Helping Students Stay Organized

The following are two organizational tools that I have students create for my class. One is an overall semester binder. The letter attached is what I provide to my students to place inside their binder as their first sheet. This explains how to divide the binder into 5 sections and what belongs in each section. It follows a typical Explicit/Direct Lesson Plan (EDI format) of Do Now (Warm Up), Class Notes, Assignments, Quizzes/Tests, and Vocabulary/Standardized Test Practice. It usually takes about the first nine weeks before students are able to go on auto pilot on this procedure.

Binder Composition

It’s important to emphasize throughout the transitions during instruction where students should be in their binder. For instance, at the beginning of class students should be in the front of their binders for their warm up, or do now, problems. However, during your instruction you’ll want students to record notes from the lesson, so they will need to be in their “Notes” section within their binder. If students choose to have loose leaf paper out of their binder to do these activities that would be fine. Be sure that students have ample time at the end of class to place these papers in the appropriate sections to insure the organizational structure is maintained.

Within the Assignment section of the binder, I provide students an Assignment Log. This too has been included here, but in two different formats. This has evolved over the years at the request of my students. Initially I had intended for students to utilize this as a means of creating a table of contents to what was stored in the assignment section of their binder. This included the assignment number, date, description and points earned. Over time, students requested that they be allowed to record their other grades for projects, quizzes, tests and the like. I approved and thus modified this to be the Grade Log Sheet. By doing this students can calculate their overall grade in the class faster since I have always done a point system. Students kept a running sum of points earned and points possible. With each grade they were able to see the changes in their overall average for the class. In addition, they were able to see the impact not completing an assignment did on their average in the class. Providing students almost instant access to their grade will instill a sense of ownership and motivation to achieve on the next assignment, quiz, test or project.

Assignment Sheet2


The second organizational tool I have my students create is an Assignment Folder. This does not house all of the student’s assignments. That is what the assignment section of their binder is for. This is simply to house only the assignments associated with the particular unit we are studying. This could be the assignments that are practice for the up and coming quiz or test. I have had students keep a simple three-prong folder as a means of making it easier for students to transport their study materials from school to home and back. Taking home a binder and textbook home almost daily is quite a challenge, especially if your school does not allow backpacks.


Within this folder should be all of their practice problem from their assignments, with the corrected solutions to the ones they missed. For every question they got incorrect they were responsible for re-working the problem show how to arrive at the correct solution, the one I gave them in class. This put the responsibility on the students to some of the error analysis work in understanding, and correcting, their mistakes. I also encouraged students to create 5-10 question self-quizzes daily from this folder as a means of keeping their skills sharp. They were allowed to keep current notes in the pocket of their folder to help them in their studying, including any instructional aids such as foldables or content maps. It is important to remind students and provide sufficient time after each unit to place these items in the appropriate places within their binder. It’s one thing to say to stay organized a certain way, but if reminders and time in class to do so is not provided, chances are the binders and folders will become an ultimate failure.

I would pick up their folders for a folder check the day of the test or quiz. I would assess their completion of their assignments and corrections and assign points accordingly. Each assignment ranged from 5-10 points depending on their complexity and each unit had 4-8 assignments, so this could equate to hefty points if not completed.

In the world of math if students do not practice a variety of problems within each unit, they will not be proficient. With that said, if there is no plan for you as a teacher to assess student work, students probably won’t do it. Therefore, it’s important to have a plan and a procedure in place for students to be aware of in advance with regard to a folder grade. You as a teacher will see on a daily basis who did their assignments and who did not. You may agree that so long as students have all of the work completed, checked and corrected by the time the folders are collected you will take full credit in terms of the points for their grade. Others may keep track on a daily basis and assign a check, check minus and 0 in terms of completion per student and make the necessary phone calls  home to inform parents. Other consequences may be to keep students in from any free time they may have, including lunch in order for their work to be completed. Morning or after school tutoring sessions may be required as well. It’s important to understand that not every child will complete every question on ever assignment. As the teacher you need to determine where your procedure will be if it is not done to your specification and what time limit, if any, will you allow for it to be completed. Many administrators will not allow you to fail a child based on not completing homework, if he/she is passing test and quizzes with good marks. The goal is to assess what students know and are able to do. Homework is simply the formative assessments that take a snap shot of what the students know at particular intervals.

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