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Must-Have Routines for Managing Student Papers

Now that you've planned out your instructional routines, you'll want to spend some time setting up systems for managing student papers even if you’ve already started back to school. If you're not able to go 100% digital, these are the procedures your students will follow for assignments that will help keep your classroom organized and running smoothly.

The Paper Trail

One system that is essential to a well-run classroom involves the paper trail. This includes returning and passing out student papers, managing absent and late work as well as missing assignments. Without a solid plan in place, you’ll waste valuable instructional time and spend hours trying to manage the overwhelm.

I always asked myself a few questions when planning out assignments:

  • Does the assignment align with my lesson plans and district curriculum?

  • Is it necessary in assessing student mastery?

  • Can I take more than one type of grade from the assignment?

  • What kind of scoring is needed? Self-assessment, teacher evaluation?


The turn-in routine you set up will help tame the assignment overload, so choose a procedure that works best for you. And if you find your routine isn't working as well as you thought, it's perfectly okay to start over with a new system. Some I have used successfully are baskets and trays and hanging pocket folders. Other ideas are stacked filing drawers, and milk crates with class or individual folders. Be sure to post a sign at your turn-in station with directions students should follow.

There are a couple of ideas you can incorporate to make the turn-in process more efficient and easy. I used color coding and a date stamp in my classroom.

Color coding is one strategy that will help ensure each paper is turned in with a name.

Choose a different color for each class you teach. Think highlighter colors. At your turn-in station or before students submit paperwork, have them highlight their name in the class color. This will help you keep papers easily organized and ensure every paper has a name.

Use a date stamp for all turned-in work as a way to accurately record that an assignment meets your deadline. No more sneaky papers showing up after the due date! Check Amazon for an inexpensive self-inking date stamp. I offered a weekly incentive called “Friday Club” for students who turned in on time and had no missing work, and it was a big hit! Click HERE to get a free copy of the grammar scavenger hunt shown.

Absent Work

It’s equally important to set up a system for managing absent work. Students should know exactly where they can find assignments they've missed. For this, I set up a milk crate with folders for the days of the month. As I passed out assignments, I knew which students were absent, so I wrote each name on the paper and had a student helper file it in the appropriate day’s folder. When the absent student returned, they knew to check the day/days of the week for any assignments missed. I’ve also used hanging pocket folders for absent work, too.

Classroom Jobs

Students love classroom jobs! I assigned different tasks that helped me keep our classroom organized and tidy. Begin by making a list of daily chores. Elementary teachers might have more jobs to assign than middle and high school teachers, but it is really a matter of personal preference and knowing your students. In middle school, many of the jobs I assign centered around organization and cleaning up. Read more about classroom jobs here and grab a free editable classroom jobs poster.

Get Help: Classroom Systems Self-Paced Video Course

Want to learn more about setting up classroom systems? Sign up now for a self-paced video course to help you successfully set up your routines and procedures. You’ll get a FREE student information page, parent contact log, and back-to-school checklist, too!

If you’re a new or beginning teacher who is looking for more teaching tips and ideas like these, join me and thousands of other teachers at Prepping for Success for New Teachers.

⬇️ Click below to share this post with a teacher friend who needs to get systems and routines in place for the new school year.

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