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 and another idea from a different teacher, mix the ideas, and then tweak the methods to make them work better. Creating student binders is a combination of some of those ideas.
Why Use Student Binders
Giving students an entire unit at once instead of handing out single pages saves class time. In the past, I have worked with teachers who bound units with plastic combs or placed units in three-pronged folders. Both of these become expensive as teachers must purchase 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 administrators assign class roles, teachers in our school send letters home to each student. The notes include the following:
- a welcome message
- an invitation to the Open House
- items to buy for the classroom, such as tissues, hand sanitizer, etc.
The letter tells parents that teachers will purchase class sets instead of each student purchasing their own binder and notebooks. At the beginning of school, parents are asked to provide money for the materials teachers will buy for each student. 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 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 plastic pocket tab dividers organize the binders. After trying out three binders for different subjects (science/social studies, math, and language arts), teachers in my team agreed that one 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 while writing this post.]
#4 ~ Color coding binders by different periods is a good idea. We departmentalize our school, so students move binders from classroom to classroom. Having all binders from the same homeroom in the same color makes missing notebooks easier to find. Using consistent colored notebooks also helps with adding new material to the binders.
Step-by-Step Organizing Student Binders
Having a parent volunteer write on the small tab dividers works best. Many students need help with writing neatly on the small tabs. We use the following categories:
- Book Units
- Language Arts
- Social Studies
Section 1 ~ Organization
In the first section of the binder, students use the pocket for student response cards. You can download these free response cards here.
The section also contains syllabi, schedules, student academic and personal goals, and progress charts to track progress toward goals such as grade improvements or increased participation in an activity, project instructions, policies, learning style survey results, etc.
Students need a daily planner to help them keep track of their assignments, deadlines, and important dates.
Students should keep the school calendar in the binder to help students stay up-to-date on school events such as parent-teacher conferences and field trips.
Finally, students should keep a sheet of important contact information that includes the teacher’s email and phone number as well as emergency contacts and the school’s address and phone number.
Section 2 ~ Review
This section in the binder replaces having student portfolios in individual file folders.
Section 3 ~ Book Unit
This section houses our current novel study’s comprehension questions and skill practice. The pocket on the tab is a perfect place to store vocabulary books.
Note: Students also keep an interactive notebook with organizers that goes over rules and examples for the skills they are covering. These interactive notebooks are not kept in student binders.
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. You can find the incredible subject cover pages pictured here at this link.
In these sections, students place homework, including any instructions or guidelines provided by the teacher, in the front pocket of the subject dividers for quick access.
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 particular location for school and class notes, newsletters, permission slips, and all teacher/parent communication types. 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 the morning review, students open their binders to this section. The teacher can quickly sweep through the classroom and collect any correspondence.
See Parent Connection Newsletters for monthly correspondence with parents.
More information about Student Binders
Teachers keep binders at school on Wednesdays. Parents know the binders will not come home on Wednesdays because the teacher removes the old material and adds new material from the binders on this day.
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.
Students can develop strong organizational skills by keeping a well-organized binder to help them succeed in school and beyond. Keeping an organized binder also aids in keeping parents and teachers up-to-date about a student’s progress and areas where they may need additional support.