First of all, I want all of my students to have a binder/folder that is usually kept in the classroom. That way the running back and forth to the lockers, the oh I left it at home, the I don't know where it is gets eliminated. I provide the binders/folders for the students because 1) some students take forever to bring one in, 2) I want to start the binder/folder procedures the first day of class, 3) I want the binder/folder prepped with names and beginning papers the first day of class, and 4) I want them all a uniform shape and size so that they can fit where I want them to fit in the classroom. My first couple of years of using binders I had the kids supply their own, and without fail in every class someone would bring in some enormous zippered monstrosity that wouldn't fit anywhere. But I digress.
Second, I switched to folders for two primary reasons. One, putting three-hole-punched-papers into the three rings of the binders seemed to be a task that eluded a majority of my students (primarily the 8th graders; the 7th graders seemed to be able to handle this rather well). Two, due to their size I couldn't effectively have the binders passed out before class, which resulted in much pushing, shoving, etc (a la junior high kids) around the binders as kids went to retrieve them. So, here's how I organized the folders.
I purchased 3-prong folders for every student, color-coded (of course) by class hour. Then I put a label on the front of each with the student's name, class hour, and school mascot - just like I did for the binders.
On the inside front pocket, I placed a label that read "Papers to Turn In." This was to remind them that all papers to be graded needed to be in that front pocket so that I could find them, and anything else they wanted to keep in their folders needed to kept in the back pocket so that I wouldn't have to paw through all of their stuff on a treasure hunt. On days that I collected the folders to be graded, I would spend some time in class helping them get organized - we would go over what needed to be in the front pocket, and in what order. Most of them were actually really good at complying with those directions, which made grading much quicker.
After grading their papers, I would print out a grade report for the week including those papers and all project/quiz/etc grades, then staple the whole bundle together. The rule then was anything that I had stapled needed to disappear by the next time I graded folders - again, helped keep stuff I no longer needed out of my way, making collecting grades much easier.
On the right hand side you can see that there are items in the prongs. I placed their table of contents, class syllabus, and class procedures pages (all color-coded) in the front of the prongs before initially giving them out. I also placed all of the papers from the first unit I wanted them to keep in their folders permanently in the prongs (handouts, note pages, study guides). That way all of those items were in there secured so that they wouldn't get lost, AND I wouldn't have to spend class time passing those pages out. Before starting the next unit, I would insert the next unit's packet in the prongs. A couple of my classes were able to handle this on their own (classes either entirely or predominantly composed of 7th graders), and I would pass out the packets and have them do it themselves. Other classes (entirely or predominantly composed of 8th graders) made a mess of things like this so I did it myself to save the headache of lost papers and destroyed folders.
Some other details. I tried out the "Missing Work Form" I've seen floating around the Internet this semester. Whenever a student didn't turn an assignment in, I slipped a form into their folders that required them to supply an explanation as to why they didn't turn it in. Then I held on to these for parent/teacher conferences, IEP meetings, etc. It worked great with some students, not so great with others. The best part is that for students who forgot to turn it in or planned on turning it in late, this served an extra reminder to get it in (for some reason a "zero" on the grade printout doesn't get their attention, but this sheet does. Sheesh.).
#1: THEY TAKE UP MUCH LESS SPACE!!!!!!
(The rest are in no particular order)
-Easier for one person to collect and handout
-Less cumbersome to pull papers out of and put back in
-Papers in the prongs stay put, much less likely to accidentally tear, all in the correct order
-Easier for students to take home if they need to
-Forces me to have all handout/note pages/study guides prepared and copied for a unit before it begins
-The papers that I actually grade are loose and easy to handle - I don't have to flip through the binders to find things
-I have the option of easily taking the papers out of the folders to take home to grade, or can easily take home an entire class's folders without much hassle or heft (taking home a class of binders is quite a pain)
-Cost! 15 cents for a folder versus 92 cents for a binder - this adds up big time!
Here are the disadvantages:
-Papers are not nearly as easy to add to prongs as to rings
-Because of the above, you can't pass things out piecemeal, you've got to have everything together in advance
-Papers cannot be rearranged without a big hassle
-Cannot clip concept card pack rings around prongs (another future post)
-Much easier for students to lose if they take them out of the classroom
-Having to open and close the prongs on over 100 folders before every unit (this one would not apply to my new hs students - they should be able to handle this)
-Very difficult for students to quickly find their own folders if I don't pass them out (no labels on the side); this is challenging when a student comes in during a different class to get their folder for some reason, or if I were to put the responsibility for getting all of your materials on the students again
I'm torn on what I want to do for the coming semester. For the most part, the advantages of the folders outweigh the disadvantages. The sticking point is that with going back to high school I'd really like to make the students responsible for getting out their own folders/binders, and that's hard to do efficiently with folders because you can't put name labels on the sides like you can binders. I don't want it to take 10 minutes for kids to find their folders; kids can find their binders in just a few seconds. I don't necessarily want to have someone "in charge" of passing out the folders either, because almost every day they need to start using them immediately.
Maybe I could put some kind of class procedure in place where the first person to arrive spreads the folders out on the table where the crates are kept - that way it will be easier to for kids to find theirs? Most of my class sizes are pretty small, so I don't think folders getting knocked around and onto the floor will be a problem - especially since we're not talking about junior high students anymore.
Any opinions out there? What do all of you do?
I have modified my folder system a bit for my new school. If you are interested in starting or tweaking a folder system, check out this post to see the changes I made to see if any of the new ideas would help you out.