If you’re like me, you know backpacks and lockers are the Bermuda Triangle for students’ take-home papers. You can send as many permission slips, homework assignments, and other classroom forms home, but without a folder to keep everything organized, you might as well tie the document to a carrier pigeon and hope for the best.
A plain, manila folder won’t do. I have noticed students won’t keep and take care of something that doesn’t excite them. That’s why it’s important to use a creative, neat design. I know you’ve got a lot on your plate, so I put together four fun ideas to get you started.
1. Use tabs for easy organization
Students have a lot of folders these days, making it easy to mix them up. Your classroom folder can stand out with tabs. You can customize the tab with your name or subject matter, so your students can easily reach for and find your folder in their binders, backpacks or lockers. Or, you can leave the tab blank and let your students write on them, which will give them more ownership over their folders. Tabs also help keep folders organized in your classroom.
Folders with two pockets are best to provide the most storage, but you can also go with one pocket if you think that will meet your students’ needs. In addition to customizing the tabs, you can also customize the pockets. For example, include a list of important classroom dates, projects, or your contact info for parents on the pockets.
2. Show your school spirit
Consider adding your school’s logo or mascot to your folder to boost students’ excitement. For instance, show your mascot reading a book or conducting a science experiment. Showing school spirit can help get your students not only excited for your class but also excited for school, in general. Another way to show your school spirit is to incorporate your school colors into the design. One way to do this is by making the pockets one color and the panels behind them a different color to match your school’s hues.
3. Create a fun, original design
Nothing gets my students more excited about their folders than a cool design. I have found it’s great to make my folders match the theme of my classroom. If your classroom has a dinosaur theme, pirate theme, or farm theme, use die-cuts to create cutouts of your mascot or other elements that match your theme on the cover or pockets.
Another idea is to create a special space for stickers or stamps. This could be on the pockets. Students earn stickers or stamps when they ensure important documents make it home and back or complete a special task or project. Then, their folders double as an award or badge, so they’ll take special care of it and want to show off their achievements.
An original presentation folder that excites your students about their work is more likely to make it back and forth between home and school to ensure parents are kept in the loop on students’ work.
4. Include an area for student contact information
One very important element every folder should include is students’ contact info. This will save your students from the terrible feeling of telling you and their parents that they lost their folders. Including a space for students’ contact info also increases the likelihood that lost folders will be found and returned. Pockets or the back cover are good locations for students to put their names, your name, and an email address. This way, if a lost folder is returned to the school office, it will be easy to get it back to your classroom.
These tips have saved me a lot of time tracking down missing assignments and other important paperwork from my students. Don’t get me wrong, very few students are excited about homework, but at least with a fun folder, they have an organized place to keep it safe. Getting some of them to do it is another story, but one step at a time, right?