Class time is so precious; I hate to waste it on students’ looking for papers, so I try to limit the papers and keep them organized.  Here are some ways to keep the chaos contained. 

Use Binders

  • Binders are great because students can add and subtract papers, and reorganize as needed.
  • Go for the slim binders.  They’re less expensive, and, the tight space forces students to clean through their papers more frequently.
  • Create a few sections, not more than three.  You don’t want to make it too complicated.  It’s supposed to save time and focus effort, not become the focus of effort!
  • Bring out the recycling bin:  Regularly encourage students to go through their binders and get rid of papers that are they are not going to look at again.  My criteria questions are:  Is this paper important?  Why?  Will I study it again?
  • Binders are a tool for test prep.  Before every test, have students go through their binders and decide what they need to study.  They can tag the important papers with stickies.  (And any extraneous paper can go in the recycling bin.)

A Sample Binder from My Class:

Up front:  Before the first section

a.  Name and number.

Student copy and complete the information in the front of their books.

This book belongs to _________.

If found please call _______________.

b.  Class calendar We circle the days of class and write in any important holidays, projects, or field trips.

c.  School numbers.  

Person to call when absent.

Person to call for homework assignments (for example: a learning buddy).

School computer password.

School cancellation number.

Section 1:  Class Notes

This is the current content unit we are studying at the moment. Students can place all current class notes, handouts, homework and writing work in this section, from front to back.

Section 2:  Word Study

Here students maintain their vocabulary lists and spelling lists.

Section 3:  Study Again

This section has all the highlights from previous units.  Because we know recycling is essential and that students need to touch on old learning to keep it active, I encourage students to study these pages intermittently.  To ensure students do the studying, I integrate material from prior units in tests and quizzes.

What about homework assignments?  

Students put a bright little sticky on each homework assignment whether it is in the textbook or on a handout in their binder.  They place the sticky so it sticks out like a tab.  This makes it super easy for everyone to locate homework papers at home and in class. At the end of each class, as when getting the next class assignment, students remove the stickies from their finished homework and re-paste the stickies.to their new assignment pages.

For more Organizing Tips check out:

Getting organized for the new school year