I ended up in a bit of a mess with this class last year. Their exercise books overflowed with worksheets, in fact it got so bad that at one point I was emailed by a parent complaining about the amount of loose paper her son was carrying around. Some of my students tried hard to keep things tidy, but my worksheet habit overwhelmed them and even the tidiest books buckled under the pressure.
I know I'm not the only teacher with this problem. Here are some of the causes:
1. I don't have access to textbooks. I use printed resources (often Don Steward and MathsPad) in every lesson... I love resources, in case you hadn't noticed.
2. I do try to display as much as I can on the board instead of printing it out (to save printing budget), but most of my activities don't work as well if not printed out.
3. I used to teach girls - most would fold and stick their worksheets beautifully (see picture below). I now teach boys... most aren't so bothered about keeping things neat.
4. I'm not particularly good at reminding students to stick sheets in during the lesson.
I don't think that messy books are the worst thing in the world, but I felt that there was room for improvement.
My solution is to give a ring binder to each student. I've always had my A level students use ring binders but I've never done it at Key Stage 4 before.
For each lesson I prepare one double sided A4 sheet which includes a starter, space for notes, the main classwork exercise and an extension activity. If they need more space for notes or classwork, they have a stack of paper at the back of their folder.
The worksheets are now a well established routine. They give my lessons a really clear structure - this fits well with my teaching style. With a dedicated space for notes and examples, I'm seeing an improvement in their note taking (which was almost non-existent last year).
Revisiting Year 10 topics
My Year 11s have nine hours of maths a fortnight (last year Year 11 only had six, so this is a big improvement). Because I have young children I only work 4 days a week, meaning that one of their nine lessons is taught by another teacher. In her lessons my students are given a one hour Edexcel topic test to work through (these can be downloaded from the Emporium) - these are kept in a separate section in their folder. So once a fortnight my students are spending an hour doing exam style questions on previously taught topics. This is good preparation for their upcoming mocks and allows me to get on with teaching new content.
Multiple choice quizzes
I wrote here about the multiple choice open book quizzes that my Year 11s do every week. I love these! There's a section in their folder to keep their marked quizzes. When they get a quiz back they record their score on a tracking sheet so they can easily see topics that need more work.
There's also a section in their folders for marked homeworks. This means that when my Head of Faculty does a book scrutiny she'll easily see the feedback I've given. In previous years my marked work often ended up lost in a stack of loose sheets, so it looked like I never did any marking.
I set one assessed homework per fortnight that I mark and give feedback on. This gives me a good sense of how each student is getting on and, along with the quizzes, ensures they get regular feedback. Every other week I set a self-marking homework. My workload is far too heavy to mark homework every week for every class.
My Year 11s have an 'information' section in their folder which includes a topic checklist, topic timeline, progress data and exam information.
So far I'm loving the switch to ring binders. It's working really well. My students' maths notes and classwork are well structured and organised. This will be beneficial when they revise for their GCSEs. Although a few folders are getting a little bit messy (eg file dividers falling out), the majority are in really good shape. I do worry that the folders might overflow by May - perhaps lever arch files would have worked better given the volume of work we get through.
This was a fairly pricey experiment for me (I'm reluctant to spend any of my own family's money on equipment for school but this cost me £40 for folders, file dividers and paper). One minor setback is that I teach this class in three different classrooms and most choose to leave their folders with me, which means I have to carry folders between rooms at the end of the day. Life would be easier (in many respects) if I were based in one classroom.
Overall my folder experiment is going really well. I will report back at the end of the year on whether I'll do it again next year!