Last year, as part of my Classroom Management Series, I blogged a bit about communication folders. I’ve cut and pasted that post below, but felt there was a lot more detail that could be added in regards to what I do in my classroom.
Last Year’s Post:
Working as a team with families is key. It’s important to establish a consistent method of communication for keeping everyone organized. If you do a Google search for “Moose Binders,” you’ll have access to lots of information on communication books. I’ve experimented with several ideas and methods and have found that a pronged pocket folder works best for me.
In my experience, the binder was too bulky and I didn’t need that much space. I found them awkward to check, cumbersome for the kids to manage and transport, and I struggled with where to store them during the day. My teaching partner LOVED them. It really is a matter of personal preference in regards to what you use, but I do think it is important to have some form of communication tool. If you opt for the binders (lots of people totally heart them), then I have the following tips:
•Decide what type of system will work for you and then figure out where the folders/binders will be stored during the day.
•Determine how you will check them for notes from home and distribute them at the end of the day and work that into your daily procedures and routines. I have the students place them in a pile on my teacher table. I quickly check each folder for notes or dismissal changes. My helper of the day places them into the student mailboxes and let’s me know if any are missing. I check in diretly with those friends to see if the folder was forgotten at home or is in the backpack.
The Scoop on My Communication Folders:
I love using the 2 pocket / 3 prong folders because I can easily fit everything I need inside, yet they are super easy to store and manage. Oh, and they are cheap.
I label the front of the folder with each student’s name and number in the top right corner. The reason I do this is because one of my classroom jobs is to put the folders in order. It’s quick and easy because the numbers are there and it saves me oodles of time. It allows me to easily see who is missing a folder and on the days when I am pulling out homework, permission slips, etc everything is already in alphabetical order and I can just zip down my list.
The front inside pocket is for assignments that need to be returned to school (homework, makeup work, incomplete classwork, etc.). The small calendar is part of my behavior management system. It’s not included in the communincation folder printables packet, but you can read the full blog post about how I use it here and access and download the related printables here.
On the right you see a clear, plastic page protector. I leave it empty with the exception of the small slip of paper you see at the bottom. This pocket is used for important forms and money that families send into school (field trip money, book club orders, lunch money, change in dismissal forms, etc). I love this because it is deep enough that things don’t fall out (you could add a velcro dot or a paperclip at the top if you are concerned about it), I can easily see if something as been sent in (vs. small items falling behind the pocket) and best of all I can also see if a parent has written me a note without having to flip through pages. It may not seem like a big deal, but every second in the classroom counts and when you can save time on daily administrative tasks it’s always a bonus.
Which leads me to the communication pages. I use them to write back and forth with the families. When the front gets filled, I pop it out and file it. Again, this is to save time by not needing to flip and check for notes.
Behind those pages is another sheet protector. My school sends out a monthly school calendar/lunch money. I slide that in each month so it’s always handy-dandy for the families to access. On the other side I slide in a data sheet to track student grades so their progress is available to the families at all times.
The back pocket is for items that are to be “left at home.” I highly suggest you come up with a routine for sending specific items home and you may even want to consider putting a label onto this pocket outlining this routine.
As a teacher I found that when I sent things home on a Friday they were never looked at as evidenced by them still being in the folder on Monday. As a parent I confirmed this to be true when I found myself tossing the bags in the corner on Friday afternoons and getting my weekend on. On Mondays we scramble around to find the bags and get out the door.
And so based on that logic, I do the following:
On Monday afternoons I send home all of the graded work (work that I’ve either assigned a grade to OR work that I have used as an informal assessment and written feedback onto). This is the ONLY day it goes home so parents know to look for it.
If something is time sensitive I put it into this pocket as soon as it comes in, but otherwise I try to wait until Wednesdays to send home things like book order forms, permission slips and important school information.
What about the other stuff? You know the random town fliers, the ads for local karate studios and all that stuff? They never go into this folder. Check back tomorrow to read about how I manage those things.
The Daily Communication Folder Printable Packet is part of my Blackline Design Collection which means you can print it once and photocopy it onto any color card stock or scrapbook paper you like to give it color at a substantial cost-savings. It includes over 70 printable pages:
-Daily Folder Titles x 5 patterns
-Blank Title Cards x 5 patterns
-Name and Number Labels for #s 1-40 (5 patterns x 5 pages each)
-1 page of “return to school” tags
-1 page of “leave at home” tags
-1 page of blank labels
-3 page protector inserts (money, calendar, blank) x 5 patterns
-1 communication page x 5 patterns
-photo assembly instructions