This evening's conversation turned to the subject of middle school contact cards, with Squidette whining about having to fill out one for every class. At some point in her diatribe I interrupted and asked if any of her teachers used Delaney Cards. "What is a Delaney Card," she queried. At this point I waxed poetic about the magnificence of the Delaney Card.
Delaney Cards are the wonderful invention of Edward C. Delaney. They are beloved by teachers and hated by students who seem to think they can lead to impersonality on behalf of their instructors. When I called three of my siblings, one commented that "only the loser teachers who couldn't bother to learn our names used Delaney Cards." Another felt much the same way but backed off a bit when I expressed my view on learning student names. The third mentioned that he had just been thinking about them, nostalgically, as he took his son on a tour of his new middle school.
Delaney Cards can be used for a whole variety of tasks. The first and foremost role of the Delaney Card (click on the first link for a picture of said card) is for seating and attendance. The cards fit neatly into slots on pages that fit easily into either a standard Delaney Book or a plain old looseleaf binder. Personally I preferred a binder since the Delaney books tend to lose their covers after only a year or so and the binder had more room for other stuff. T
he kids fill out the cards, following either the designations on the cards or the teacher's altered instructions and the teacher places the cards in the slots according to where the kids are sitting in the room. Now I admit, this works best if the room is arranged in old fashioned rows -- something that is currently frowned upon.
For attendance purposes, the teacher glances at the room and, if a student is missing from their seat, flips the card from black side to red side and makes a notation on the date in question. Different marks mean different things. a "/" means absent. When the kid brings in a note you then cross the mark and make it an "x" for excused. No note, no "X." A circle indicates a lateness and a "C" indicates a cut -- thats for the kid you saw in the hallway later in the day. At the end of the day you glance at all the red cards and bubble in the absences on the machine scanable attendance forms. No calling of student names unless you want to (a good back up for the first few days when you really don't know the names) and attendance is quick and painless.
The front of the card can be used to note grades or participation marks or discipline marks or anything you want. A former colleague used to keep all of his grades on the Delaney Card. No messing with a grade book for him. Everything was there in tiny, very legible handwriting.
In my own case, I used them for attendance and for participation grades. After a week or two, when I had finally memorized the names of the kids -- made easier by constantly referring to the Delaney book instead of having to keep asking the kids for their names -- I would take the cards out of the book and shuffle them around for use in organizing groups or randomly calling kids for questions. It was always a test of my memory to see if I could then put them back in the book correctly.
I love Delaney Cards and always make sure that our school is well stocked with them. In my humble opinion, Delaney Cards are the glue that keeps New York City schools together. If I ever get back into the class room, the first thing I will do is grab a big ol' stack of Delaney Cards.