Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Teacher Tuesday - Handouts/Notes/Binder System


I first blogged about this new "binder system" I had put in place in my classroom back in September of 2019.  I'm happy to report that it's STILL going strong and still one of the best things I ever did for my sanity ;)  Today I'm resharing the post since I had a ton of interest in it and questions about it (as well as the worksheets/notes pages I make) after I shared a DITL over on my Instagram page last week

After my first semester in the classroom I realized that having students complete book work as homework was NOT working for me or them.  Homework should be an assessment of how well they are understanding and mastering concepts and a tool for studying as well as lesson prep.  
Since math is skill-based some sort of daily practice is necessary.  The way I structure my classes is lecture/notes/guided instruction followed by monitored practice and then individual practice which typically takes place at home.  

Assigning them a set number of problems from a textbook wasn't serving the purpose of homework which was to give me and them accurate feedback and a means of planning further practice/studying.  They were either 1) spending a bulk of their time copying down the problem and THEN working it out or 2) Not copying down the problem and then having no quick way to see how/why they made their mistake once they got their graded paper back.

I decided then to take the problems that I would normally assign from the book and essentially turn them into worksheets - so they were getting the exact directions and questions I wanted them to work on and would have the problem, their work and my feedback all in one concise place for review and studying.  It works beautifully for so many reasons and was an absolute game changer for my classroom.

This is just one example of what a homework assignment may look like in my class...

... it's neat, organized and kids aren't spending time copying down the problems, drawing the cartesian planes, etc.  It also makes grading papers SO MUCH EASIER for me which is awesome since I grade every student's paper every day and make it my goal to get them their paper back with a grade and feedback by the next class period.  The numbers at the top of the page correspond to 8th grade math, chapter 3, section 4 so if they do need to look in their textbook for additional practice and/or clarification they know exactly where to find it. 

It took me a few years to take my textbooks and turn them into homework pages, but it's been so worth the time and effort as now I just tweak them yearly.  Some years I'll make them longer or shorter depending on the class, I've added short answer questions to pretty much all of my assignments in recent years and have gotten to the point where I have multiple versions for each section of material.

I make everything in Microsoft Word simply because it has the easiest equation editor and is the simplest for me to use.

I've done the same thing for notes handouts as well.  I was never a fan of using a textbook for taking notes because again - they're not going to get out their notes page at home, then open their book and see what the original word problem said, etc.  And asking them to copy the problems from the board and then write down the steps of the solution made note-taking go SLOW so they get these kinds of notes pages from me every day and we fill them out together as we work through the lesson.  They work well because I can make sure kids have the essential information and they can focus on getting down all the necessary steps.  Their homework assignments typically mirror the notes as well which is great because when they ask me about a homework problem I can refer them to the exact spot in their notes where that was covered. 

As we move along throughout the year my notes handouts may look a little more "sparse" than this as their note taking skills are improving.

I also keep other resources, alternative assessments and activities in the binder by section order so that as I'm lesson planning I can actually remember what resources I have ;)

Also, since math is skill-based and the best way to study math is to DO math I also give students at least two versions of a practice test that directly corresponds to what their actual test will look like.  I always tell them that there's never a secret or surprise about what's going to be on their test... what I'm testing them on is if they can perform that skill well.  It's one of the many things that I love about math.  They'll work on one practice test in class and we'll go over it together, then they'll get one to work on independently at home and I provide an answer key in our Google Classroom.

Okay... so that brings me to the binders ;)  I've been using these homework and notes pages for years now and while I keep digital copies of everything on my Google Drive I felt like every year I was recreating answer keys and I like having hard copies of them because it makes grading WAY easier.  I also use a document camera ALL THE TIME and like being able to show the kids my keys when we're reviewing and wanted everything in one place.  Hence... the binder system...

I bought  3 boxes of these binders and now have one for each chapter of each subject.  It's been great because all of my resources are in one spot and the binder is small enough that I can pop it in my bag and take it home with me for the night.

I also have a binder for each Semester exam as well as Emergency Sub Plans for the day that you wake up sick and just don't have time to write a detailed plan.  I'll plan on sharing that binder in another post.  

Happy Tuesday, friends!!!

PS - this post contained an affiliate link - thank you so much for reading and supporting my blog.


  1. Everytime you do these posts, I'm stuck by 1) how thoughtful and intentional you are for your students, 2) what a colossal amount of work you put into it, and 3) how much better I would've done in math with a teacher like you! 💗

    1. Yes! I totally agree with this comment.

    2. That is exactly what i was coming to say...Andrea, I'm in awe of your dedication to your profession. Your students are lucky to have you.

  2. Your students are so lucky to have you! What a wonderful way to handle this common problem. I'm sure you know this, but you could make a small fortune selling these on Teachers Pay Teachers! Even as a mom and not a teacher, if I knew what books these went with, I'd buy them for my child to work on at home as a supplement!


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