Saturday, August 11, 2012

MS SunFun - Math Class Binders

The theme this week is Student Math Class Notebooks. Instead of notebooks, however, I like for my students to keep a 1 inch 3-ring binder. My reasons for this rather than an Interactive Notebook is that there is no cutting or gluing necessary, which cuts down on supplies needed for class as well as time to cut & glue stuff into the notebook. Instead, all handouts are hole-punched and students have blank hole-punched lined and graph paper to use. The other benefit is that the order can be changed and new pages inserted at any time. If a student is absent, they can just continue with their class work and if they later work on an assignment that happened while they were gone, they can just insert it into the right place. Homework or classwork can be turned in to me and then easily returned to the binder. Students' binders go back and forth between home and school.

The binder is organized into three sections with dividers:

  1. Notes/In-class projects (basically, everything that happens in class, but isn't a quiz or test)
  2. Homework/Journaling (all assignments that get taken home)
  3. Quizzes/Tests, along with corrections and retakes
This year, I will be using Left Hand Page and a Right Hand Page designations for notes, as described by Megan on her blog. Students will use the RHP to write down and work out problems and take notes, and they will use the LHP to process the material, mostly through reflective journaling questions that I will ask at the end of class, as well as a general summary of the day's lesson and a list of any questions that they still have.

Another change for this year is that I will ask students to number the pages in each section and make a table of contents at the front of the In-class section. Since I give them an assignment sheet that lists all of the homework assignments for the unit, that page can be their table of contents for the homework section. I do a binder check every so often (more if the kids seem especially disorganized) where I look to see that they have the three sections organized and that they have blank lined and graph paper, as well as the required supplies for class. During the binder check, I also check in with students to see if they know what assignments, if any, they are missing, and what assignments they have not received full credit on and that they need to correct before the end of the unit. It's part of the grade for the binder check that students have a pretty accurate view of any outstanding work that they need to complete and know what concepts/topics they need to review or correct. My hope is that this helps them see the benefit of having an organized binder and puts more of the responsibility of knowing what they are supposed to do on them.

My other little tip for keeping a binder is that at the end of each unit, students clean out each section, staple them together, and put them in a file folder that I keep for each student in a crate in my classroom. This year, I may ask them to reflect on the unit and create a summary sheet of the most important concepts and skills, which they will put at the front of the packet. At the end of the year, students have a nice folder of review materials that is organized by chapter. I'm not sure yet how to effectively help them use it to review for final exams, so if you have any good ideas about that, I'd love to hear them.

(This is not from my class, but since all of my classroom stuff is still put away for the summer, it will have to do)


  1. I love your ideas. I,too, use a 3-ring binder and plan to divide it into sections: Notes, daily work, vocabulary...Each assignment will be checked for completion and stamped. If the assignment is incomplete, the stamp will go on the last problem that was completed. Students will have the opportunity to finish the assignment for partial credit. Notebooks will be checked about two weeks. What I'm looking for are the stamps..this tells me how much credit the page is worth (2 points for complete, 1 point if they completed after the initial check, 0 if incomplete)We'll see how this works after the first grading period..may have to make adjustments.

  2. Anna - using a 3 ring binder seems so much simpler than a spiral notebook. I'm new to my school/district ... think I'll ask if it is OK to require a 1" binder. Love the idea of stapling each unit together and saving them as a reference for future use!