Middle School Teachers: how do you keep kids organized?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Ms.Holyoke, Jun 15, 2019.

  1. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    Jun 15, 2019

    I did a really bad job keeping my students organized this year. Most of them recycled all of their papers (including notes) and lost every test/quiz. I started by making sure that every kid had a binder and we labeled the dividers, but eventually they just stopped bringing it. We are not allowed to enter grades for binder checks at my school.

    Next year, I am definitely keeping all student materials IN the classroom so they won’t have to worry about bringing them.

    I’m trying to decide between the following organizational systems and I would love your thoughts!

    Binders with sections notes, classwork, and tests. I was thinking of having the kids recycle their classwork at the end of a unit but keep their notes and tests. I would keep all binders IN the classroom. My concern is that binders are bulky and it’s hard to store.

    Notebooks for notes and a folder for classwork. I would have students glue notes into their notebooks. I figure the gluing will be annoying but at least they will keep their notes all year and I can have students recycle everything in the folder at the end of a unit. Again, I would keep notebooks and folders in class. I would have a separate file folder for student tests that stays in the room. I was thinking that I would maybe return tests in the folders? but that would also mean that I have to file 90 tests before I return them.

    Does anyone have any thoughts?
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2019
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  3. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    I gave up trying to organize them my way.

    Everything in my room is organized how I want it, and the kids have to use my method when they use my stuff. I tell them to use either a binder OR folder for my class. I tell them what to keep and what to toss. However, I never check it, and some kids never do it. Other kids do. Some kids are a hot mess with organization, but they know where their things are, so I don’t care how they keep it.
     
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  4. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    The issue is that my students wouldn’t be able to know where their things are if I didn’t tell them where to keep it. I’m surprised that yours do!
     
  5. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    A facetious answer to your question: Mace? :p
     
  6. rpan

    rpan Cohort

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    Jun 16, 2019

    I don’t organise anything for them. I tell them it’s their notes, their work so it’s their responsibility. They are teenagers and are old enough to learn or know how to organise their things.
     
  7. tchr4vr

    tchr4vr Companion

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    Jun 16, 2019

    Just a question. Why is it so important to you that they keep things organized? Do they need to keep their classwork and tests? Notes I can understand, I'm assuming they're used for studying, etc. But, at that age, it should be on them. If they don't want to keep them, or can't organize themselves--isn't that on them? If you can't do binder checks, what is the reasoning for keeping everything?

    I don't teach middle school, I teach high school, and I would like my students to keep things--classwork, etc., because I know it will help them on tests. And I tell them that--I also tell them that if we are taking notes, I may allow them to use their notes on a test--but it is on them to have them or keep them. If they don't, it's their fault. I don't have time in a day to make sure they're organized. I take a little time at beginning of the year to give them suggestions and help them (I teach college level courses), but ultimately, it's on them.

    Just curious as to why this is so important.
     
  8. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    I think it’s different teaching middle school vs. high school. My students are coming from elementary school and haven’t had to deal with six different teachers with different expectations. I think it’s part of my job as a middle school teacher to help kids organize.

    When I didn’t help kids organize this year, I ended up with kids not completing Do Nows since they didn’t bring a binder, kids throwing notes away (so they didn’t use it as a reference to study), and kids papers all over my floor. Kids also couldn’t do test corrections since they lost them! I want my kids to rely on their notes first before asking me to. If they’re in a notebook and we are reviewing for a test, I could say “use pages 12, 13, and 14” to help you review.
     
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  9. TrademarkTer

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    Jun 16, 2019

    I think giving open notes quizzes from time to time might be helpful. If a kid can ace the open notes quiz without their notes, then perhaps having organized notes is not necessary for that particular student's success.
     
  10. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    Again, I think it’s different in middle school vs high school. I can’t just tell my kids to organize and expect them to. They need directions about how to do it, so I’m looking for a good system. I would have some students who coos use the notes to help them not organize because they don’t know how. In high school, I agree that kids should organize themselves.

    I like the idea of having some open notes quizzes to teach students the importance of keeping an organized notebook/binder! A math teacher at my school had the first test open notebook since she used an interactive notebook.
     
  11. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    I don’t teach middle school but I am departmentalized. I use a composition book with a table of contents for notes. Some topics have more than one page so we number it 12a, 12b, etc.

    I don’t do an interactive notebook per se since we don’t glue in anything. The kids seem to remember more when they do the writing.

    We use a separate composition book for practice.
     
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  12. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    Jun 16, 2019

    Not all of them do. However, that’s on them.

    They do have to be taught organizational techniques, but if you keep doing it for them they will rely on it and never do it themselves. I have 8th graders, so I’m getting them ready for high school where nobody is going to coddle them. I had to do more assistance with 7th graders. I’m sure the sixth grade does even more.

    Mine are mainly bad about wanting additional copies of things or leaving things in lockers. I don’t make extra copies or let them return to lockers, so they either keep up with it or do without. Most learn.
     
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  13. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    I think I have decided on the notebook and the folder for extra papers (kept in the classroom). I'm still trying to decide how to organize tests/quizzes. I might just pass them back and then collect all of them and keep them in a cabinet.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2019
  14. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    Do you have to keep the tests and quizzes?
     
  15. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    I'm not sure where the kids would put them without a binder. I personally want to keep them in the room because kids can cheat on test corrections/test makeups when they take them home. This has happened way too much this year!

    However, next year I am planning on doing all online tests + quizzes. It makes it easier for the kids to practice for standardized tests and MUCH easier to grade. So I might just be passing back their score report...but I'm not sure if I could print their answers and make packets...
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2019
  16. CharRMS

    CharRMS Companion

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    Jun 19, 2019

    Simple answer: I don't.

    By middle school (7th grade here), it is their responsibility to keep up with their work, notes, etc. I give them the tools or knowledge on how to keep their things organized, but ultimately, I leave it up to them. The first month or so is a bit tough for some kids, but they usually learn quickly. A few of them never do because they are already used to others being organized for them.

    Some of the things I have used are spiral notebooks for notes, poly folders with prongs, and binders. I am cutting back on spiral notebooks this upcoming year for notes because I want to switch up how I give notes and use a version of Cornell Notes. The folders were used to keep their Bell Ringer and current handouts or current work. I showed them how to use the prongs for their bell ringer, and I showed them if they used them properly their Bell Ringer wouldn't fall out. Some did and some didn't; a lot decided to bring in a binder. I am personally not a fan of binders because the sound of 30 binders being opened and closed at once or in succession drives me nuts! The kids sure have fun with that when they find that out! ha! However, I realized that with the change in my notes this year, a binder will be a must. I plan on showing them how to keep their binder using dividers, but I'm not going to check it to see if its organized or whatnot. It's their responsibility to do that for themselves. Not all will agree, but that's okay. I feel like Middle school is the year where kids need to start transitioning to be more self-motivated and responsible because high school, college, and beyond they will need to be responsible for themselves.

    The one thing that I do keep for students is their graded work. I have crates with hanging folders where they put their work after they get it back. We clean them out after every quarter is up. I do this for documentation reasons because it's easy if a parent comes for a meeting and asks about their child's grade. I can print out the report, pick up the folder, and show them exactly what the child did or didn't do on each assignment and why he/she received the grade he/she did.

    I also have table baskets that the students are allowed to keep their spiral notebook and folder in if they wish, so they are not required to take it with them. These are stored in a bookshelf near the door. I used to require them to leave their spiral notebook, but after two years of that, it became too much of a hassle. So now, it's there if they want them or they can take them to their lockers. I'm not sure how these baskets will work out this coming year with binders; they may just store their writing journals (something else new).

    Middle school and organization is hard. I probably would not keep their binders in your room. Make the kids responsible for that. If you wanted to keep tests, then using hanging folders and crates since they take up less room. Use class time to do test corrections, and have a rule that tests don't leave the room. Be sure to have an assignment for those not doing test corrections though. Also, do what it best and CHEAPEST for you. Don't spend a lot of money on organizing the kids. The best value you can get is teaching the kids tools to be organized themselves.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2019
  17. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    What do the fourth and fifth grade teachers in your district do? I taught fourth grade this past year. After I set them up with their materials in August and guided their use for a couple of months, I then gave up on trying to control how they used their materials. Even at that age, they start to become self-aware enough to know what works for them and what doesn’t. For those who couldn’t handle it on their own, I provided extra organizational support (in the sense that I prompted them where to put things but didn’t actually do it for them or check to see that they did it). Some actually wrote homework in their planners, some didn’t. Some used their folder how I wanted them to, some didn’t. Some put their folders and notebooks where I asked them to, some didn’t. Some kept their personal storage space within the classroom (either a small basket or drawer) neat, some didn’t. But I learned quickly that me trying to control it didn’t make a difference one way or another. I accepted that I’m a person who goes a little overboard with organization, even compared to other adults. So why should I expect that kids conform to my preferences for organization? As long as it wasn’t hurting their performance or wasting class time, I didn’t see the need for me to micromanage how they keep their things. Sure, I provided modeling and guidance, but it’s ultimately up to them. If fourth graders can handle that much autonomy with organization, I’m not sure why sixth graders can’t. I would find out where your students are leaving off with organization at the end of elementary school.
     
  18. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    Jun 21, 2019

    My school is 6-8 so I’m not sure what they do. The other 6th grade math teacher has kids leave binders in the classroom. She said it’s a lot for the kids to get used to lockers, etc. and they just don’t bring them. I’ll probably encourage kids to leave it in the room but allow kids to take it home, etc. if they ask. I did allow my kids autonomy with organization this year and it was a disaster. I’m not joking when I say that probably 3 kids out of 94 kept papers that I asked them to keep. Most of my kids brought nothing to pass except a pencil, if I was lucky. Over half of my kids recycled important notes or left them on the floor. I understand giving kids autonomy, but that’s why I do want to try something a bit more structured with my kids next year. The notebook/folder idea was from a math teacher in my school that’s been teaching a few years and she said it was helpful and that she’s never found kids (at my school) who were able to keep a binder organized.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2019

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