Thursday, July 31, 2014

Current Supplies

This post is just to answer a question I get fairly often about what gets written down where. Over the past few years I've switched up what materials I use. I wrote awhile ago about using binders, which a lot of people ask about, but I thought I'd just give a quick update that I no longer use them. I used binders when I taught Connected Math (which I no longer teach). 

My kids currently use these three things only:

This is of course their ISN. Many people ask if all their notes go in here or if some go elsewhere. They all go here. The ISN is for all the stuff they need to know how to do. It's the things I want them to keep. If I'm spending class time having them take "notes" on something then I feel like it needs to be important enough to keep. If it's not, then making them copy down what I'm writing is a waste of time. People also ask if I think a spiral notebook or binder would work. The answer is that I don't know. I have always used a composition notebook because it is sturdy and there's no chance of pages falling out. The small size has rarely ever bothered me or impeded on something we needed to do.

This for everything that's not important enough to keep or refer back to. Do nows, homework, classwork, practice, etc. Not that this stuff isn't important, but I feel like if I make kids keep and organize every single thing they write down then it all loses value. The spiral notebook is basically just a place to write things down. I could use a binder I guess, but I don't need it to be that formal and I don't feel like dealing with "I'm out of paper." This is a bound chunk of paper which is all I need it to be. If it gets lost or thrown out or ruined, I don't care so long as they get another one. Honestly I don't need them to refer back to some random practice problem we did three weeks ago so I don't care that it's not organized. I do need them to refer back to a process that we learned three weeks ago if they forget so that's why the ISN is organized.

This is their SBG portfolio, or all their graded work. Nothing else but graded work goes in here otherwise it runs the risk of losing value and getting messy. It does not leave the room.

What about things like worksheets? I have no need for a binder where they three hole punch and collect every single sheet of paper I give them. If I give them a worksheet or handout, it is either:

  • Important enough where I think it could be a good reference later, if so I find a place in the ISN for it.
  • Important enough for me to collect and grade and/or give feedback on. If so, it'll end up in the SBG portfolio.
  • Just practice that I don't think will ever end up being a good reference. It's still valuable while they're using it. They work on it, check it, maybe I'll look over it, talk about it...but afterwards if we've used it for all it's good for and they're not going to look at it again they toss it. 

So that is all. Many of my classes are small and I have them keep all these supplies in the room. I have shelves with paper trays stacked up and each kid gets a shelf.

This the first day of school before the kids have even arrived- their shelves never look this neat

They also just toss random papers in the shelf sometimes because I haven't decided yet what to do with it so I tell them to just hold onto it for now and I decide later. They also keep random papers in the shelf if it's still a work in progress- maybe an activity or sheet of practice problems that we're going to work on again tomorrow.


  1. Hi Sarah. Question: How did you like Connected Math? My district just adopted it for this coming year and I am feeling a little nervous. Thanks in advance for your help.

    1. I liked it alright. The more I taught it, the more I felt a need to supplement it with other stuff. I thought the investigations were good (I still quite a few of them with my high schoolers) but I also thought it was necessary to have days of direct instruction and I usually had to find other way for them to practice because the ACE questions were not enough. The interactive notebook became a big deal because there is no textbook with CMP so we needed to create our own.

  2. Thanks for the response. I am set to do training in a few weeks with CMP. I am really nervous because of all the back and forth about it. Do you think you would use a binder if you had to teach with it again? :)

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