This week I was reflecting on the new things that have worked well this school year, those things that I use on a daily basis that didn't cost me any money. Maybe they can help you too, or maybe you have done it for years and somehow I was the last to the party. :)
At the beginning of the year I put stickers on all their name tags. Just these four colors to divide them up into 4 basic teams. These have made it so easy to have them easily split up for grouping.
*Yellows find a blue... Reds find a green... (16 groups)
*Or all yellows head to corner #2 (4 groups)
*Or one of each color in a group (8 groups)
These aren't for everything, but when I want to mix them up and still give them a little choice about their partner/group, then it works well. I waited until about the 3rd week of school before I added the stickers to the name tags, since I wanted to make sure I knew who I wanted to be in which color (making sure what students should be together vs. separate).
This year I also implemented these 3 folders. Super easy... I usually have specific dates that things are due. Reading logs are due on Thursday, Grammar and Spelling on Friday. In the past I would always have things come in on the specific days and then I would be grading all weekend long... This year I decided to let kids turn things in early. By using these 3 folders it keeps it all organized. Every morning the kids come in and get out their homework. Their math stays on their desk to correct, but if they have any of these three done early they hand them to me directly so I can sort them immediately. I'm usually standing by my desk during morning work/getting organized time as kids are bringing up their materials. By letting them turn it in early I know they won't lose their papers, and I'm able to start grading the early birds early on in the week. This has really cut down on my end of the week grading.
I'm sure you have other ah-ha moments to share! I hope this helped you in some way. :)