Saturday, May 5, 2012

Organizing the Teacher Files

Over the years I’ve used many different methods for organizing my classroom files, books and materials.  Like most beginning teacher I started out with the must have 4 drawer file cabinet.  Mine now resides in my garage storing my children’s library collection from when they were little.

As the years went by and my files grew.  I found it hard to find what I was looking for.  All the hanging folders were the same putrid olive green and all the folders were manila.   I had been given several boxes of slightly used colored hanging file folders with matching file folders.  It occurred to me that I could color code my files, making it easier to find things and to put things back.  I began with red for language arts, blue for math, green for science, yellow for art and black for social studies.  As the years went by, my grade levels changed frequently and my files grew and grew.  I was now up to two file cabinets and a ton of files.  At the end of each year I’d weed through the files, pull out what I knew I’d never use, and get rid of the extra few copies I had saved.  

As time went on I found that some of my files were enormous, especially the unit studies like the solar system or life cycles.  I started placing all of these units into binders.  Having everything in a binder made it easy to flip through the pages to find what I needed and put back immediately.  No more pulling random papers out of file folders, heading to the copy room then returning to the classroom and telling myself, “oh I’ll file those later.”  I even had a tub labeled “To Be Filed” 

Well, that “To Be Filed” tub grew from an overflowing tub, to a copy paper box.  It was then that I decided to make the switch.  I love the clean look of binders sitting all nice and neat and labeled on a shelf.  I love that all the papers are in plastic sheet protectors.  Now I just take the binder with me, take out the sheet protector, place it on the copy machine, then put it right back in the binder when I’m finished.  Yes, I still have to put the binder back on the shelf, but that only takes a few seconds.

Just in case you were wondering I haven’t let go of my obsession for color-coding I’ve now started buying red binders for Language Arts.  I use pretty printed scrapbook paper for the front and spines of the binders, if they aren’t already colored.  I make a cute cover and adhere it to the scrapbook paper.  I then laminate it so it can slide easily into the cover of the binder.  Here’s a trick, I discovered, maybe you already know this- when inserting the piece for the spine, open up the binder bending the covers backwards towards each other. This helps to slide the spine right in without bending the paper. 

The best place I’ve found to buy binders is Costco for the white ones and Target or Walmart for the colored ones.  As for those page protectors, Costco wins hands down.  They have the best price and they are nice and sturdy. 

So, I hope I’ve inspired you or at least got you thinking about how you keep your files.  This was a huge task that couldn't be done overnight, but you can make it a weekend project or add to your "To Do" list for the summer.  
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  1. I've been cleaning out my files recently and was trying to come up with something better. I may just give this a try this summer. Thanks for sharing!

    The Daily Cupcake…A Kindergarten Blog

  2. They call me the Binder Queen at school but they all come to me when something can't be found! LOVE my binders!!
    Dianne @ Hopelessly Devoted

  3. Your binders look great! I like the idea of using pretty scrapbook paper :)
    Dual Kinder Teacher

  4. I was now up to two file cabinets and a ton of files. At the end of each year I’d weed through the files,

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. I've found binders at thrift stores in excellent condition usually less than a dollar.

  7. Your case is no different from other teachers I know. Soon, the files will keep growing and you'd be caught up in a pile of papers. Well, your methods have been efficient until more papers came and you found yourself with another ton of it. Maybe you should try sorting them little by little. Decide what you should keep and what must be thrown. Best of luck!
    Ruby @ Williams Data Management

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  11. I actually prefer the files. I just put them in a file folder and use a post it note as the label on the tab. I then can go through and put like subjects together in a hanging file. I've tried the binder and it just was too much time, plus if I wanted to take home a file, it was easier than taking an entire binder to look through. But I've heard other teachers like the binders.

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