I’ve often discussed how I dislike interactive notebooks. As a result, teachers often ask me what organization system I have my students utilize instead. My method of student organization focuses on a binder method of organization.
My Binder Organization System
Very simply, my students organize all classroom handouts into a binder. I store the binders in my classroom on a back shelf. Students keep materials for the current unit in a folder, and when that unit is finished, the materials are added to the binder. Most days, students don’t remove their binders from the shelf. Therefore, the binders stay in pretty good shape. I’ve worked very hard to make sure that my binder organization system is as easy as possible.
I used to require students to keep their binders in their lockers. As a result, binders often fell apart or they were lost by the end of the school year. They were crushed with the weight of 14 sweatshirts in the locker or students picked at the plastic seams until they inevitably came undone and were reduced to a pile of plastic and cardboard. I actually saw a student use his binder as a skateboard once! I spent too much of my time fixing binders and tracking them down and I realized that I just didn’t have the energy anymore. Having the binders stay in my classroom has saved so much of my time, and I can focus on more important issues during the school day.
To ease the process of adding materials to the binder, each lesson is labeled with the Unit number and the Lesson number in the top right corner. Before I allow students to grab their binders from the shelves, I have them put the materials from the Unit in order. I always remind them that their binder should read like a book – all of the Units and lessons read chronologically. I have students write their names on the spine so that their binders can be found very easily.
The students also add five dividers to the binder. I change this a bit from year to year, but essentially, the rubric goes in the very front (ahead of the dividers). Then, I have a section for grade reports. The three middle sections are labeled Units 1-4, Units 5-9 and Units 10-13. The last sections holds student assessments. I think I might have students place assessments in the front this year. When they figure out quarterly grades, (We do standards-based grading), it will be easier for them to find their assessments.
I work in a school district where most students have the means to provide their own binders. I do collect binders each year to provide to those students in need. As my binders stay in the classroom, they’re often in very good shape at the end of the school year. To remove sharpie from a binder, just color over the sharpie with an expo marker. The sharpie and the expo marker will just wipe away and leave the binder shiny and new. I often have at least 20 binders to give away each year.
Obviously, my binder organization system is not perfect. Do my students still lose materials? Absolutely. You will always have students who will lose anything. However, I’ve learned that most of the students losing paper these days are the students who don’t want to do the work in the first place. It really has nothing to do with their organizational ability, and much more to do with their willingness to participate in school. As that is really a motivational issue, I deal with that separately.
I love my binder organization system, however, that doesn’t mean I’ll stick with it forever. I’m always looking to improve my classroom, and if something better comes along, I’ll consider changing the status quo.
What organization system do you have for your classroom?