Binder Day! Oh how I dread thee…


I dread the day we set up binders but I also know that on the other end of this seemingly never-ending, chaotic, noisy day, means structure, routine, systems, procedures, and organization that my students and I CRAVE… So, we push through…

Binder day was on Friday… I chose Friday so I could come home to snuggle Baby Loco and drink copious amounts of wine after his bed time (should I need to) and sleep in on Saturday… (I only had half a bottle so I would say it was pretty successful)

Anticipating the chaos, I made it SUPER structured and even started with these questions so we could TALK through EACH one!

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  1. My favorite analogy someone used was “treat it like it is baby Memphis”. In most classes someone said “like a baby” but once I heard this one in my second class I chimed in at the end with this statement in every class… I said, “above everything else, if you’re wondering if it is OK to do something with or TO your binder, ask yourself if you would do it to Maestra’s baby”
    • Students came up with lots of great ways to “treat” them but anytime they started going down the track of “we DON’T kick our binder, we DON’T throw our binder” I redirected them to focus on what we DO to care for them… this is a responsive classroom strategy. Focus on the DO not the DO NOT
  2. This was a trick question for my 6th graders and I answered it for my 5th graders. I told them that every single time I ever hand ANYTHING out, I tell them and SHOW them exactly where it goes. Modeling… I know you guys get tired of me saying it… but modeling for ANY age for ANY student is important. I have a binder that is my “master” binder and it contains everything the student’s binders do. It is a mirror image of a perfect binder so they know how to stay organized
  3. Students loved answering this part of it. I also told them that I would be labeling their binder spines this year to ensure it was done properly and remained uniform. Yes, I did come in on my weekend for an hour with Paul and Baby Loco to get this done. Yes it was absolutely worth it
  4. Students NEVER ever ever ever ever take their binders home. Not even the most responsible student because that wouldn’t be equitable… binders LIVE in my class. Not in lockers where they can be crunched, lost and broken. They live on the shelves of my class.


Next I explained a change that I made this year… I learned last year that 5th graders and tab dividers don’t mix…. I mean come on… it is challenging for adults to fold those tiny little papers and squeeze them in the tight little plastic things that DEFINITELY seem smaller than the papers themselves… Not to mention getting the suckers back out again… I usually use scissors or a paperclip.. After a couple of weeks last year I started finding little pieces of paper (the little labels) littered throughout my room because they’d fallen out of the tabs that kids had STRETCHED in order to slam the paper in there.  Anywho…I explained that we would NOT work with tabs this year, and they practically cheered and instead I had prepared papers to divide the sections of their binder. I had to work with what the school had. I had ENVISIONED cardstock in 4 different colors. Instead, every student received:

  • two blue pieces of paper (3 hole punched)
  • one pink piece of paper (3 hole punched)
  • one yellow piece of paper (3 hole punched)
  • an al entrar (do now) white piece of paper (3 hole punched)
  • and a plain white piece of paper (to slide into the plastic pouch cover of the binder)
  • a 1″ binder

Most 6th graders reused their binders from last year. I had them keep any chuletas (which means pork chop and also cheat sheet) as well as their Señor Wooly password page from last year everything else they either took home with them in their main binder they keep with them all day or they threw in the recycling.

I had students label each section:

  • Al entrar (Do Now) blue
  • Recursos (Resources) pink
  • Chuleta (Cheat Sheet) yellow
  • Trabajo Devuelto (Returned Work) blue

In previous years I’ve also had:

  • Cultura (culture) – Now this stuff goes in resources
  • Piccionario (pictionary) this is part of their chuleta now (built into the sheet)
  • Escritura (writing) Now they have a notebook to keep their writing in for their entire middle school career (thanks Sara Broussard!)

In front of everything, students put their hopes and dreams paper which includes the norms of our class.

Their Do Now section houses do now papers. One paper fits 10 do nows (enough for 2-3 weeks depending on if we are doing FVR or not).

Their resources section is a catch all for everything from Señor Wooly lyrics, song of the month activities, Cultural resources, Current event articles, Story sequencing activities, write and discuss papers, Storyboards and more.

Their Chuleta section houses a cheat sheet of our high frequency vocabulary. As we hit high frequency verbs and transitions, I track these and provide students with a cheat sheet of them (every few weeks) to keep in their binders. On the back is a pictionary section as well as a place for a write and discuss. This is my favorite thing to do with the 5 mintues left of class and we did everything I wanted to and more… “Pull out your chuletas and choose 4 new words from this week add them to the back and illustrate them! Go!”

Their Trabajo Devuelto is where they put rubrics, storyboards, group work, or classwork that I return to them. Every now and then I have them take these assignments and bring them home with them in their main school binder so parents can see but more often than not they just stay in their Spanish binder because at conferences I love being able to pull out a student’s binder and SHOW the parent’s their work, and to be honest I don’t know if parents are ACTUALLY seeing things when they go home in their big binders!

How often do I use their binders?! Every single day.  Students get their binders every single day at the beginning of class as part of our entry routine… it is an essential part of my classroom management system as they enter, grab their binder, sit down and start on their do now while I am on the threshold of my class greeting every student. I am really intentional about the use of them and intentional about teaching students to organize them and keep them nice. Organizational skills is one of those “extra” things we HAVE to teach in school in order for kiddos to be successful when they leave us so they’re not a hot mess express like me! Seriously though…

Every student is charged with creating a cover for their binder on the white piece of paper I gave them. This fits in the front plastic pocket and I write their names on the spine. The “cover” can be as fancy and creative as students want, however it absolutely MUST include:

Some students draw, some students print pictures and bring them in, some doodle, some change it throughout the year and some literally just have their name, their country name and the word CHOCOLATE… No it isn’t for a grade but I love when students step it up and take pride in their binders! They love showing them off… One kiddo has been asking EVERY day about binders… I found out why, he has his COMPLETELY covered in stickers he has been saving all summer except for a small section where he can put his name and country name.

Tomorrow we are spending at LEAST half of the class just practicing coming into the room and doing the “do now”. That routine is paramount to a strong start to my class period with them and don’t mind taking the time up front to practice it and get it right. Even if it takes all class period long.

There you have it! Binders!

I hope y’all are having a great start to the year!

Until next time,



La Loca



  1. I want to hear how you practice those routines while staying cheerful and keeping the atmosphere positive. I have the hardest time keeping positive energy up when we have to re-enter the room for the third or fourth time. Thoughts?

    And great post. Great reminder about being intentional about organization and modeling. Thanks!

    1. It’s so hard but the best way to do it is to remember that these kids are humans… in a couple of weeks they’re required to learn 7 < different routines, expectations, procedures JUST for entering not to mention everything else for 7 different teachers who are all super duper different… it’s hard for ANYONE let alone kids. Be clear. Model. Set high expectations. But be patient and empathetic 🙂

  2. Maestra, please provide some examples of Do Nows for middle school. Por favor. It’s something that I have wanted to do but I’ve never really been sure how long a Do Now should take (60 min. class). Mil gracias!

  3. Thanks! Can you give some examples of “do nows” and what grades you use them for? I teach 3-5 grade.

  4. Thank you for sharing this invaluable information. I teach French for PK-5 at an independent school, and I work closely with my colleague who teaches Spanish. We are adopting many of your methods to use with grades 3, 4 and 5. We created a story to go along with “Binder Day.” It’s about a monkey who is very well-behaved and takes good care of his friend, Senor Archivador (who has a big smiley face on the front). The monkey models how to open and close the binder, the order of the sections, and how to take care of the contents. Next week when the kids come in the binder is going to be sad and the monkey is going to be naughty- the contents will be scattered and the papers will be ripped out! The good monkey has a pipe-cleaner halo on his head, and the bad monkey will have devil horns. We are both very inspired by all that you have shared about classroom management. Merci beaucoup!

      1. The Spanish teacher named hers Mino el Mono, but in French I am just using the word for monkey since it is not a cognate: le singe. I call him “le petit singe” so it’s kind of like a pet name. Saying “le singe est sage” (the monkey is well-behaved) has a nice ring to it.

        I have another question about binders- we are deskless, and I’m finding that almost all of my students’ warm-up sheets have ripped out, because they are trying to balance their binders on their laps, and with daily use the paper tears so easily. Do you have them take the paper out and put it on top of their binders when they work on it? Or is this not an issue with older students? Any tips? Merci!

  5. Thank you for sharing this great classroom management tool. Is your school a digital school–every student has a laptop and is required to use it on every class period every day? If so, how do you incorporate the daily use of laptops in the classroom?

    1. Hey! I do have chrome books… not required to use them but I do… I will blog on them this year. I used to work at a school where they traveled with them and they started with their do now in google classroom every day

  6. Curious how many students you have and how you manage to find the space to house these in your classroom. I have 105 4th and 5th graders plus my middle schoolers. What do you suggest? Right now I only have folders. 🙂

    1. If you don’t see your 4th and 5th grader’s daily I would stick with folders. I have just under 200 5th and 6th graders. Two bookshelves, one shelf per class (6classes) and kids are helpers and stack them so they fit all 30-33 in a class on one shelf by rotating them so they don’t all face outwards

  7. Hello! I am going deskless next week and I love this binder idea!! I am wondering if you have the students take out their “do now” papers from their binders to work on them and then hand them in or if you have them just leave the paper in their binders. I would imagine that it would take you much longer to look at each one having to open each individual binder. Just wondering! Thank you!

  8. One more question, sorry…since there are no desks, do students store their binders under their chairs during the class? Thanks!!

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