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Getting Students Organized - Binders, Folders & Notebooks, Oh my!!

My first day of school is still over a month away, but my mind is swimming with everything I need to do to get ready!!  I know some teachers probably have a routine, and know exactly what they need to do because its the same each year.  That would be wayyyy tooo easy for me.  Nope.  I have to change things up every doggone year!!  At least a few things anyway....

I like to keep things fresh and I get bored when I do the same thing, year after year.  Also, I like to reflect honestly about what did not go so well and work on improvements.  It's probably a good thing.

So, what started out as a little bit of reflection, has turned into whirlwind of new things to try.  It doesn't help that I'm reading a few really great teaching books.  Don't get me wrong, reading is a great thing.  All of the great teaching books that I have read over the years have grown me into a pretty good, not so bad, obsessed, decent teacher.  However, when I've got more than one or two on the burner at the same time, my mind starts to fill up and I start to get a bit anxious about how to do it all!! 

Here's a peek at what I'm reading....

Great matter what math program you've got!!  Only takes 5-15 min. a day to implement.
Amazing reading and writing activities for every student in your classroom!! 
Marzano books are...well...dry.  But, if you want to understand the CCSS at ALL grade levels and how they compare with yours, you NEED this book!!  It is also a great resource for creating assessments for the standards.  I will have this book dog-eared in no time!!
I have had this book since 1992 (a very old edition), but it still ROCKS!!  Marilyn Burns is amazing.  This book will help you to differentiate math with matter what math program you use.  It really is for grades k-8!!  I used the menu activities with first graders over 15 years ago and I am going to use them with third graders next year!  The book also gives a straight forward explanation of of all K-8 math strands and how to help children better understand the concepts.  It is shocking at how well this book correlates with the Common Core, considering that Burns came out with this book in 1992!!

So, now you see why my brain is on over-load right now.  

I have also been thinking about how to help my students get organized this year.  If you are like me, you obsess over binders, folders and notebooks.  What kind will we use for which subjects, what will be put in them, will there be tabs, if there a tabs, what will they be, where will they be kept, what color will we use.....and it goes on and on like this.  It actually keeps me up at night thinking about it.

I thought I would share what I've come up with so far.....and I stress, "so far", because I have been changing my mind by the hour.


This one was easy.....we are using a binder with tabs as our Reader's Notebook.  See my previous post about this:  READER'S NOTEBOOKS.


This one was tougher. I have decided that we are going to use a binder, no a folder, no a binder...well...either a binder or a folder.  Inside the prongs (or rings, if a binder is used) we will keep all of the handouts and references sheets for our entire writing unit (which will be changed out as the unit changes), and a copy of our writing goals. 

We will also keep a composition notebook, which will be used to record mini-lesson notes, pre-writing and to practice writing strategies.

We will also have a spiral notebook for drafting.  I am considering using yellow legal pads instead, which will help students to differentiate between a draft and a final copy.  Final copies will be done on regular loose-leaf paper (these will be kept in the pockets of the folder/binder).

The last thing for the folder/binder will be a zipper pouch for pencils and colored flair pens (we use different colors for drafting, revising and editing).

As I write about this, I am already thinking it's too much and too complex.....ugh!!


I have purchased graph paper composition books for each student.  We will use these to record lesson notes and to practice strategies.  I am hoping to make this math notebook as interactive as possible, and useful for students as a reference all year.  (Runde's interactive notebook is way beyond my thirdies, but I am using that as my model).


To help my students learn those pesky common core language standards, I am having them do morning bell work in the form of an interactive language notebook.  I will use a teaching/practice page for each skill, that they will paste into their composition notebook on the left side. Then on the right side, they use the skill within the context of a journal entry (a prompt may be used).  I have put together the teaching/practice pages already.  If you teach third grade and you would like them, you can get them at my TpT store:

BEE Books

We use these every year and they are invaluable.  Our BEE (Bring Everything Everyday) Books are a 1-inch binder and they contain our planner, plus 5 sections for keeping students organized between home and school.  These sections are plastic page protectors with labels for each section:  1) Left at Home 2) Back to School 3) Homework 4) School Contact Info and 5) Parent Communication.  I also like to have students keep a zipper pouch inside for money transport.  When things get passed out, they are sorted into the plastic pouches, so they can be easily found by parents.

Students bring these home and back to school each and every day.  Parents check them every night and sign the planner.  I fill out the Parent Communication form each week (or more for some students).   Mostly everything that gets sent home, goes home inside the BEE Book.  They work great!! If you are interested in using BEE Books, you can check out my new product that has everything you'll need (of course, I'm always happy to customize for my blog readers)!

 What do you think?  I would love to hear how you are organizing for the new school year!! 

Love and peace,


  1. You are a "thinker" and I love to read your posts!

    That Marzano book has been a life saver for me! I went to their Common Core training this summer. I am teaching K-5 technology. I love the scales showing the progression.

    I'm not teaching math this year, but I love the idea of graph paper composition books. So many great ideas!

    Suntans and Lesson Plans

  2. hi,
    oh i lover your post! this was awesome.It’s great to read your blog! I am enjoying your blog and all your organizational tips completely!

    A5 Zipped Binders & Folders