Tuesday Tips: Extra Handouts

Inevitably, every time I need to reference a handout, this scenario occurs:

Me:  Okay, guys, take out the handout I gave you about how to do response groups.  It’s called “Response Groups Protocol.”

Three hands shoot up, and I already know what they’re going to say:  They don’t have the handout. They weren’t here that day. They lost it and need another one.

Now, I will freely admit that I am not the world’s neatest person.  My classroom can reach critical paper mass quite quickly because

  1. I’m an English teacher, and that involves a lot of paper.
  2. I care a lot more about improving my teaching, assessing my students, reading books, writing blog posts, talking with kids who drop by than I do about cleaning.
  3. It’s my secret strategy to prevent any student from ever stealing an exam. If I don’t know where it is, they can’t find it either.

But because I am challenged in the ways of order, filing, color-coding, alphabetizing, and all those other neat things that occur in perfect classrooms, I have to invent ways to thwart my own messy tendencies.

One invention that has greatly helped me is the “Extra Handouts Binder.”

This is really pretty simple: I have a binder for each different class I teach that sits on the table by the door.  When I make copies of a certain handout, I always make 5-10 extra.  That number seems to be the margin of error for students who lost/didn’t get/recycled the handout that we need for a certain day.

After I distribute the handout for the day, I place the extras in the binder.  Now when a student doesn’t have the handout we are using, they know to go to the table and look in the binder first.  They don’t always remember: they have several classes, and each teacher has a different system.  But the binder saves me some stress.  Where I used to go to my desk and waste time by sifting through the piles of handouts I haphazardly stacked there the day before, now I can just point at the table or tell the student to “look in the extra handouts binder.”

Except for the (somewhat) rare occasions when I forget to put the handouts in the binder and have to search around on my desk, this strategy has worked beautifully.

Here’s a pic:

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And a close-up pic:

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Does anyone else have trouble staying organized in the classroom? What are your strategies?

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