When I first started teaching 20 years ago, I had not given much thought to how I would have students organize and keep the work they did in my class. When it came time to ask for supplies, I defaulted to what I knew, and I had them bring a binder and dividers. I had a divider for homework, vocabulary, classwork, notes…and inevitably, by the end of the 1st six weeks, I ceased keeping up with their binder.
Fast forward to now. I have a system I have used for over 10 years that really works for me, and my kids end up with a reference folder at the end of the year that they can use in their English classes for the rest of high school. Plus, it shortened my supply list to almost nothing, and the parents seem appreciative of that. All they need for my class is paper, pen, a folder with brads and pockets, colored pens for annotating, and note cards for vocabulary. The great thing is that, if I have a student that doesn’t have the folder when we start putting it together, it’s no big deal to give them one I have stashed in the cupboard. They’re only 10 cents after all.
Setting it up
It’s very easy to set up the folder, and most of the students seem to like that it is no muss, no fuss. They simply write their name, my name, their class period, and English on the front. Then, on the front pocket they write Current Work, and on the back pocket they write Graded Work.
As soon as we have set up their folder, I explain that the brads will only be used for things that I copy on colored paper that have holes punched in them. That is their signal to put that paper in their brads. The first thing is always my syllabus, and that is followed by notes I give them throughout the year as we move through the units.
Examples of items for reference:
- Parts of Speech notes
- Literary Devices notes
- Notice and Note Signposts
- Poetry notes
- SAT Vocabulary lists
- Hero’s Journey notes
- List of Character Traits/Static vs Dynamic notes
- Tone Words (grouped by positive/negative/neutral connotation
- Theme notes
- Sentence Types notes
- Genre Notes
- Dramatic Elements
- Elements of Mysteries
I have a Resource Folder bundle of almost all of these notes listed on TPT. It is 12 products with 16 pages of notes.
At the end of the year, all of these notes are neatly in their brads, and they can keep them for future use. Not all of them do, but when I have a former student come and tell them how useful they are (or would have been if they’d kept them), most of them end up keeping them. At least they don’t throw them away in front of me. 🙂
In the front pocket, they keep things they are currently working on but haven’t turned in yet. The back pocket is for all the work I have graded and handed back. I explain that I am human, I have 150 students, and I make mistakes. Keeping their graded work until their report card comes out is their insurance policy should I key in a grade wrong or skip their paper in a stack.
During class, they are only to have their folder, a pen, and their novel (if we are reading one) on their desk. Everything else is put away. I find this minimizes distractions (like trying to finish math homework for the next period).
And that’s it
That’s all there is to it. This is great for me when we revisit a topic, like literary elements, because I can say, “Use the aqua literary devices notes from earlier this year”, and they already have them in their folder. The colors help them to find things quickly as well.
Please let me know if you have questions about this folder system, and I’ll be more than happy to answer them.