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Organizing Resources Part 1

Ok, back to organizing resources! I don't know about all of you, but we have so many resources with our Pearson textbook series that it is kind of overwhelming. Plus, we all use supplementary resources and teacher created resources, plus assessment tools, and it just becomes ridiculous!

I have always used a binder system, since I started teaching. It works well, and everything is in one place, but there is one problem... Throw a binder or two or three in a bag with a laptop, teacher edition book, and papers to grade, and it's ridiculously heavy! Plus, the binding breaks or cracks, and eventually the binder itself stops opening and closing, and papers start falling out.

Plus, I find myself starting to shove things into the binder halfway through a unit because I am honest to goodness too busy to open the ring and put it back in the right place. Here's how a typical binder is organized on the inside:

I put any DVD's, models, and notes in the pocket for easy access

I also put a sheet in the front of the binder listing the dates and what we do in the unit that year. I LOVE having this the next year, especially if we are studying a novel, so I can remember how many days it took to get through it!

I also do put in this in addition to the dates. I put in the selections we are reading, along with the handouts I'm going to use from the resources, so I know what needs to be copied. I can also start setting up my Table of Contents for the ISN (Interactive Student Notebook) by having this sheet handy (more on the ISN in a bit)

For writing units, I include the mentor texts we will use to teach the writing. This is from the argumentative writing unit I do for 8th grade.

I like to include lesson order (not necessarily specific to date) so I know where I'm at. We use this in our PLC group as well so we know we've covered everything. 

I also have it differentiated for my ET classes. I highly recommend doing this for your lessons!

For every unit, I have New Knowledge Questions. Students get used to the idea that at the beginning of the unit they will get NKQ's. Every day I will have a prompt, either "Do 1 NKQ" or "Do 2 NKQ's", or if we are at the end of the unit, "Finish all remaining NKQ's". These are great simple questions about vocabulary and terms that require them to use their book. This is what I use for bell ringers. I then do attendance while they work on this (for 5 minutes), and walk around and put the paw stamp and pad on someone's desk who is finished. Students raise their hands and the person with the paw stamp walks around and stamps them in. It is SO easy!

I include copies of any selections we will use for close reading right in my binder and label them Less Complex and More Complex. I do not do close reading with every selection. I try to do at least one per unit (a short selection), along with non-fiction articles, or a one page excerpt from a short story. 

This is another example with the poetry unit. I included a "table of contents" in my binder, and these were the masters I needed to copy for the student ISN.


Another unit outline for a poetry unit. This unit is available in my tpt store.

A quick sheet with exemplar texts to use for next year in the drama unit.

Here's the bad part about binders....
 I had GREAT intentions about putting ALL of my Pearson resources in one binder. Here's what it looked like by the end of the year. I million random sticky notes, and papers out of order shoved into pockets. Thanks, past me. I really appreciate reorganizing all of this. :/

 This is where the ARC system comes in to place. Now, it costs a bit of money to initially invest, but it is so worth it, I promise!!

Here is the ARC punch. It's around $42 and only available at Staples, so this was about an hour journey for me. 

Here are the supplies I picked up. The Martha Stewart discbound accessories are compatible with the ARC system, score! You buy the discs for around $3.50 a pack, and they come in a variety of sizes. To me this is awesome, because I can reuse them and change sizes, and they won't break like my binders do!

Here's a video of the ARC in action!

You can purchase the discs separately, or you can get already made notebooks. I have done both so I could get the filler paper as well, but I have purchased about 5 sets of ARC discs separately, and then made my own covers.

They have a very limited amount of covers available for the ARC system, so to save on costs and add variety, I picked up three of these view pocket folders at Staples, 

I cut them in half...

And punched!

Now I have the equivalent of an empty binder to start with...

Planning for me requires a lot of "drafts", so I started with my three core classes for next year. Can I just say how excited I am that I only have FOUR preps next year, and one of them is "Genius Hour"? It feels like a huge weight off my shoulders. Plus, I have taught these classes now for 3-4 years in a row, so I am considering myself very fortunate even though the curriculum has changed multiple times.

If you are looking to do ISN's, this planning begins when you are outlining the year, so this is the baby steps for ISN planning if you are wanting to try it out! You can see I originally wrote binders for each unit, because I was feeling lazy and not wanting to re-do them. I quickly changed my mind as you will see...
This is a horrible picture, but I went to my curriculum map for 7th grade, and wrote down the selections I would be covering quarter 1. This was my jumping off place. I then went through the current unit resources and tagged which ones i would use. I teach ET (gifted) so I already had an idea on which ones would be helpful and which would be rigorous. 
Next, even though the curriculum changed again, I still had done some of the selections from last year, so I pulled up my ISN table of contents from last year (I always recommend doing it in a google doc that way students can see changes immediately and you always have access to it), to see which activities I did last year that I enjoyed. I also looked at my notes from the units (which I need to put in a better place this year, rather than just on random sticky notes and my notepad in my phone), to see what worked, what didn't and what I wanted to do but didn't. This was a great time for reflection on the previous year. *Off Topic- I just discovered A&W Ten, and I'm in love!

After I had finished, I made a list of all of the activities and assessments I would do that would go in the ISN that were not in the textbook. 

Then I started working on my Table of Contents for Quarter 1
This will change. I wrote it in pen because I was feeling ambitious. I would recommend you start with a google doc first, and only copy in when it actually goes in the ISN. 

These are the Martha Stewart discbound tabs.

In the ARC I plan to put all of the master handouts, #'d for copying in ISN's, along with assessments for each quarter. I would ideally like to end up with all my resources for all four quarters in this binder, we'll see what happens!

Next Time... How do I do/start/begin/introduce this whole ISN thing? 


  1. That's a good idea! I want to buy a spiral machine so I can make my own lesson planner instead of having to take it to Office Depot :)
    Tales of Teaching in Heels

    1. I just saw a post from someone today on a spiral machine! I might like one of those too, especially if it's something I'm not going to want to unbind!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. What has been your success with the ARC system? Do you find that things fall out? I had one and the pages all fell out. It could have been a fluke. This would be awesome to organize by the quarter. There's a 20% off coupon right now...

    1. I wish I had noticed there was a coupon when I went yesterday, argh!! :) I sent you a message back on the FB page about pages falling out. I haven't really noticed it being a problem. Just make sure you stick the page far in to punch it, that way the edges are further in. I had that happen a few times!

  4. I just came across your blog, and am so excited! You are awesome!

    1. Thank you so much, that is so nice to hear :)

  5. I love this blog! It makes me super happy that you're a fellow Illinois blogger from my hometown neck of the woods! I am really excited about the ISN post coming up. Awesome!

    1. Ahh!! Illinois!! We may be corrupt, but we have some darn good people :)

  6. I came across your class and am so impressed. My class is a research based and rigorous- Your blog has given me so many ideas. I especially enjoyed your post about grading. Keep up the great work. I look forward to seeing the ideas for the ne school year posted!

    1. Thanks, Kim! I will definitely be posting a lot about the rigor this year, and I am relaunching portfolio grading in my classroom with my 8th graders this year. (I did it two years ago, so hopefully I haven't forgotten everything!)

  7. the students stamping effort grades for the Bellringer or is this attendance? BTW - love, love, love your blog.


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