As educators we structure our daily routines, lessons, grading procedures, fire drills, and lunchtime procedures. And yet, many teachers are overlooking a critical element that needs structure –the binder and the plan book. Ever wonder why it is so hard for students to open their binder and find the one paper that was handed out during the previous class or remember the homework that was given out two days ago? It’s because many students need a structure for organizing their materials. Having a consistent structure for all students’ binders solves this problem before it even happens, therefore freeing them to focus their time on content.
Just like reading and writing, organization is a skill that needs to be taught, practiced and enforced day after day after day. Students of all grade levels need structure but many times, organization is an area that is overlooked in the curriculum. We can’t assume that our students know how to be organized. We must take it upon ourselves to teach organization each year.
“Taming the Binder Beast” is a concept that grew out of this need. It starts with determining a consistent way to set up each child’s binder as a whole as well as within each content section. This must be agreed upon by all teachers in the given team or grade level. Such elements as log sheets at the beginning of each section, a specific place for blank notebook paper, the specific use for the front pocket of the binder and the order in which content sections are placed in the should be agreed upon by the entire team. In addition, the team should also determine a consistent way to write in the plan book and consistent tools that will be in the classroom such as classroom logs and homework boards. Once these processes have been determined they need to be consistently taught to all students on the team or grade level.
To ensure effective implementation it is critical that all stakeholders be taught these systems. Hence hold a parent meeting to educate them on the system as well. Educating parents will not only help the children be successful but ,if framed correctly, will help parent questions be more specific and content related, thus saving time for teachers and allowing parent/teacher communication to be more efficient and productive throughout the year.
Finally if an organizational system is to be successful school wide it is critical that all grade levels buy into the process. Due to the maturity of students, the system should be tiered to meet their needs as their education progresses. Whether preparing students for the transition to middle school, high school or college, an organizational system should reflect appropriate and varying amounts of supports and expectations. From kindergarten through high school a teacher should be able to ask students to take out a particular worksheet and those students should be able to find it quickly and efficiently in order to maximize instructional time. Yes, the impossible is possible if we all take the time to tame the binder beast.