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5 Creative Ways to Organize Your Classroom Better Using 3-Ring Binders

high school teacher binder

Organization is a teacher’s best friend — well that, and coffee, too.

If you’re an elementary, middle or high school teacher, then you understand how having all of your resources in one easy-to-find location is key to making this school year easier and better than last year.

Many veteran teachers find that using three-ring binders is a great way to keep all of their important documents organized.

So why not use them to keep your classroom organized as well?

Here are 5 practical and effective ideas for incorporating binder organization into your classroom.

Teacher binders

Using a three-ring binder as a teacher resource can be invaluable. For starters, a binder can allow a teacher to combine their most used resources — from their monthly calendar and lesson plans, to student profiles and templates — into one source that can easily be thrown in a bag at the end of the day.

Here are some tips for creating your own teacher binder:

  • Choose a heavy-duty binder that will hold up for an entire school year and beyond.
  • Put a table of contents at the beginning of your binder. This not only helps keep your binder organized, but also makes it much easier to find what you’re looking for inside quickly.
  • Rather than doing a workday calendar (i.e. Monday thru Friday), include a full 7-day calendar. Sadly, a teacher’s week doesn’t always end on Friday.
  • Consider including a Miscellaneous section for papers that don’t quite fit other sections.
  • Come up with your binder sections. You can find plenty of advice from other educators online about which sections should be included in a teacher binder, but those might not work for you or your students. Feel free to add or subtract sections based on what will best fit your unique needs.

All-classroom binders

There are many different uses for binders in a classroom setting. Regardless of the subject or resource, any classroom binder can be helpful for keeping things organized if you implement the general following tips:

  • For the sake of organization (and your own sanity), consider using a separate binder for each resource or subject. Not only will you be more organized this way, but it’ll also keep the bulk (size) of your binders down.
  • Plastic sheet protectors are a wonderful organization tool. Additionally, they keep your papers safe from rips and smudges. In particular, make sure your master copies of papers are stored in sheet protectors to ensure their longevity.
  • Using index tabs makes it quicker and easier to find what you need. Bonus points if these tabs are erasable (and therefore reusable)! Pro tip: You can easily write on plastic divider tabs with sharpie and erase it with a little bit of nail polish remover. Be sure to use the non-acetone variety of nail polish remove though, just to be on the safe side.
  • All binders should be editable for future use. It can save a lot of time if you can just remove the previous year or semester’s worth of pages and refill them.
  • Don’t fail to utilize your binder spines! You can write on them so you know exactly what’s in each binder at a glance.

Student binders/portfolios

Binders can also be a great tool for tracking the progress of each student in your class. Student portfolios are a great way to store all of the work students have completed during a semester or school year, and it makes it easier to compare early works with later ones as proof of growth.

Creating a binder for each student is perfect for having an organized place (outside of your teacher binder) to keep students’ homework pages, assignments they may have missed while absent, and student information (like reading logs and IEP forms). Just make sure to utilize some of the organization tips covered above to keep things tidy and easy to find.

Substitute teacher binder

Having a substitute teacher doesn’t always have to be a giant headache. With some basic planning and a handy substitute teacher binder, having to be absent from your classroom can go as smoothly as possible.

To help your substitute out, consider creating a binder that includes these components:

  • A welcome page
  • Important contact numbers (admin office and nurse, especially) and a map of the school
  • Resources for assistance (This can include names of neighboring teachers and who to contact if there’s a problem in the classroom.)
  • Daily procedures (This could include a simple explanation of how and why things are done, for clarification.)
  • Class roster and seating chart
  • Useful forms and hall passes
  • Helpful tips on using the technologies in the classroom (i.e. smart board, document reader, projector, hooking up a computer, etc.)
  • Names of students who may need to leave the classroom during the day for various reasons (such as support classes or medical needs)
  • Your school’s emergency preparedness procedures
  • Emergency lesson plan
  • Activities for students who finish their work early

In-class organization binders

Binders can also be a great way to organize activities for your students. Here are a few creative ideas, primarily for elementary and middle school educators:

Puzzles

Some binders can be the perfect storage solutions for activities like puzzles. By adding a simple zipper pouch (like those meant for pens and pencils) you can store puzzle pieces easily in a binder without fear of a broken box. Simply label the spine with what the puzzle is. If you upgrade to a clear view binder, you can cut off the picture of the finished puzzle on the box and slip it into the sleeve for easy reference.

Mobile art station

Like a puzzle binder, you can store simple art supplies in zippered pouches and include pocket folders for holding blank paper or printed templates.

Phonics flip book

For students still learning to read, you can create phonics flip books.

Whichever grade you teach, organization can be your best friend. And 3-ring binders are the perfect tool!