Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Student Binders- Intro and Home/School connection section

It's the one thing I have to RETHINK every year.
If it's not done right, it drives me BONKERS!!!
And I've YET to find a perfect system......
I'm talking about ways to help students organize their work.

I've tried different things.
I've tried hanging files...and letting the kids file their own work.....NOT a great idea.There are not a lot of 2nd graders that have promising secretarial skills....I know..I've tried to use them!
I've tried regular folders with brads....2nd graders aren't the best at working the brads...plus they tend to break after a while and upside down/backwards paper drives me INSANE!
I've tried pocketed folders.....turns into a hot mess with my little messy marvins.

This year, I elected to put poly binders (the floppy kind) on the supply list instead of the traditional braded folders.

3rd grade used them last year and LOVED them.
I'm hoping to have the same result.
This is going to be their ONE and only folder...( I hope)!!!

I've been reading about different 'binders' teachers use for their students......and settled on this--my version of the STAR binder. (Students Taking Academic Responsibility). I've seen several people use this (or some form of this but maybe a different acronym)

I'm having different sections in their binders to take the place of different folders:
*Home/School Connection
*Language Arts

Each section is separated by a different colored cover page (for lack of a better word) that is tabbed so they can find it easily.
The first section, Home/School connection is going to contain the STAR binder contract:

This serves two purposes: first, it holds the kids accountable for their binder and puts some 'ownership' of it by having them sign a contract AND
second, it lets the parents know my expectation so when they email or call me with an excuse of how little Phillip Johnny Bob forgot his STAR binder today, but it wasn't really his fault because mom forgot to put it in his backpack for him, I can refer to this little gem and tell them how it is so sad that little PJB isn't living up to his end of the agreement of responsibility for his STAR binder......maybe in subtler terms...but you get the gist!!!

The next thing in the STAR binder will be the divider page for the Home/School Connection, which looks like this:
I ran these on bright colored cardstock (this one is bright yellow) so we could distinguish them easily. We bought tabs to put on them and will label the tabs with printable labels.

Next, we put in the Communication log. This has two parts. Let me explain: Last year we had ready made (bought) planners with a section for the students to write in daily, and (if need be) for the teacher to write, the parent to inital and even a spot for the students to write their spelling words in.
This year, out of responsibility to spending our budgets wisely, we elected in K-2 to NOT purchase the planners (they were quite costly) and find other means to communicate. (Kinder never used them, some firsties did, and second was using them but I had this in mind!)
I still want a way to communicate with parents if I need to AND do want the parents to check their binder daily....so my dilemma was do I make something like the planner...and expect the kids to write every day, or not?
THEN , my bff (who is also 1st grade team leader at my school.....SHOUT OUT JJ!!!) told me that the PTA committee had talked of finding some way to inform the parents frequently (weekly, bi-weekly or every six weeks....its still in the works) what the kids were studying so when asked the age-old question "What did you do at school today?" the response won't be " NOTHING".
THAT got me to thinking....what if we had the kids write in the communication piece a little objective or area of study we are doing....then we would have " TABLE TALK" subjects the parents can bring up with the kiddos (i.e " So, I saw in your STAR binder this week you were learning about freshwater and saltwater fish.....what did you learn about them?") For those involved parents it gives them specifics to ask about and feel like they are connected with their school life!
SO, this communication log has a double sided page per week. One side for the students to write on (their learning goals/areas of focus/ what we're doing that interests them) and the other side for the parents and/or teachers to write.

The next thing I include in this section will be some ready-made excuses for :
*PE/Recess - if they miss one, they WILL miss the other..and more than 3 days requires a doctor's note.
*Change in Transportation- we go through this EVERY year...if they change the way they go home, it is school policy they MUST let us know....and EVERY year I have parents "just tell the kid" to change the way they go home, then we have the " Oh, you WILL get on the bus" conversation because your mom didn't tell me you were going home with so-and-so.....
*Absence excuses- these are for the 'missed a day' absences, not " went to the doctor/dentist" occasions.
I will include several of these in their STAR binder so they only need to fill it out and send it in....and there is my documentation for any of those occasions!!

This is the Home/School connection part of our student binders. Tomorrow we'll talk about the other sections in our STAR binders

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