On an *almost* weekly basis, a teacher reaches out to tell me that they are struggling with papers. They want to know what to do with all of the papers or how to organize them. But what if we looked at it differently? What if, instead of figuring out how to organize papers, we figured out a way to reduce classroom papers so there was less clutter to deal with?
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Have you ever thought about how much paper you are using in your classroom? It’s kind of scary and sad when you actually sit down and think about it. When prepping for the Classroom Paper Organization course, I wanted to get some concrete stats on what paper usage and just general waste is like in the typical American classroom.
- Over seventy-eight percent (78%) of school waste materials could be diverted from the trash to organics composting and container and paper recycling collection programs. (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency)
- At least 40 percent of the typical school waste stream is paper (the largest single component of all school waste). (A Study by AFT)
- Every year, nearly 900 million trees are cut down to provide raw materials for U.S. paper and pulp mills. (A Study by AFT)
I also found these two articles that presented interesting (read: depressing) information. I’m just not sure how legit they are so…keep that in mind when you read them ;).
- Changing Paper Consumption: The Green Schools Initiative
- Paper Use in Schools: The Reflective Educator
How to Reduce Classroom Papers
On the podcast I share four ways you can reduce classroom papers in your classroom. Despite all our efforts to reduce paper consumption, papers are still needed in the classroom.
If you need help getting your classroom papers organized then be sure to download the free Student Paper Workflow Guide. This free guide walks you through the steps of creating a workflow that keeps your students’ papers organized.
Utilize Kagan Structures
Kagan Cooperative Learning structures are a great way to get your students working with each other and, in turn, using less paper. My favorite structures are Rally Coach, Sage and Scribe, and Numbered Heads Together.
The first two structures involve two students working together with only one paper. This automatically cuts your paper usage in half! It also holds kids accountable to supporting each other through the learning process.
When I did Numbered Heads Together in my classroom, we used white boards. Again, a great way to reduce classroom papers.
Learn more about Kagan Cooperative Learning in my interview with Dr. Kagan himself. You can also listen to my interview with Sarah, a Kagan Trainer. In both of those episodes you can learn how to use the structures in your daily lessons.
Plastic Dry Erase Pouches
When I first started teaching I was doing stations each and every day. Some of the activities required students filling out a worksheet. I was printing off 20 or 30 copies of that station worksheet for students to use. And a few extra in case they ended up doing the station a second time.
With all these papers I felt an immense pressure to grade all those papers (that I did not have time for!) and it was a waste of so much paper. When my friend Holly showed me these dry erase pouches, I knew the switch would save me so much time at the copier and guilt of not grading station papers.
Designate a Free Draw Drawer
This strategy doesn’t really reduce classroom papers but it does provide you a way to reuse papers that would normally get tossed.
You know those days when things pop up that prevent you from getting to all of your lessons you worked so hard to plan? What do you do with those papers?
You probably save them for next week. Except, they don’t usually get used next week. So they just pile up on your desk or in a drawer. Instead, have a spot to put papers that you are not going to use but are blank on one side. These papers are great for free draw paper or for making paper airplanes during indoor recess.
Of course, what kind of list for reducing classroom papers would this be if we didn’t talk technology. Technology is most definitely not my strong suit. That’s why I have great people to point you in the direction of!
- Courtney Talley is a friend of mine and a former coworker. Listen to our interview on how to use technology in the classroom.
- Thom Gibson is a YouTuber and creator of a great online Classroom Economy System. You can check out our interview here. His YouTube channel has a ton of great ideas for incorporating technology into your lessons.
- Sam Kary and I have not yet met (although I’d love to get him on the podcast!) His YouTube channel has a TON of tutorials on how to use programs like Padlet, Flipgrid, Google Classroom, and SO.MUCH.MORE!
If you are going to print something off, remember to ask yourself the guiding question.
What am I trying to gain from this worksheet? Is there another way I can get that information?
Even when it comes to papers you are printing off for yourself, ask if it is necessary. I have tried to reduce my paper consumption which is real hard because I love to write things down.
I will not encourage you to skimp on a paper lesson planner because I love having that on paper. (Here is my favorite teacher planner.) But, I have transitioned from a paper personal planner to planning everything on my computer calendar.
Organize Your Classroom Papers Course
Inside the Organize Your Classroom Papers course I teach you how to go through your papers, figure out what you need and don’t need. I teach you ways to organize your papers and create systems for keeping papers organized. I think that’s the struggle teachers have a lot of the time is they organize the papers they do have but don’t figure out systems for keeping them organized.
We also talk about organizing filing cabinets and digital files, lesson plan materials. Basically, any kind of paper material, I show you practical ways you can organize and systemize those papers. In less than 40 minutes I’ll teach you how to clean out, organize, and systemize the papers in your classroom so you can get rid of some of that clutter. Learn more about the Classroom Paper Organization Course here.
Connect with Kelly
Until next time,