Friday, July 22, 2011

Organization of my Teacher Binders

I have been using binders to organized my teaching materials since back in the early '90s.  I was a pioneer back in the day when everyone else was using file folders to store things.  I am VERY picky about the copies I give out to students.  It drives me crazy when I see a poorly copied or crooked paper being passed out by a teacher.  I also prefer to have things typed out rather than handwritten (this is for passed out copies).  It just seems more polished and professional to me.

Organization is definitely a strength of mine when it comes to managing my classroom and teaching my students.  I use binders for all my math units (which are called modules in our series).  I have also fine tuned this organization for the students I teach when it comes to their math materials.  I require every student to bring in either a 1/2" or 1" three ring binder.  I am really a stickler on students needing to have a binder and keep a supply of extra ones so if a student needs one they get one within the first week of school.

The textbook series we currently use in our district for grades 6-8 is MathThematics by Mc Dougal Littell.  I teach 7th grade so we use Book 2.  Our text has a 2002 copyright and this book has a newer updated version.  Our district is under a K-12 Math review for the 2011-2012 school year and we will be choosing a new curriculum to implement for the 2012-2013 school year (as far as I know).  This is a standards based series with a spiral curriculum.  Various math strands are present in each module and the "theme" of the module is what ties it together.  Some themes work great, and some not so much.

I organize all my teaching materials into special Lifetime Binders.  Now these are not so easy to find anymore and they are pricey, but I have had these binders for years and never had any trouble with them.  The company that made them when I purchased them was bought out and now they are called Keba binders (or that is the manufacturer).  I did not pay $25 plus $7 shipping and handling.  I got a great deal on a set of them and payed maybe $15 a piece including shipping.  It was several years ago.  I think that over time they are proving to be a wise investment.  We have a running joke on my 7th grade math team about my "Lifetime Binders" and I told one of the other teachers that when I die I will leave him my Lifetime Binders in my will.  :)  You don't need these fancy binders, but I tell you I think they are worth every penny I spent on them.  I definitely need the 2 1/4" size to fit all materials from a module in them.

Part of my organization is that I color code all papers by section.  I either have copy masters on white paper for running student copies, or if it is an answer key I will write on one of the colored student copies.  This makes it very easy to organize extra copies and teaching resources as we go along in a unit.  This school year was super busy for me with some new initiatives we had and I just did not have the time to put things back in the binder like I could/should have.  The color coding system made it super easy for me to get everything together after the fact and get my binders back together in working order.

I use the same color system with my students and all copies they receive are three-hole punched other than assessments that never go in the binder.  The students love this system and it helps to keep them organized.  I can elaborate on the student binder in another post if anyone is interested.

Module 1 Binder (the cover sheet is on the inside that is why it looks blurry).

You can sort of see the color system.  

Cover sheet and Section Tabs.

Section Tabs up close.

This has all the learning targets for the module.  You can see what color each section is.  When I first started color coding a few years ago I had to write down what color each section was, but now I keep it consistent for every module so I always no what section we are on by the color of the paper.
A couple other things I need to mention is that I use the extra wide tabs because everything that goes in the binder is put in a sheet protector.  My master copies are never three-hole punched, just the copies I make for the students.

I do have a SMARTBoard now so more of my files are digital and will be as we adopt a new curriculum.  I keep all my hard copies in the binder so if I have a sub that person has copies of what they need including the answer keys of everything.

Hopefully this post makes sense and is helpful.  Please let me know if you have any questions.  I would be happy to do a follow up post to explain things in more detail.  My binders definitely keep my materials organized and at my fingertips.  Extra student copies do not go in the binder, they go in color coded file folders (I warned you about my organization), with copies separated by section.


  1. I also love staying organized with binders and am very impressed with your system! I would like to hear more about your student binder.

  2. I also require my high school students to keep organized binders. One of my administraters recently questioned why I make my students keep a binder. I also take a grade on it. A parent was not happy that an organizational tool was part of his child's math grade. I would love it hear about how you have your students set up their binders.

  3. I also use binders to organize my curriculum. I have not used color coding though, and I would really like to give that a try. That you for sharing your awesome system with us.


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