I started using organizational binders about two years ago in my classroom. The purpose of the binders is to help the children keep their homework and other papers organized, and to help parents stay organized, too!
Our binders have:
* A name page slipped into the front pocket. I use FileMaker Pro and make seasonal pages with each child's name on them, and they enjoy coloring them in. My clip art is mostly from www.djinkers.com.
* A page protector with their monthly Read Aloud Chart.
* A page protector with their Rainbow Words on them, so that the parents would know what words to work on at home. (I didn’t add this until after the first trimester.)
* During the last trimester, I added a chart in a page protector to practice sounding out words on their "Zip Strip." The parents were supposed to write the date that they practiced with their child, hopefully practicing each night (Well, some of them did it!.) The Zip Strips can be found at Wendy's Book Works.com. I left the actual Zip Strip in it and added a new group of words to work on periodically. I think that the kids whose parents really didn't know how to work with them really benefited from this the most- if they actually did it!
* A plastic binder divider page with a pocket for their most important papers. I print a sticker that says, "Overnight Express" and the parents are told at the beginning of the year that anything that comes home in that pocket should be signed and returned the next day in that pocket.
* A plastic binder divider of a different color with a sticker on it that says, "Homework: Return at the end of the week." The homework is supposed to stay in the binder all week, and they are NOT supposed to do the whole thing in one night. Occasionally, the kids turned in their homework early, not realizing that it wasn't time. That was the only problem that we had with that. Of course, this happens with any homework situation.
* A regular folder (three ring punched) with a sticker that says, "Leave these things at home." They are supposed to take all of these things out daily and leave them at home. Last year, I referred to it as the "Puppy Dog Folder" since all of them had puppies on them. I try to get everybody the same kind. One year, I got them all plastic folders rather than cardboard. They held up better, but don't seem to hold as much and are usually shorter than the paper ones, so they don't hold construction paper projects as well. The plastic ones are usually not as stiff, and are therefore harder to stuff with papers.
I bought my binders in 6 packs at Sam's Club, and they held up for the great majority of the kids the whole year. I usually have to ask a parent to replace maybe one a year, usually because the child has been too rough on it and the rings got too bent to close. I only had one child lose her binder last year. When it didn’t show up after about a wek and a half, I called. It eventually was returned, having been left in a non-custodial parents’ car.
I had the kids turn in their binders every day to me, into designated bus tubs. It was easiest for me to manage this way, rather than have them turn it in somedays but not others. I like to have a routine! Some people give their kids a zippered pocket for lunch money, and maybe another one for school supplies like crayons, etc. I may give one with supplies to some of my kids next year that never seem to have crayons, scissors, or glue at home to do their homework. Although, in the past, I know that I have given some of these things to children, only to have their parents remove them and take them for themselves! One little boy told me that his dad needed the scissors at work so he took them. :(
I had my aide stuff the binders each day that they needed to have something go home, because I didn't want to bother teaching the kids to stuff them. That was probably a "Lazy Heidi" mistake- they should learn to do it themselves- but I just didn't want to take the time. But, the best thing about the binders is that there is very little "I lost my homwork" or "I lost my Reading Chart" going around! It stays in the binder, and as soon as it is lost, I know and can ask about it. The parents that use that excuse gave up on "I lost it" quite soon after the school year started, since it didn't work. It is also easy to tell who is not completing the Read Aloud Chart early on. I can call and remind them that it is important long before the month is out! I also tell parents at the beginning of the year that the homework on the report card is really the parents' grade, since the kids can't possibly do it alone (particularly the reading chart). :) The only excuse they have is the truth- that they just didn't feel like doing it, or couldn't make time. Last year, just about everyone in my class did all of the Read Aloud Charts every time!
I am really glad that I gave these binders a try! I think it was worth it in terms of time and money. It was also far less frustrating trying to get permission slips and other important papers signed and returned. Yeah!