Managing Student Papers

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Some days after school I just sit at my desk and look around at the stacks of papers. I have some to grade– some to send home– some to keep and file– and then some!

So my question for you is this: What is your paper management style? How do you stay on top of it? What is your favorite organization strategy?

Here are some tips I use. You may also find them useful:

  1. Have students write their class numbers on their papers (especially if you use a paper sorting “mailbox” like I do!)
  2. Grade every day. I know this is a toughie. But even if I skip one day– the papers will pile up and I will most likely continue to ignore them until it’s out of control!
  3. Go through papers as a class. Not ideal– but sometimes we go through our papers and check our work– then I walk around and glance over shoulders at scores. You can also “trade and grade”– but don’t do this all the time or parents might get upset. If we go over it as a class then that’s less work for me at the end of the day.
  4. Give less worksheets. Shocking, right? But there are many other ways to assess students. Search Pinterest for “formative assessment ideas”. Or try here or here for some better ideas!
  5. Invest in a 3-drawer paper tray. There are FREE labels on TPT for “grade”, “copy”, and “file” drawer labels! All you have to do is print, laminate, and tape/glue!
  6. Invest in a quality “mailbox” for student work. And I’m not just talking about the cardboard mailboxes you get at the teacher store (You know the ones I’m talking about– I know you do!) Not only do the ones from the teacher store cost a lot– they are CARDBOARD. Don’t get me wrong– if you like to spend your hard earned money on cardboard, that’s fine. But if you want it last more than 3 years– consider upgrading.

Now let’s talk a little more about these “mailboxes”! My first year of teaching I really, really wanted one. I saw one for  around $50… Well I was so dissapointed because I didn’t even have a paycheck– how was I going to afford one? Lucky for me I had wonderful parents who decided to buy me one as a “classroom warming” gift! I set that baby up– and it lasted me 4 years. 4 is pretty good, right? By the end of this last schoolyear it was dented, marked on, bending, and scruffy. Time for a new one!

I did a little research and found this “Storex” paper sorter— made of plastic– on Amazon. The reviews were mostly by teachers– and they were amazing! So I made a splurge and bought one! It arrived a few days later– and I easily snapped the pieces together. I highly reccommend it. I think it’s going to last much longer than the cardboard one.

I know the price on Amazon says $98– but when I bought mine it was $78. So I’m sure the price goes up and down. Just keep an eye out and put it on your wishlist if you want to wait for a better deal. But I’m telling you, it’s totally worth it.

Here is how I use my mailbox (very simple):

  1. Each student is assigned a class number at the beginning of the year. Usually based on ABC order by last name.
  2. At first students write their numbers on their papers to help me sort. As the year goes on I can memorize numbers.
  3. I train 2-3 students who love to help (everyone has those kids!) and they memorize all the class numbers. After about a month of school I never have to put papers away myself! The students LOVE doing this– and it’s even become a class job!
  4. If it’s a paper I want to keep secret (test scores, etc) I will put them in myself. Or hand them directly to the student and have him/her put the paper away in the mailbox.

In order to match my classroom color scheme (navy and yellow) I made labels for each slot.


You can download these labels on Teachers Pay Teachers— and they are even editable if you want to type in student names instead of using numbers!

If you are looking for some in a different color, please let me know and I will work on it!

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