WARNING: This is a long one...
I provide a folder for each student. The folders are color-coded by class. The front of each folder has the student's name, the class name, and a pawprint (for our mascot).
Inside the folder on the first day of class is:
1) Bell work sheet for the week
2) The copy of the syllabus they take home to have signed
3) Grade labels - every week when I return their graded folders, I write their current percentage in the class in the space for that week. Not only do they know exactly what their grade is, but they can tell if they're going up/down and at what pace. Takes care of the kids/parents who tell me "But it was an A- last week - how can it be an F now?" This was the first semester I tried this - the kids LOVED it.
4) A copy of the syllabus to be kept permanently in the prongs of the folder for future reference
Back page of syllabus, plus Folder procedures and expectations. Instead of passing out papers, I tuck them into the folders. Sometimes I put in everything for the week, sometimes just the day - depends on what makes the most sense for that particular lesson.
Students keep work to be graded in the front of their folders, notes/handouts go in the prongs. The day they are due I take about 5 minutes out of class to make sure they know what order their papers in the front pocket should be in, what papers should be placed in the prongs, and allow them to prepare their folders for grading. If they just sit there, ignore me, and turn in a great big mess, I do not treasure hunt; I will not grade it. Now obviously not everything we do is paper-based; a lot of what I return are project rubrics, feedback forms, etc. I grade the folders every week, staple all of the work along with a copy of the itemized grade report together, and place it in the back of the folders. I also write their current percentage on the grade labels.
On Mondays, I take the first few minutes of class to have them look over their grades and their work. If they have any questions or see any errors I may have made, they have that week only to question it (that way they still have the work in question; eliminates the accusations right before report cards that I "messed up" their grade).
The last "first day" page is a summary of the procedures/expectations for when a sub is in the class. These have helped tremendously over the years. This is the last piece of paper that I place in their prongs myself; the rest of the semester they are in charge of placing their notes/handouts in them. High schoolers are much better at operating these prongs that junior high students, but the first few times it's a REALLY good idea to explain how they work AND walk around and make sure they do it right. Seriously. And again, I designate time for them to do this the day the folders are due, so no excuses.
The last thing I set up in their folders are their hall passes. Every student is given two hall passes per quarter to leave the room for any reason (bathroom, water fountain, locker) - that's it. Unused passes can be redeemed at the end of the term, the "rewards" vary. I'd say about 95% of my students this past semester didn't use any of their four passes, so this is very reasonable, at least at my school.
Folders are kept in a labeled file crate in the classroom. Before class I spread them out on this table which is directly in front of the door as they come in. I write a number at the top left of each folder, so that students can easily find their own without knocking everyone else's on the floor.
When they leave, the kids drop their folders in the crate. I pick up the stack on my way out to hall duty, and put them in numerical order as I rule the halls with the iron fist of justice. I keep the crates below the table, so they're easy to switch out.
If I have a smaller class or two, I combine crates to save space.
This may seem like a lot of work, but here a few things to consider:
1) The first time you assemble the folders, it will take a long time. It will go significantly faster subsequent times, especially since you will obviously recruit students to help you : ).
2) The whole grading/printing grade report/stapling/writing grade percentage routine probably sounds time consuming. I've found it actually saves me a TON of time, and extra hassles.
-I never have to take time out of class to pass out/collect things.
-I never have to worry about keeping track of papers for absent students, because I've already put them in the folders.
-Since all student work is kept in the folders, it has completely eliminated the student claim of "I turned it in! You lost it!"
-Giving the weekly printout eliminates "I didn't know..."; also, it's easy to catch if I make a silly data entry mistake (like when you accidentally input a 20 point assignment as 200 points...).
-I never have kids pestering me to see their grades because they know they will see them the first day of every week. I do have the occasional kid who wants to argue during the last week of the quarter, but they don't have a leg to stand on.
-Filling in the percentage on a weekly basis forces me to stay on top of my grading so I don't get behind.
-More than that, I am ready at a moment's notice for a surprise parent meeting or a last minute invitation to an IEP meeting, because I can just grab the student's folder and show numerical progress over the quarter (since I teach home ec, that's all the parents want to know from me - the grade percentage, nothing about their actual learning). Sad, but true.
Some Random Details
-So far I've only used paper folders, which really only last a semester. Since they only cost 10 cents a piece in August, I don't mind this - I just make sure I buy enough in July/August for both terms, because the price goes up to almost 50 cents a piece the rest of the year.
-There will be kids who somehow manage to completely tear theirs up, even though they never leave the classroom. I make sure the kids know at the beginning of the semester that should such disaster strike, it will be their responsibility to fix the folder or replace it. In the correct color.
-Be prepared for artwork to appear. Perhaps stress that any added decor needs to be school appropriate.
So, that's my folder system. I love it - hopefully there was something in all of this that can help you out!