Sunday, August 9, 2015

6 Must-Have Organizational Systems for Instructional Coaching

I'm not embarrassed to say that one of the main reasons teaching first perked my interest was the office supplies. 
I remember sitting in Ms. Tricoli's fourth grade classroom, reading the little note she wrote to me on a post-it: "Cute story! Keep writing!" The post-it was shaped like a smiley face. A smiley face, people! At that moment, I thought, "If teaching means I can have smiley-face post-its, then a teacher I shall be." 
 I know, I was so cool.
 Want to be as cool as me? Get organized!
In the last three years, I have really cultivated my must-have supplies for literacy coaching. I will start with the two most important pieces. If I were to lose either of these tools, I would basically have to quit.
#1 Must-Have: A Week-at-a-Glance Calendar
You MUST be able to see a week-at-a-glance. I don't know how people look at their little phone screens to see what they have to do that day. That doesn't work for me. A dot on a calendar day doesn't mean anything to me. I need to see, written out in my messy handwriting, exactly what it is that I need to do that day, and the days before and after. 
In my calendar, I schedule everything. Meetings, trainings, observations, visits, time to work on resources and assessments, time to create bulletin boards and discuss ideas with collaborators. 

Taped into the back of the calendar, so it opens outward, is my school's schedule. Our teachers in each grade align their schedules, so I make this handy schedule that shows what each grade is doing at each time. 
It's not a big deal if I walk in to a room, thinking it's time for writing and see that they're still finishing up math. I do not worry about that because I was in the classroom. I know how the world works! But if I really want to see how a certain reading lesson is going, I should at least have an idea of when to visit the classroom. That's where I use my schedule. I've highlighted all the parts that relate to literacy, and I reference my schedule when planning classroom visits. 

Must-Have #2: All-in-one Notebook

Only have one notebook. Seriously, if you have a million little post-it notes stuck on your computer and your bag and your binder, and then you sit down to figure out what you have to accomplish that day, you will not be able to do it. If you stuff your meeting notes in one folder and your grade level meetings in another, and your training notes in another notebook, you're going to drive yourself batty. 

I invest in one notebook per year, and everything goes in there. Lists of things to do, notes from trainings and meetings, the planning I do for workshops on my campus, titles of books I need to read, and just thoughts about how things are going. I date everything. Every so often, I scan through the last chunk of notes to make sure I haven't forgotten anything. 
If you write something on a post-it, stick it in there! It's all-inclusive. 
I choose my notebook carefully. It must be bendable (don't like hard covers), have lines, and the pages must be thick enough so that I can write on both sides. It also needs to be hand- and purse-sized, because I carry it everywhere. In the hall, you will find me with my notebook, calendar, and a pen, at all times. The few times I've left it in my room, I've regretted it! Here are my new notebook and calendar for next year. Can you tell I'm excited?

Must-Have #3 Grade Level Binder System

I work with all grade levels, and each grade level has their own special stuff. I have a series of binders, one for each level, and in them I include the following documents:
  • State standards for that grade level
  • District planning documents, including our instructional calendar, etc.
  • The released state tests for that grade level, with answer keys
  • Questioning that is appropriate to that grade, based on the standards
  • Last year's lesson plans (a nice reference when we're trying to remember what we've done in the past)
  • This year's lesson plans, in order from most recent to the beginning of the year

I keep all of these binders together, on one shelf, along with curriculum and resources we use most frequently for planning and training. The resources we plan with most frequently go into a basket with the grade level labeled.

Must-Have #4 Teacher Data Binder
At any point in the year, any teacher can ask me for a copy of something they gave me six months ago. Or my principal might ask for meeting notes from a meeting that happened a while back. I might get a district request for some information on trainings I've provided. 
In order to stay on top of my documentation and lists, I have one binder where most of my teacher documentation goes. I organize the binder with large plastic grade level pockets, and behind each grade level pocket are dividers from each teacher in that grade level. I also have a special divider for Special Education teachers. In this binder, I keep copies of...
  • Notes from guided reading conferences and binder reviews (beginning, middle, and end of year)
  • Data from our district reading assessments, beginning, middle and end of year
  • Guided reading levels by month - as teachers turn in the new month (it's a cumulative table with all months on there), I throw away the old one.
  • Anything else my principal gives me and asks me to hold on to for any reason!I have a roster of teacher names (just like I did in the classroom) and I mark off who's handed me what. 
I have a roster of teacher names (just like I did in the classroom) and I mark off who's turned in what, so I know who to email and request from. When I'm being really organized, I write the date that the document was handed in rather than just a check mark...but I'm still working on that. 

Must-Have #5 Hanging File Folder Crate

I visit classrooms a lot. Of course, I wish I visited them more often (the day is too short) because I love to see what's going on there! But I try to visit them as often as possible, and when I go, I write teachers a little note. I have a pad that our print shop made with a carbon copy of each page. I write the notes on the top copy and tear it off to give to the teacher. The carbon copy I put into my hanging file folder crate. The hanging file folders are organized by grade level, and inside each grade level, I have plain file folders with the teachers' names on them. As I go visit the classrooms, I write up my notes, give the teachers a copy and then save a copy in the folder. 

This is important, because my district requires that my productivity be audited. They could, at any time, as to see evidence of how I support teachers in the classroom, and I like to have as many different types of evidence as possible!

Must-Have #6 Teacher Documentation Turn-In Basket

This one is a no-brainer. You know how you wanted your students to have a consistent turn-in process? Well, I need the same thing from my teachers. I have a basket labeled, "Teacher Documentation." Obviously, whenever teachers turn anything in to me (this includes DRA, WRAP, guided reading levels, end of year data, etc.), they put it in this basket. Then I go through it, maybe once a week, and file everything and mark it off on my roster.

These are six systems that have really helped me maintain organization while being inundated with tons of documents, all the time. I know where things are and I can find them easily. 

Do you use any systems like these?
Then this freebie will be right up your alley. I've put together a nice bundle of instructional coaching freebie pages from my Instructional Coaching Binder MegaPack.  
Read more about staying on top of things as an instructional coach in my ebook, The Start-Up Guide to Instructional Coaching! It's over 80 pages of information to help you start making a real difference on your campus.

In case you're getting yourself organized as an Instructional Coach, or looking for some forms to help you keep documentation, you should check out my Instructional Coaching MegaPack on TpT! It's full of 140 pages of fillable forms, printable documents, planning and organizational tools, and more!

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  1. I also just setup my grade level binders! My plan is to include the standards, planning guides, meeting notes, and teacher folders with any lesson plans/coaching notes in them. I bought the folders with the divider tabs so that I can quickly see which folder belongs to which teacher!

    I love your point about the planner. I broke down and ordered one the other day after visiting my school site. I realized that my plan to use Google calendar was most likely not going to be the best system for me, at least not this year! :)

    Love all of your other tips also!

    1. Planners are the only way to survive! Ha! Where did you order the planner from?

      I love the divider tab folders!

  2. This is such a fab post, thank you for sharing! I loved your carbon copy notes, I need to find a place to order some...I would always just make copies and that is such a time waster!

    Our district is 1:1 so I do a lot of stuff on the computer and it seems to work for me. I could do a better job of documenting all the things I do every day, so I'm going to think more about that.

    Thank you for this fab post! I really want to write more about Literacy Coaching on my blog, you're inspiring my thinking! :-)

    1. The carbon copy notes have saved me so much time!

    2. I used Google Docs as an interventionist - was able to share with parents and reading teacher (with permission of course). This way I could type up my notes in ONE place- and everyone had instant access. Helped me to stay accountable.

  3. Your blog information is really too helpful for me and other users of this blog post.
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    1. Thank you! I'm glad you found something helpful!

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Very blessed to have come across your blog. It is now saved into my favorites for quick reference. I will be a entering 2016 as a new Instructional Specialist and your blog has helped me with organizational tools and ideas to help get me started. Many blessings to you and yours.

    E Espree

    1. I'm so glad you found my blog! Congratulations on your new position. I hope you love it!

  5. I purchased your Instructional Coaching binder set and absolutely love it! I'm trying to move to all digital next year and I love how you had papers that we can type in. How can I save each one individually?

  6. Organization is my #1 goal for this school year!!! I appreciate all of your ideas about setting up binders for each grade level! I also just bought an awesome HAPPY teacher planner from Michael's! IT is AMAZING!! I am also taking your advice to get only 1 notebook to carry along with me (in addition to my planner) at all times! I have experienced teachers coming into the restroom with me to ask for something and forget what they wanted before I made it back to my room to write it down.

  7. Just started my new job as an early literacy coach after 25 years as a classroom teacher!! I'm very excited but ovewhelmed as to where to begin. I am so very grateful for this timely post I came across on the TPT blog! I can see that you will be my "go to" this year. I love this organizational seems a no-nonsense approach that will work well! I was actually thinking of trying to do everything electronically, using Google Drive, rather than having hard copies of everything in binders. Is this a mistake? What are the cons? Thank you for your wonderful blog!


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