I wasn't very good at planning during my first year of teaching. I was a day by day kind of teacher, and aside from being highly stressful, meant I made a lot of copies each day. Trust me, that sucked.
As I got more organized and collected a mass amount of material for each unit (see Three Levels of Planning), I found that I hated having to figure out which worksheets to hand out which days. A few years ago I started doing packets for each unit. Each packet contains all of the notes and activities that I plan on doing in that unit. There's a title page so students know the topic, they're color coded, the page numbers are labeled... and best of all, I only have to make copies and hand out papers once a unit.
Overall, I found the kids responded well to the switch. At first I think it scares them to be getting such a big packet, but as they realize that packet represents at least a week (maybe up to three) of work, they calm down. For students who are more disorganized, I found this helps a lot. Instead of lots of worksheets being spread throughout their binders, folders, backpacks, jacket pockets... or wherever else they mysteriously vanish, everything's in one place and there's only one thing to keep track of.
This is also great for when students are absent, especially for extended periods of time. They have all of the work they'll be missing without you having to keep track of a bunch of different papers to give them.
I think I mentioned in my post on Three Levels of Planning that I keep my grammar and vocab units separate. At any given time, each class is learning one new grammar topic while doing one new vocab unit- each gets a packet, and color coding helps students keep them apart. I can say "Get out your grammar packet," or just "Get out the blue packet."
It also makes it clear when I give homework. I specify the activity, the color of the packet, and the page number (make sure to put page numbers!).
I rotate between the four colors my school has available. Currently we're using pink and blue in German 1 for the units we're covering. Our next two units will be in yellow and green. Once those are done, we'll switch back to pink and blue. This makes it just that much easier to specify what students should be referring to at any given time.
Though I should add, I only do the cover pages and color coding for levels 1 and 2. Levels 3 and 4 still get packets... there's just no cover pages and they're on plain white paper.
- Frau Leonard