Friday, August 8, 2014

Creating Your Teacher Binder

The new school year is quickly approaching and the ensuing panic is evident on Pinterest with the number of pins about the upcoming first day!

This post is dealing entirely with creating your teacher binder for the year. My binder goes to every meeting, event, and training with me. It serves as my gradebook, data collector, and general calendar. Many teachers manage to do this with multiple binders or folders, but after trying that I found I never had the binder I needed when I wanted it, so one works best for me, but do whatever works for you in your classroom!

Today I completed Step 1 of creating and organizing my teacher binder...

Step one: buy binder. Haha, easy, right?

$3.50 from Target

I bought a heavy-duty 1.5" binder with clear sleeves in the front. I'm going to thoroughly abuse this throughout the year, so spending an extra dollar or two on the "good" binder is definitely worth it. I prefer the 1.5" thickness because it is still comfortable to hold without being overly bulky. Once I get into the 2" range I can't lug it around as conveniently... plus having a 1.5" forces me to stay more organized and eliminate papers I no longer need, but get whatever size you feel you need!

Tabs: $2.99 from Target for a 5 pack {I bought 2}
Folders: $0.50 each

I also bought heavy duty wide tab dividers (two sets of 5 each), and color coordinating folders. I am extremely rough on my binder, so I invested in the plastic folders. They didn't come pre-punched with holes so I used my hole punch. They'll definitely hold up far better than the paper folders I've used in the past. I wanted each folder to coordinate with its tab to keep me organized, and keep my compulsive color-coordinated self in check!

Planner: $5.99 from Target
Binder pouch: $2.99 from Target

I also picked up an adorable monthly planner and pencil holder from Target (both came to less than $10). I never seem to have a pencil or tiny sticky note when I need one, so I thought the binder pouch was a great idea. I didn't buy a planner during the big "back to school" blowout last August, and ended up regretting it around October. By then the only planners I could find were in the $25 range, so I ended up printing one out on computer paper. It worked, but as I said I'm rough and rip things, so I wanted something with a laminated front.

I love these tabs because they are HUGE! I also love Avery because they have easy-to-download templates that my picky printer manages to work with. Before I wasted an entire sheet I wanted to sit down and figure out exactly how I was going to organize my binder.

I sat down to make a list of what I wanted. Because Target had binders that were so inexpensive (my pink one was $3.50, and I got a turquoise one and a yellow one for $2.50 each at 1" thick) I bought several and sat down to determine whether I wanted one master binder, or two seperate binders (the second one serving for gradebook and data entry purposes). After lots of crossing out and combining I settled on one binder. 

I decided what tabs I wanted and threw the Avery tab sheet into the printer 
(the font I used  for the tabs is American Typewriter). 

I wanted my folders to 'match' my tabs. At every meeting there always seems to be an important handout that I inevitably shove into the bottom of my teacher bag or the front/back pocket of my binder never to be seen or referenced again. I made sure to include a folder for each section so it could collect any relevant paperwork I may need. 

In relatively huge type I chose a "school" font and typed matching headlines to my tabs.
I'm utterly unable to cut in a straight line. If you have cute scissors that make a scalloped edge totally go for it here. I had plain scissors, so I rounded the edges to make it look like I can cut like an adult.
I also used packing tape to seal the labels onto the front of the folder.

140pt font - Learning Curve Pro font from

The first tab in my binder will hold all lesson plans - be sure to check back and I'll link my lesson plan inserts (or you can check my TPT store and download one for free from there).

The second tab will hold my gradebook. Our district is currently switching over to Standards-Based Report Cards, so this section will be tweaked and played with in the entries to come.

This section will store all student data (DIBELS, 4Sight, ELA, etc.) in a handy reference. I have found that it is much easier to use a spreadsheet to track student progress than to flip back and forth between varying reports.

Originally I was going to have one section for faculty meeting notes, one for grade-level/team meeting notes, and another section for teacher trainings/district-wide meeting notes, and I realized that it is probably most convenient to stuff them all together so I can reference one from the other at any time.

I used to call this section notes, but ideas sounds far more inspirational, doesn't it?

The student information section will hold students names, birthdays, phone numbers, and home addresses, as well as parent names and contacts. I'm also going to write down their computer logins, and logins for the various websites we use (inevitably we are at library or somewhere outside of my classroom and one or two kiddos forgets their password...). 
This will not showcase any information for a sub. I have an entirely separate substitute binder which I will feature in a later post. This binder is mine and mine alone :)

I run a "Service Club" through our elementary school (an idea I completely stole from the previous school I taught for in Pittsburgh) and I'll keep any member contact information as well as ideas and upcoming projects in this section. 

Lastly I wanted a specific place to store all of the information we are going to receive on the Common Core and English Language Arts (ELA) this year, so I put it in the back of the binder for reference.

Here is my binder assembled and looking ready for school! (Totally kidding, I still need to make all of the paperwork to go inside, but at least I have the materials organized!)

You can absolutely do this with materials you already have in your classroom, or for just the cost of the binder itself and some manilla folders to organize, but because this is my lifeline for the year I wanted quality materials that wouldn't rip in the middle of January...

How do you organize your teacher binder?