3 Ways to Simplify your Paper Flow in the Classroom

Hello friends, and happy snow day to my fellow Virginians! I really wanted to do this post recently. Many of my friends from Longwood, and people from many other colleges, start student teaching either this month or next. I felt pretty prepared for student teaching. I had pencils, a cute little bag, plenty of pencil skirts, and stickers. What else would a girl need?

What I didn’t know was that there is a crap ton of papers coming at you during student teaching.

You have YOUR materials, student work, and lesson plans. You also accumulate an ABUNDANCE of random worksheets. Your cooperating teacher/s give you some, you find some that you think you can use in the future, or there’s an awesome sale on Teachers Pay Teachers that you just can’t say no to. My cooperating teacher also wanted a copy of my lesson plans and the student’s tests, which was more paper.

At the end of student teaching, these were all of my papers. . .  notice the papers on top aren’t even in a binder. It was disgustingly organized. I couldn’t find anything, I always lost student papers. It wasn’t good.


I love the random two sticky notes. Like that’s going to help, Laura. I decided for my second student teaching placement this WASN’T going to happen. Towards the end of student teaching I perfected  this method of paper flow and HIGHLY recommend it to others!

1. Thirteen pocket file folder.


This thing is a blessing. I carry with me both to school and to home. I separate it into 6 sections: To Copy, To Grade, To Hand Out, To File, Makeup Work, and Materials.


I put a lot of thought into these sections and they’ve worked for me very well. I’m going to discuss each section and why I’ve included it in my file folder.

To Copy Slightly self-explanatory. Ain’t nobody got money to print out enough copies of something on your personal printer. I would print one of everything I needed, and placed a sticky note on each paper with how many copies I needed of it. I would stick it in this section and I could easily make all of my copies in the morning.

To Grade I struggled with grading things on time (whoops). I honestly believe I struggled with grading things on time because I would stick the stack of papers somewhere and then forget I even had them. Whenever students finished work it would immediately go in the To Grade section. No matter what. Then, when I got home that evening, I HAD to empty the To Grade section. I would write down the grades in my grade book, then they would either go to our next section, or back forward to To Copy (I needed copies of student work for both my University Supervisor and my Cooperating Teacher).

To Hand Out This was where work that was completed, graded, and had the grade written down lived. The next day, I just reach into this pocket and hand out to students at the end of the day. This is NOT where worksheets and whatnot for the day’s lesson lived. Stay tuned for that.

To File This section might not work for everyone, but I needed it desperately. I had many papers that I had to put into a separate binder that my University Supervisor would look at. Papers in this section were usually copies of student work.

Make Up Work –  When I was handing out papers and I had some students not present, I would write their name on the top and it would go in this section. A quick and easy way to check what makeup work needs to be done.

Materials – Any random materials lived here rather than floating in the bottom of my bag getting dirty and folded. Once we played Jeopardy (our smart board was broken so I had to make my own version by hand) so I put those materials here. I would put word identification cards here as well. Essentially anything you needed for your lesson that WASN’T a worksheet or lesson plan (confused? read on).

2. Daily lesson plan manila folders

 Shout out to my Cooperating Teachers for this idea. Cause it’s awesome. For every day of the week, make a manila folder for subjects and days. Example: Monday – English, Monday- Science, Monday- History, Monday- Math.  THEN make Tuesday – English, Tuesday- Science and so on and so on.

There’s going to be a manila folder for each subject, each day. If you teach 4 subjects and go to school Monday – Friday, you will have 20 Manila Folders.



THEN, you put in each folder the lesson plan for that day along with ALL worksheets and extra paper needed. EVERYTHING you need for your lesson, paper wise, should be in the folder. These work extremely well for a couple of reasons. Often, I would have a worksheet I KNEW I wanted to use on a certain day, but I hadn’t written the lesson plan yet, so I would just stick the worksheet somewhere and it would get lost.  Also, I often found myself scrounging around to find the worksheets needed for the lesson, wasting time. When I started to do this, transitions from one lesson to another were seamless. It also works EXTREMELY well because if you need to have a sub unexpectedly, everything is already laid out for them, lesson plan and all. I just kept them laid out on my desk so I could see them easily, but of course you could put them into a filing cabinet or bucket. I also color coded mine with colored washi tape just for ease of use.

If you’re not into the whole manila folder thing, you can also use these report covers, I just personally prefer the manila folders.


3. Four pocket folder


Like I said earlier, you accumulate masses of random worksheets throughout student teaching, trust me.  And honestly, it’s nice to have an archive of random worksheets. I use my archive very often. Before I search google or Teachers Pay Teachers for a worksheet, I look through this folder first. This folder has 4 plastic pockets (I personally removed the math section because I didn’t use it often). I label each pocket with a subject, and whenever I have a random worksheet that I for sure want to keep, but don’t have a need for at the moment, I put it in here.dsc_0045

And that’s it! When you have all three of these systems working, there no longer are random papers floating around. Every paper has a place it needs to be. It cuts down on confusion and stress and allows you to focus on your students, not where the heck you stuck that worksheet you needed to copy.  I hope this helps your paper flow in 2017!

ALSO: Good news! We now have a Facebook page! I’m super excited about it. It’s going to be one concise place to find links to all blog posts. ALSO I’m going to be posting some of my favorite articles and Ted Talks for you all. Be sure to give it a like and share for your friends! Click here to go to our Facebook!

Please share the blog if you liked it! It helps so much, and I appreciate it more than you know!

P.s. If you’re still reading, first of all you’re awesome. Second of all, peep my manatee socks in my photo. I freaking love manatees. Shout out to Haley for getting them for me!

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One thought on “3 Ways to Simplify your Paper Flow in the Classroom

  1. Pingback: First-Year Teaching 101: 10 Ways to Prepare for Your First Classroom | The Bruised Apple

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