Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Bright Classroom Management Idea: Number The Spots

I am so excited to be participating in the SECOND Bright Ideas Blog Hop! This is a special kind of Hopping Party: It's not about advertising TpT items or linking up to other products or printables. It IS about sharing good, solid strategies and ideas that are working in real classrooms.

 This time around, Shelley Grey from Teaching in the Early Years has organized over two hundred bloggers spanning the grade levels and content areas... so there is certain to be "something for everyone." Shelley has done an amazing job organizing us all. And I am truly excited to share my "Bright Idea" with you today!

I hate to admit that it often takes me a long time to learn things. I have tried a lot of organizational strategies over the years, with varied success, but once I implemented this one, my whole life got easier. That probably sounds overly dramatic, but it is, indeed, true.

Recently, I had to survive without my table numbers. Things were miserable and I couldn't wait to get them put back into place once again.

Now, I'm not talking about "table numbers" in the traditional sense. I currently have 34 kids, but I always set up for 36 kids. We have often "visitors" fora variety reasons or sometimes a student needs a more "comfortable" chair during an activity. I have groups of students at desks... three two-person tables making a total of six kids grouped together. And I have six table groupings which I call (cue drum roll...) Table 1, Table 2, Table 3... Okay, I think you get the idea. Like many teachers, I even have a number hanging above each table.  But that is not what I am talking about in this post.

I am talking about the numbers that are actually on each kid's desk. Every student's desk "spot" is numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6. (There are two kids to a table, but they each have a numbered "spot.") We work at different tables all day--but that doesn't change things, because it's the spot that is numbered, no matter who is sitting there or what we are doing. By the way, until I wrote this post, I never knew how hard it would be to photograph the corner of a desk. Yaaaawwwnnn! It is less than thrilling to look at, but it IS important to this discussion!

And this is so easy to implement! If you are not color-crazy like me, you can skip down to the picture with the number on the white board. If color matters in your decor choices, read on!

First I ran off the numbers... 1 through 6 on a page. I hated to waste the extra space so I added a little affirmation in the corner. Every August when I print them up again, I get a cheerful little reminder! (Is it scary that I am still surprised to see it each year?) By the way, those are Jen Jones fonts and frames. Don't you just love Hello Literacy?!

When you cut up the page, you have six numbers of one color...


But that is not the plan! Most of you know that I am a little...ummmm... obsessive... when it comes to colors. I have six table groups and six "spots," so I run off the numbers on six colors. These are the colors in my room: purple, magenta, turquoise, and bright blue... with a few dashes of lime green and and occasional hint of orange. And these colors are reflected in my table numbers. Every table has all six numbers and all six colors... but at each table the same number is a different color. (Just think 6 x 6 if you want to get "mathy" about it). It doesn't matter if this description doesn't make sense. This is not a Common Core math word problem. Relax. Just go with it... (And I am sure that if the whole table had the same color--or even if every single "spot" had the same color, the system would work just as well!)

Then I cut up some Contact paper, just slightly larger than the size of the numbers. I know contact paper is a bit "old school," but it works great in this situation. If you cut the Contact paper large enough and get a good seal, the kids are less likely to pry up the numbers. The Contact paper keeps the numbers on the table. It potects the numbers from being torn (or written on). And it helps keep the colored paper from "running" if the desks are being cleaned or there is something liquid on the table.

The Contact paper I have is made by the official "ConTact" manufacturer (or so I'm guessing!) It is very durable and it sticks well to the desks. It also has grid lines which makes cutting the rectangles a snap. I used my paper cutter because... well, just because, but, with the grid lines, scissors would probably work too! I like to cut them all at once. And I always cut extras because I either mess up when I am affixing them to the desks or some calamity occurs and I have to replace the numbers. I keep a set of extra numbers too!

Then I mix up the numbers. As I said, the color of each number varies from table to table. And I like to arrange them randomly. The kids spend a lot of time wondering about my system. Here's the truth: I don't have a system. I just don't like to have the blue number from table 1 next to the blue number from table 2... etc. It is a bit like a classroom Sudoku puzzle, and it is fun to do when your To Do list is lengthy and you just can't face anything else you're supposed to be doing! Also, my tables have rounded corners, so I cut one corner on the diagonal so that it fits across the rounded edge and doesn't lift up as easily.

In the end, it looks like this. I couldn't get a "sky shot" of my room, so I had to just "go graphic." Now imagine six table groupings that look just like this...

So why is this helpful???

Because... this is one of the best management systems I have ever used!

Each week, it is another "number's" responsibility to make things work in our classroom. In the picture below, you can see it is #4's week. 

So, if you are sitting at the spot in your table grouping with #4... You have sooooooooo much to do! And I can relinquish responsibility for about 23 tasks... which builds responsibility into the classroom AND keeps everything humming smoothly. I think we are at Day #112 at my school. At this point, there are so many things that happen without me thinking--or even asking.

For the list to make sense, you need to know that we have supply boxes on our desks filled with the supplies that we need throughout the day. If, for example, we needed scissors, and I was foolish enough to say, "Please get a pair of scissors for the next activity..."I KNOW there would be 34 sets of hands (that's 68, if you are counting!) grabbing for scissors. Even with warnings and pleas, I have seen this simple request turn into a nightmare. Now I say, "If you are sitting at spot 4, please pass out scissors to the people at your table." The table numbers reduce the scenario to one set of hands per table...and life goes on happily!

What else do we use the numbers for? Anything that needs to happen for six kids and can be accomplished with the help of just one. Just yesterday I am sure I asked...

And those are just the things I could think of at the moment. Because students have the responsibility for a week at a time, things fall into place quickly. Then I change the "big number" Friday afternoon, I announce it on Monday morning when we take on new classroom jobs for the week, and the responsibility shifts to the next number.

For years, I chose a student at each table by a descriptor such as: If you are the one with the most pockets, the earliest birthday, the tallest, the least tall, the one wearing the most colors, ETC. That's sort-of-fun for the first week... and then I find that all of that thinking takes more time than the lesson I have planned! Now I just say, "Number 6, please get a basket of algebra tiles for you and your tablemates," and we quickly transition to the next lesson.

Ahhhh. Contented sigh. I've been wanting to share this strategy for a while. Maybe you already do this and I am the only one tardy to the party. I think it work just as well in a small class (5 tables of 4, for example) because one of the benefits is that it limits the number of kids out of their chairs and reduces the number of students asking, "Can I help?"

I am glad I have this system in place. I know it has saved me plenty of time and more than a few headaches! Thanks for listening to me ramble on about it!

I am guessing you are now READY to hop over to your next stop...

Angela at the Daily Alphabet is talking about an easy math focus! Her blog is always filled with fun-to-read posts and I just know you are going to love her Bright Ideas about number sense. Just click on that cheery button below to take you there!

Or, if you are in more of a "random" mood at the moment, just click on any of the links below! Wishing you a wonderful time along the way as you meet some new bloggers and gather some great new "Bright Ideas"!

Thanks SO MUCH for stopping by! And thanks to Amy Alvis for the background paper!


  1. SHEER.GENIUS!!!! Oh my gosh Kim, I am doing this like today!! What a brilliant way to make things run smoothly! I always shudder at the sudden rush for supplies and never in a million years would have thought of a solution like this.

    Thank you so much my dear friend!!!

    PS It takes me a long time to learn things too! AND I thought you photographed your table corner beautifully!

  2. I came across your blog from Teaching in High Heels and this is a wonderful idea! I'm currently getting ready to student teach and love finding little tidbits from current teachers!

    Thank you so much! I can't wait to implement this!

  3. What a fabulous idea! Giving the students responsibility is one of my favorite things to do.

    Love ya sweet Kim!!!

    Journey of a Substitute Teacher

  4. Interesting idea!! I'd never thought of that, and I kind of love it! Maybe I will try that next year!

  5. Awesome idea!! This makes so much sense, especially in middle school. Thank you for sharing your brilliant idea!!

  6. What a great idea!! This makes it so easy to remember who is doing what. Awesome!!

  7. I do something similar to this, but since I have four to a table, I use directions since I'm the social studies teacher (ie. student in the NW desk, SW desk etc.) I will pin this if I ever need to have more than four at a table!

  8. Great job Kim! I can see how it would save time. When we use our notebooks everyone scrambles for glue and scissors. This is a much calmer approach. :) I like the weekly change up because it really sets a routine.
    Thanks for sharing! Enjoy your week!

    Coffee Cups and Lesson Plans

  9. I love anything that's color coded! Great organization!

    Sally from Elementary Matters


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