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Secondary Classroom Organization Hack: Inbox, Extras & Returns Bins

Do you have several classes of students to manage? All with different worksheets and papers to keep track of? Are you tired of students trying to hand in work while you are in the middle of doing something else? Try this easy teacher hack!

For over 8 years now I have use a system of having an Inbox, Extras & Returns bin for each class I teach. I spend some time building this routine with my students and it saves me so many headaches throughout the school year and gives my students the opportunity to be more independent. You can see the four class sets I am currently using in the image below. The first set is for my Extended Essay students, the second for my Grade 10 Integrated Science students, the third for my Year 1 (Grade 11) IBDP Biology students & the fourth for my Year 2 (Grade 12) IBDP Biology students. I keep them on the shelves that I think of as my "student resource center", where students can find scaffolds, reference books, whiteboards & markers for practice problems and the ever in-demand tissues. ;)

Here's how the system works:

  • The Inbox is where students submit all coursework

  • The Returns bin is where I put graded student work for students to collect

  • The Extras bin is where students who missed a class or who lost their worksheet or periodic table can find any extra copies I have

All you need to make your own is a set of 3 inboxes per class (easy to find at an Office Supply Store or in some closet around your school) as well as some labels for each course. To make this even easier to set up I have put together a template that you can use, just pick the font size based on the space you have to insert your label (I use both types since I have two different kinds of inboxes).

Download DOCX • 12KB

Here are some of the benefits I have found of this system:

  • Students have a clearly designated place to submit work after a quiz, test or to submit an assignment and they don't get lost on my desk

  • I don't have students trying to hand work to me while I am in the middle of another task

  • Students can come collect their graded work at breaks or any other time

  • If a student is absent when work is returned they know to look for it in the Returns bin

  • Whenever I have any leftover copies of a worksheet they don't go to waste, but instead go into the Extras bin

  • When students are absent they know to look in the Extras bin for any worksheets, this also works if a student lost or damaged their worksheet or another document

  • This system encourages students to be more independent and models organizational skills

And most importantly: this system gives me three less things to manage during class so I am free to focus on instruction and supporting the learning of my students!

Thanks for reading teachers, travelers & curious souls of all kinds.

The Roaming Scientist



Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I'm the kind of teacher who is always trying something new, new labs, new Apps, new scaffolds and even new countries to live and teach in. I'm looking forward to share what I learn with you all through my weekly blog posts. 

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