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. This notebook is a combination of some of those ideas.
Why Use 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.
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.
In this letter, parents are also told 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 they will be purchasing 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: The names of the students can be 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.
Setting Up the 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:
- Book Units
- Language Arts
- Social Studies
Section 1 ~ Organization
The pocket for the first section is used for student response cards. You can download these free response cards here.
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.
Section 8 ~ F.I.S.H.
F.I.S.H. [Family Involvement Starts Here] is a schoolwide practice. All students have a F.I.S.H. binder for school and class notes, calendars, newsletters, permission slips, basically all types of teacher/parent communication are placed here. 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.
Binders are routinely kept at school 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.