Does this look familiar? Every teacher has at least one student who walks into the room with a pile of papers trailing behind. They can’t find their notes or their homework and there is a good chance there may be a week-old sandwich somewhere in the mess!
Organization is like any other skill. It needs to be explicitly taught. We can not just assume that they know how to keep things organized. **I cringe which I see the inside of some lockers!**
After 20 years of trial and error, I have finally found a system that works with all of my students and I’m excited to share it with you!
The Three Prong Folder
I have become a firm believer in the three-prong folder. Papers go in and NEVER fall out, unlike a traditional three-ring binder. Even better, they are CHEAP! I have purchased them for as little as $0.25 per folder. Since we start a new folder each nine weeks, the price makes it a parents’ dream! Plus, since the price is right, I can afford to purchase a few extras for students who do not have the supplies they need.
Since the folders are so slim, they can fit perfectly in the larger zip-up binders. Our entire team uses the three-prong folder system. It’s a beautiful thing to see several packed into a student’s zip-up finder. They always have what they need, plus the binder is light and easy to carry.
Setting Up Folders (& Students) for Success
Every nine weeks, we start a new folder. Our textbooks are outdated, so I tell the students that we are making our own science book. I keep a stack of Sharpies handy for students to write their names and subject on the front. I keep a stack of blank address labels for black folders where a Sharpie can’t be seen!
Table of Contents
For me, the table of contents is key! It is always the first thing in our folder and is the backbone of organization. I like to have students highlight pages in the table of contents to study for upcoming tests and quizzes.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard a student comment, “wow, I can’t believe how much we have learned already this year!” just from a glance at the table of contents!
Adding Pages to the Folder
Now for the tricky part – I want the folders to read like a book. Unlike a traditional three-ring binder which loads from the front, these three-prong binders load from the back. As I pass papers to each table, I tell groups to put the page in “face down.” When all of the pages are ready to go, I tell them to “lock it in“. This signifies to flatten their brackets.
It might sound crazy, but my number one rule is anything that goes into our folders NEVER comes back out! Yes, that means that homework or daily starters do not go into the folder if they are being collected.
Keep reading to find out more about how to handle homework, foldables and other loose papers!!
Foldables, Homework and More…
It is important to have a procedure in place for all of the loose papers. My students have a weekly Science Starter that they turn in every Friday and often have foldables from the class they need to keep track of.
A clear sheet protector is a great addition to the front of the three-prong folder. Foldables and homework can be easily stored in the sheet protector. Papers are easily accessible and do not fall out. This gives students complete control over their materials!
All routines take time to establish. In my book, this one is a keeper!