Organizing Student Binders

Organizing Student Binders

As an inclusion teacher, I have worked with many teachers. This experience helped me learn many organizational tips from my team teachers. I often feel like a sponge soaking up ideas and trying them out. Over time, I have begun to use one idea from one teacher, another idea for a different teacher, mixed the ideas together, then tweak the methods to make them work better. Creating student binders is a combination of some of those ideas.

Why Use Student Binders

Providing students with an entire unit at once in place of handing out single pages saves a huge amount of class time. In the past, I have worked with teachers who bound units with plastic combs or placed units in 3 pronged folders. Both of these become expensive as teachers often must purchase the plastic combs or folders out of their own pockets. One great solution is for students to have three-ringed binders that can be used for different units all year long.

Parent Notification

During the summer, as soon as class roles are made, teachers in our school send letters home to each student. The letters include the following

  • a welcome message
  • an invitation to Open House
  • list of items to buy for the classroom such as tissues, hand sanitizer, and so on.

The letter tells parents that in place of each individual student purchasing his/her own binder and notebooks, teachers will purchase class sets. Teachers provide a price list of items that will be purchased for each student. Parents are asked to provide money for the materials at the beginning of school. Since our school has followed this procedure for several years, most parents accept this as the routine for the upper elementary grades.


#1 ~ Durable binders are worth the extra expense. After trying the economy binders one year (They fell apart by midyear.) teachers discovered it was actually cheaper, to begin with, binders that would last the entire year.

#2 ~ Binders covered with clear plastic work best. Here’s why: Names of the students are typed in large font, printed onto card stock, cut into strips, and placed down the outside spine of the binder. 

#3 ~ The binders are organized with plastic pocket tab dividers. After trying out three binders for different subjects (science/social studies, math, and language arts), teachers in my team agreed that one larger two-inch binder for all subjects works best. [Note: The photos I am using as illustrations are with a one-inch binder as this is what I had at home when I was writing this post.]

#4 ~ Color coding binders by different periods is a good idea. Our school is departmentalized, so students are moving binders from classroom to classroom. By having all binders from the same class in the same color, missing notebooks are easier to find. This also helps with adding new material to the notebooks.

Organizing Student Binders

Setting Up the Student Binders

Organizing Student Binders


Having a parent volunteer write on the small tab dividers works best. Many students have trouble writing neatly on the small tabs. We use the following categories:

  • Organization 
  • Review 
  • Book Units
  • Language Arts
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • F.I.S.H

Section 1 ~ Organization

Students use the pocket in the first section for student response cards. You can download these free response cards here.

Free Printable Response Cards

Following the tabbed divider, the first section contains syllabi, schedules, student goals, instructions for projects, policies, etc.

Section 2 ~ Review

This section in the binder takes the place of having student portfolios in individual file folders. For more information on a simple method for creating portfolios, you may wish to read this blog post titled “Student Portfolios ~ Teacher Evaluations Part 5” which goes into detail.

Section 3 ~ Book Unit

Having a pocket on the tab is a wonderful place to store vocabulary books. Many of my book units have these small books filled with practice. Section 3 is also where comprehension quizzes are stored.


Sections 4-7 ~ Individual Subjects

Students have a section devoted to each subject. Teachers usually add one unit of study at a time to these sections. At this link, you can find the incredible subject cover pages pictured here.

Subject Covers

Section 8 ~ F.I.S.H.

F.I.S.H. [Family Involvement Starts Here] is a schoolwide practice.  F.I.S.H. binders provide a special location for school and class notes, calendars, newsletters, permission slips, basically, all types of teacher/parent communication. Parents know this is where they need to look each night, and teachers check this section daily for any notes parents might send to school. During morning review, students open their binders to this section. The teacher can make a quick sweep through the classroom and collect any correspondence.

See Parent Connection Newsletters for a monthly correspondence with parents. 

Parent Newsletters

More information about Student Binders

Teachers keep binders on Wednesdays. Parents know the binders will not come home this night because old material is removed from the binders and new material is added.

Most teachers move completed work to the F.I.S.H. section for parents to go through. A parent signature page is added to the divider pocket for parents to sign and date showing they have seen the work. 


Get students organized with these helpful tips and free printables.

Gay Miller

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    • Theresa on August 12, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    I cannot get the link for the student response cards to work. =(

    1. Thank you for letting me know. The link is now working.

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