students carried them for math or read my syllabus and knew they needed them for science too. However, when my supply dropped to about 7 calculators (I kid you not), things got ugly. It was always a hassle to figure out who needed a calculator and who didn’t and to decide how to distribute them so that everyone was able to complete their assignment. I had kids sharing calculators which made them talk more, I had kids refuse to work because they didn’t have their own calculator and then there is always the student that doesn’t have a calculator, refuses to ask for one and just sits there for 30 minutes before you realize that they are doing nothing! AAAhhh! I do not like it when my classroom does not run smoothly.
Why not just let them use their cell phones?
Kids always ask me to use their cells phones as calculators. My answer is always no. The reason is simple. A cell phone is a huge distraction. I have needed my calculator on occasion while grading papers and instead of getting up to grab one, it’s often easier to use my cell phone which is more often than not in my pocket. I unlock it with the intention of opening the calculator app and see that I have a new e-mail. So I check it in case its urgent, it’s usually not. But then there is a pop-up that someone has commented on a tweet, then I get a text message from my husband. 20 minutes later I have completely forgotten why I picked up the cell phone in the first place!! If this can happen to a 40 year old women, I KNOW that it can happen to a high school student!
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I purchased a 9 dollar shoe organizer (this one) and hung it up on the door leading to my prep room. I labeled all of the pockets with numbers. I printed the numbers on a pieces of scrapbook paper using an outline font. I explain how to do this HERE. However, you could also use stickers or permanent markers. The numbers are important because whatever you put into the pockets will need a corresponding number. For example, box #6 goes into pocket #6. I’ll explain why later.
Calculators, markers, etc.
I was not only losing calculators but also colored pencils and markers. So I also packaged up sets of markers and colored pencils in little pencil cases. Look for bargains on these in back-to-school sales. I paid only 50 cents a piece for those cute pink ones which hold up so much better than the slide-out thin plastic ones you can find at a dollar store. A friend of mine did this with boxes that held scissors and glue because her students did a lot of cutting and pasting for their science notebooks. Some teachers are lucky enough to have little “clicker” gadgets, or other small devices that would also benefit from this strategy. Another thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to keep the same things in your organizer all year long. I know that I have several “crafty” type activities at the beginning of the year and more math during the second half of the year, so my organizer held more markers at the beginning of the year and more calculators at the end of the year.
Now for the magic
About 2-3 days into the semester, after I’ve been reminding them to gather the supplies they need for class, I go over my procedure.
Awesome! Not only do I get my supplies back but I also cut down on the sneaky cell phone usage in the classroom. Its a win-win. I have even had students tell me as they are putting their cell phone in the pocket that they are actually kind of glad that they won’t have their cell phone to distract them!
Since you will now be in possession of their cell phones it’s important to put the organizer in a secure location. The door to my prep room opens into the classroom, which is perfect because when the door is open, the organizer faces the class but then I can shut and lock the door so that no one has access to it until we are ready. You can always hang it inside a cupboard or on the wall behind your desk to keep it secure. The organizer comes with over-the-door hangers but it would be simple to use little command hooks to hang it on a flat wall.
I am usually the one that hands out equipment and returns cell phones but you can assign this task to a trustworthy student if you wish. The return process is where the numbers come into play. When returning cell phones, if a student hands you calculator #6, you know that the cell phone in pocket #6 is theirs.
I love this idea because it’s simple, takes minutes, and saves you money in the long run because you do not have to keep replacing supplies! Let me know in the comments how you set up your organizer and how it’s working out for you.