Does this look familiar?
Are you tired of students always losing things?
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!
As middle school teachers, we always just “assume” that kids know how to organize their notes and papers.
But…..organization is like any other skill. It needs to be explicitly taught.
There are so many organization tools for students…. the three-ring binder, the composition notebook….
After 20 years of teaching, I’ve found a system that’s worked wonders for keeping even the most DISORGANIZED students organized!
Introducing the Three Prong Folder!
I have become a firm believer in the three-prong folder. It’s literally become a life-saver for me in my classroom!
- Papers go in and NEVER fall out, unlike a traditional three-ring binder.
- They are dirt CHEAP (about twenty-cents a folder) – plus this means I can afford to buy a few extras for students who don’t 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 it’s 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Our textbooks are outdated, so I tell the students that we are making our own science book.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 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!
Quick tip! Have students highlight pages in the table of contents to study for upcoming tests and quizzes.
Adding Pages to the Folder
Now for the tricky part…..
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 the brackets.
It might sound crazy, but my number one rule is anything that goes into our folders NEVER comes back out! What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas…..
Yes, that means that homework or daily starters that I might collect do not go into the folder.
Foldables, Homework and More…
So, how’s this going to work for foldables, warm-ups, or homework assignments that you want to collect????
It is important to have a procedure in place for all of the loose papers.
A clear sheet protector is a great addition to the front of the three-prong folder. Having a clear sheet protector in the front of the folder gives students complete control over their materials!
- Foldables and homework can be easily stored in the sheet protector.
- Papers are easily accessible and do not fall out.
All routines take time to establish. In my book, this one is a keeper!
Comment below and let me know if you’ve tried this organization tool for your students!