Top Three Things to Make Teenagers Excited in English Class:
1. Donuts (or any kind of food)
2. Cuss Words (you know, in literature 😉 )
3. Colorful Pens and Post-Its
I’m not kidding guys, my students get SO excited when I pull out the Papermate Flair Pens for an assignment. Suddenly, an otherwise “boring” grammar/editing activity becomes fun. It works every.time. Seriously.
Anyway, I’ve written about my pull-out drawers for group work before, but I recently updated mine to include a few extra items that I realized I’d been passing out a lot lately, so I thought I’d review/share the contents with you in case you need to do a little “spring cleaning” (i.e. give your classroom an organizational update) this time of year…
So first, the set-up:
Years ago (really, this is a one-time investment folks), I bought two small plastic storage sets with three little pull-out drawers in each one. (Like this, though I think I got it for much cheaper at Walmart or Target.) On each drawer, I stuck a sticky number (with a piece of packing tape over it to keep it secure). That’s it.
Inside each drawer is where the fun really begins… 😉
I’ve updated/changed this over the years, but here’s what is currently included in each of my six removable plastic drawers — an 8-pack of markers, 2 or 3 pairs of scissors, a stack of post-it notes, a ruler, a glue stick, a roll of tape, 3 sharpies, 6 colorful pens, and 6 highlighters.
What you put inside your drawers should really depend on the materials/supplies you find your students using a lot when you assign projects and group work. We don’t do a ton of “coloring,” so the one pack of markers works for me, but some teachers may want to include crayons and/or colored pencils too. We DO do a lot of peer editing, annotating, and poster-making (on these giant post-its that I’m obsessed with) so the colored pens, highlighters, sharpies, and post-its make sense for my classroom. I recommend taking inventory of the materials you ask your students to use for a few weeks before you set up your drawers. And, of course, don’t be afraid to add and subtract items as you figure out your needs more.
And, the day-to-day usage & maintenance:
When it comes time to actually use these drawers, it’s very simple: Initially, I had a traditional classroom set-up with six rows of five desks. Each row was numbered, and when I assigned a group activity during class the first person in the row would just grab the drawer (it is so nice that they are removable) and take it back to their work space. Six rows = six drawers. Today, I only have five large tables (each with six students), so I made sure each drawer has enough materials for six students (instead of 5), and I simply keep “extras” in the 6th drawer in case we need it. Easy.
My students are mostly good about putting things back when they are finished; and, since I know in general what goes in each drawer, I can usually walk around the room pretty quickly and spot check during out clean up time. (I haven’t done it personally, but it would probably be a good idea to type up a little “inventory checklist” and tape it in the bottom of each drawer. That way, when students clean up, they know exactly what should be there). I’ve also labeled as many items as I can (basically anything that has space on it) with the number of the drawer so that I know where it goes on the off-chance something gets left out or put in the wrong box.
Every few weeks or months – depending on how much we’ve been using them – I check on my drawers and just make sure everything is straight/replenished. BUT, to be honest, this mostly happens naturally because students tell me when their markers are dying or they are one highlighter short. I replace *a few* things every year; but, truly, this system has cut down on lost materials SO much. I’ve had many of these materials for YEARS.
Well, there you go! Hopefully I answered all your questions, but feel free to leave them below if you think of something I left out. You really can implement this in your classroom with minimal effort that really will make a huge difference for you and your students. I hope you will try it out and let me know what you think! (Or share it with your colleagues etc. by Pinning the top image.)
Also, if you liked this post, you might enjoy these from the archives —