ExecFunc-SchoolBinders Sep 17, 2013 8-047This is not “my” system; I have been inspired by several other people who have worked out functional systems. In particular, I refer to these two authors:

That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week by Ana Homayoun (2010)
& Seeing My Time by MaryDee Sklar (2012)

Supplies needed:

  1. Have a separate binder for each subject. Each binder should be 1”, with 5 tabbed dividers. (Of course, if a teacher specifies a 2″ binder, get that for his or her class. If there is a subject with very little paperwork, like wood shop or health, get a ½” binder for that class.)
  2. Put one clear/transparent pocket divider in the 3-rings, in the front of everything else. This is where you will stuff any papers that need to go back and forth from school to home.
  3. Behind the transparent pocket divider, put one pack of 5 dividers: (1) notes, (2) homework, (3) handouts, (4) tests/quizzes and (5) blank paper. Write these labels on the top of each tabbed divider. I like the plastic kind that you can write directly on the tabs; those little white slips can fall out and that’s kind of frustrating.
  4. In the very front of the first divider, put the syllabus for the class.
  5. Do not use spiral binders or spiral notebooks. Use loose-leaf paper from the back of the binder. If a teacher specifies a spiral binder, he or she may want you to paste papers into it, such as science labs or history hand outs. This can get very messy, since the handout is usually the same size as the spiral binder. See if you can find a Science Lab Book, which is bound and bigger than 8 ½ x 11, or a spiral binder with the spiral on the top rather than the side. These are easier to work with over the semester. For an example, see: https://shopping.netsuite.com/s.nl/c.ACCT126734/it.A/id.195/.f

Using This System:

At school, take the binder you need for your class with you (you’ll either carry it in your backpack or get it out of your locker). Put the binder on the desk and open it up. If you have to turn in some homework, take it out of the pocket in front and hand it in. Take out one piece of paper to take notes. When taking notes is finished, put it in the “Notes” section.

If you are in a rush, just put any notes or other papers you get in the clear pocket in front.

When you get home, take out all your folders, one at a time. Go through the papers in the front clear pocket. Put any notes in the Notes section. Do any homework you need to do, and put it back in the clear plastic folder to turn in.

binder organization
This binder has 5 tabs. Since it is for science, one tab is for “Labs” instead of “Homework”.

If you get back any handouts or quizzes/tests, punch them with the 3-hole punch and put in the correct place.

  • Everything should be 3-hole punched.
  • At the end of every semester or quarter, take everything out of the binders and file them at home.

HANDOUTS: Papers of information that the teacher hands out go here. This is not homework. Sometimes, it might make sense to put some of these under the “notes” section. You decide in that case.

QUIZZES/TESTS: Quizzes are the bases for tests; tests are the bases for final exams. Keep all quizzes and tests, even ones that don’t have a good grade. It is useful to go back and review those ones in particular! (Parents: do not stress out so much about a bad score – your child may try to “hide” those quizzes from you, and then they get lost.)

PAPER: Reinforced paper is one of the best things ever invented. The back of each binder should have twenty to thirty sheets of this paper. (Otherwise the backpack gets too heavy.)

SCHEDULE A TIME WEEKLY TO ORGANIZE EACH BINDER. Find a time that works for both of you and one of your parents. For example, Saturday afternoon at 3:00 pm. Once you get used to this, you can go through 7 binders in less than 30 minutes.

home organization of binders
Our evolving system at home. My middle school son takes a binder that he puts ALL of his handouts in, plus whatever binders he needs for that day (his school follows a block schedule). He keeps the others at home on this desk, and we go through the main binder every night to put away the papers in their proper binder.

Some students, especially those with ADHD, need to organize their binders daily. “Having a time every night to check binders and planners, organize papers, and get assignments sorted out will probably be an essential part of their daily structure. … For many of these kids, a timer is essential. For instance, setting a timer for twenty minutes before your son starts a homework block for him to clean out his binders, recycle necessary papers, make sure all homework is in his planner, and get any necessary materials to the space where he or she will be doing homework will help him or her to be able to complete the work with less distractions.”

PLANNER: Ideally, the school planner will have the block schedules noted on each page. It should have enough room in each block / column to write down the assignments. If it is too small or crowded, find another (larger) planner at an office supply store.

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4 thoughts on “Middle School & High School – Organizing Materials

  • September 28, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    Students that have weaknesses in executive function also forget to bring supplies, pencils, pens, paper and textbooks. Its important that students are taught how to organize and manage their materials. These are necessary skills that must be taught and reinforced so that the student can be academically successful. So much time is wasted when they are constantly looking for supplies, assignments or tracking down where they left their notes, or trying to decipher what section of their binder they left there homework in. I have found that students can personalize and create a filing/organization system that works for them. But in order for them to do that they need to see a few examples of different types of organizational systems. Making sure that organizational checks are ongoing at school and at home. Some students may not prefer writing assignments in their planner, so perhaps they might feel more comfortable with using an iPad and using a google calendar instead.

  • September 28, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    As a special education teacher who is currently taking courses in educational therapy its important to address executive functioning difficulties such as organizational skills. Its vital to teach and reinforce these skills at school and at home.

  • September 29, 2013 at 6:07 am

    Hello Daria, I agree with the choice of system, whether it be a planner or Google calendar. It is learning to use it consistently. I remember that I did not start to use an agenda until I was in college. I could argue that it is developmentally inappropriate to ask kids to use a planner… except of course the consequences are dire when they don’t turn in all of their assignments.
    I have seen a few apps for keeping track of assignments, such as iStudiez, but they require just as much attention as writing it down somewhere. People often seek an “easy” answer, as if people can just wave their phone at the board to take a picture because it’s easier. But then they still have to sort through all of their photos… it still takes time. And it takes doing it consistently every day. As you said, that is the *skill* that they need to learn how to do for themselves.
    It simply doesn’t occur to them to check their planner/system. That’s where we have to lend them our prefrontal lobes and remind them.

  • October 6, 2013 at 12:22 am

    I have a tenth grade student in my caseload who has ADHD and emotional disturbance, and he has related to me that he is feeling totally overwhelmed because he has so many teachers, and he doesn’t know which assignment to turn in to whom. I was thinking about how to help him and came up with the idea of an accordion drop file. He could place his completed assignments in color-coded files, and then I could help him create one pocket that he could use for uncompleted assignments. We could color code each assignment to match the corresponding color for each class in the drop files. I think this would be a better option for this student than the binders because the binders are expensive, bulky, and there are multiple numbers of them. For a student like mine, I want to streamline and reduce the amount of steps it takes to successfully manage his workload. As an educational therapy student and RSP Consultant I am learning strategic approaches to helping individual students in my caseload. I feel concerned because this student is unable to access the curriculum at present, and he is such a sweet kid I would really like to see him succeed. I am looking forward to successful implementation of learning strategies so that I can make appreciable positive differences in my students’ lives.

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