Do you struggle with When I taught my super sweet (not!) high school students, students would throw away their papers as they left my room – IN FRONT OF ME. Has this happened to you?
Today, I am sharing what student organization system has worked for me and how other teachers have students organize notes and other papers using Maneuvering the Middle materials.
Many of these approaches will depend on a variety of factors:
- Does your school have lockers? (mine did not)
- Is your class period short? (no time for gluing)
- What is your budget?
Composition Notebooks are cheap and light enough to live in a student’s backpack. Students can take them home everyday so they can refer to their notes for homework. Also, if students need scratch paper, they have a ready supply.
For Maneuvering the Middle student handouts, you can print the student handouts and homework page using 1 single, folded-in-half, piece of paper glued into a notebook. To print the student handouts and homework using this method (pictured), here is what you do in Adobe Reader or Acrobat Pro:
- Type in the page numbers that correspond to the white blank page, the front of the student handout, the back of the student handout, and the homework page.
- Select “Multiple” under Page Sizing & Handling
- Pages per sheet – 2
- Page order: Horizontal
- Select “Print on both sides of paper”
- Select “Flip on short edge”
- Do a test print (and fold it) before making 150 copies
The downside to using composition notebooks is the time spent gluing or taping materials into the notebook. Also, inevitably, there will be no less than 10 glue sticks that need replacing everyday. For teachers with longer class periods, composition notebooks will help students hang onto those notes for reference for most of the school year!
Binders with dividers are a great way to keep your students organized! They are spacious, and if your copier hole punches, you are golden. It is also large enough to hold graded work and extra papers.
SPIRALED AND BOUND MATERIALS
This method is recommended by many teachers in our Facebook Group. Print and bind one unit at a time for students. You can add a cover sheet in colored paper so that it stands out. This will save you from visiting the copier on a Monday morning and is truly the best example of batching!
Tips from the Group:
- Tell students that it is like a textbook, in that you cannot rip pages out willy nilly.
- Spiral binding lasts longer than comb binding.
- You can get your own binding machine or hire it out to Office Depot or OfficeMax if your district does not offer this service.
- Print a few extra copies for when a student loses their copy.
- If you are doing this yourself, solicit help from parents and students.
PLASTIC BRAD FOLDERS
This is the organization method that I landed on after years of trying something new each year. Essentially, I purchased the plastic folders with brads for the handouts. The plastic was durable enough to handle the abuse of a middle schooler’s backpack.
They were slim, which meant that the folders could stay in students’ backpacks. (Remember, we didn’t have any lockers.) The folders held one unit of student materials at a time. Each day, students would pick up a stapled packet:
- Page 1 – warm up on front and exit ticket on back
- Page 2 – student handout
- Page 3 – independent practice
Students would rip off page 1 and turn it in at the end of class (for me to look at their exit ticket) and the student handout and independent practice would go into their folders.
I printed the Study Guide (or anything else I wanted students to never throw away) on colored paper, and after each test, we would recycle all white paper. Study guides remained in their folders so they could reference a summary of the unit if necessary. (You could also do this using Maneuvering the Middle’s cheat sheets, found in the Test Review unit.)
- If you want your students to stay organized, you will have to give them class time to do this. During the warm up, give them instructions to add their work to their binder/folder and then walk around and check that it was done. If you are passing back graded work, give students time to put it in the correct spot.
- If you are going to print one unit at a time to distribute, make sure to add page numbers before making copies.
- I like to keep tests and quizzes. Students would get a class period to look at their feedback and make corrections, then the tests would be turned back into me, where I would keep them filed in case I needed one for a parent conference.
The recycling bin is my best friend. I do not keep anything that is not graded. Everything else goes into the recycling bin. We do not have the capacity to hold on to everything our students touch. I throw away exit tickets after I have looked through them and establish who I need to pull for a small group. My first year of teaching I tried to keep everything. Why?! I spent hours filing and moving papers around and making piles and being insane. Recycle that clutter and marvel at how clean your classroom looks!
What student organization systems do you have in your math classroom? Do you have any students with backpacks that look like there was an explosion at the paper factory? I only had a couple once I began to collect and recycle the papers that weren’t necessary for students to keep. Here’s to hoping that this student organization system will work for everyone next year!
Thank you for this!. I’m going to be the first at a Catholic school doing this job and needed help getting started.
Noelle Pickering says
I am glad you found this helpful…I hope you have a great year!
My school does a student led conference every quarter and these binders would be perfect to allow students to organize their own evidence. Thank you! Two questions: Do you provide the binders for each student? Could you get away with 1″ binders?
Noelle Pickering says
That is such a great idea! I love it! The school bought the binders and then I keep and recycle them from year to year. Since they aren’t going anywhere, they hold us really well. I think 1″ would work, you could always send home or file the work at semester if the binder became too full.
Thanks for the feedback 🙂 I was also reading your classroom reveal post (super cute!) and was curious about your Mastery Tracker section of your bulletin board. Is there a post about how you track mastery on your blog? Or would it be a post you are planning to do in the future? My school is starting the transition this year and I’d love your feedback.
Great ideas! I love the student binders for graded work (especially for conferences) and your philosophy of “if I grade it, I keep it.” Last year was my 1st year of teaching and for some reason, I held on to EVERYTHING just to throw it all away at the end of the year! So much wasted space and time filing!
I’m going from 3rd grade to 7th grade math this year, so I’m constantly on the look out for tips/advice. So far, these seem really helpful! 🙂
Noelle Pickering says
I am so glad Audrey! Yes, something about being a teacher brings out the inner hoarder in us all…we need to just let it go. Ha!
I love this idea and plan on using it next year. Do you have an editable file of your name tags for the spines of binders in your TPT store? I looked but couldn’t find it. I love your font!
Noelle Pickering says
Thanks so much! I don’t as of now, but I will add that to my summer to do list. 🙂
Pamela Becker says
I have an 8th grader who has a math equivalent of a 4-5 grader. He is struggling in math (pre-algerbra). I’m going to create a resource binder for him to use during tests and to take with him to high school. Many charts I see on TPT and Pinterest are, well, too fluffy for a pending high school student. What do you suggest. Today is a snow day, again, and I’m going to devote my time to at least creating an outline. I want to include vocabulary, reference charts, and step-by-step instructions for working on math problems.
Thanks in advance
Noelle Pickering says
Hi Pamela! I think this is a great idea. I think that the best resource I could suggest might be my test prep resources because it includes visual cheat sheets, as well as practice. Also, there are teacher guides included, which might help you with the vocabulary. Here is the link: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Maneuvering-The-Middle/Category/Test-Prep-213253
Cheyenne Harman says
I love reading this article (even though it is probably my 5th time reading this)!! Last year was my first full year as a 7th grade Math Teacher, and I started the Binder system with students. They had a binder and 5 divider system. Students labeled binders ” Handouts, Homework, Test/Quizzes, Activities, and Notes”, however, students still threw away papers freqently and were missing assignments. I am nervous to keep their binders in class due to not having the materials accessable for them at home (even though only about 33% of students were completing homework). I am wondering if you might have another suggestion for my second year. Overall the binders were great for keeping materials in one location, but I would like to practice executive functioning with them to better prepare them for the overwelming organized and disorganized world we live in!