11 July 2017

The Folder Experiment... Revisited

Back in October 2016 I wrote a post about how I was trialling folders instead of exercise books with Year 11. I promised I'd write a quick update at the end of the year, so here it is.

I've decided that I will be using folders with my Year 11s again next year, as I believe it was a successful trial. I'm not saying it had any impact on attainment - I'm not sure how I'd measure that - but it's still something I want to keep doing. In case you're planning to do the same, here are my key observations:

Folder Type
By Christmas the ring binders were falling apart because they were overflowing. Sometimes a student would pick up their folder at the start of a lesson and their nicely organised notes would fall all over the floor, which was very frustrating. I suggested that my students each buy their own lever arch file during the Christmas holidays, but only a handful did so.

I'd like to use lever arch files instead of ring binders from the start of next year but I can't because:
  1. lever arch files are too expensive
  2. 34 lever arch files are too heavy for me to keep moving around (I teach in multiple classrooms).
So a possible solution is to use 68 ring binders instead: one for the autumn term, and another for the spring and summer term. This may be expensive though.

Here's a flick through one of the better folders so you get an idea of what my students' classwork looked like:
Worksheets and Printing
I made a one page sheet for every lesson which included all the lesson tasks, plus space for notes. 
In number and algebra lessons this was straightforward, but in shape lessons it was more challenging to limit the material to two sides of A4. I managed it though, and now it will be pretty quick to plan my Year 11 lessons next year because all the materials are ready to go.

The only problem is the printing cost - at 2p per side, that's 20p per week for each of my 34 students, costing over £250 in printing per year. Bear in mind though that I don't need exercise books or glue, and I probably would have still done around half that amount of printing even if my students had exercise books, so it doesn't work out that much more expensive.

Organisation and Pride
At my school (all boys) we do find that quite a few students don't take much pride in their work. If you glance through a randomly chosen exercise book you'll probably see untidy handwriting, disorganised work, poor use of space, doodling and maybe even graffiti... Switching to folders didn't automatically fix this, but I did see some improvement. My students often told me that they liked having folders instead of exercise books. Visitors to my lessons always noticed on how well organised the folders were. I'm certainly not saying that folders would work for every class, but they worked for me and I'm looking forward to using them again next year.

Spotted in a student's folder: a section for
'random interesting maths' -  not prompted by me!







16 comments:

  1. This is really interesting to read as I have managed to talk my department into trialling files with our Year 10 groups next year. We are expecting to spend some time having to reach some of the pupils how to file effectively. Did you find this was an issue?
    Also, how did you organise the files, simply by date, or by strand (algebra, number, geometry, data handling)? Not sure whether the extra hassle of filing by strand would overall be worth it so they are better organised when it comes to revision

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    1. Hi. It's worth reading my original post for more information. Their folders had sections: classwork, homework, tests, quizzes, revision etc. At the end of each lesson they simply put their classwork at the top, to make things easiest. They were a smart group of students so didn't need any particular support in organising things (after the first lesson in which I explained how things would work). I don't really expect students to revise from their classwork notes in maths so I wasn't bothered about filing by strand. I think this might have over-complicated things.

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  2. I love your 2 siders - do you have a bank of those that people can access or add to as they make their own please?

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    1. Hi. I shared a link to some examples in my original post. I've had a few requests to share the whole lot so I'll see what I can do (I'm nervous of sharing material that isn't mine - copyright issues etc) - bear with me.

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  3. Jo have you considered using loose leaf binder ring keychain key rings (I wanted to give you their exact name!) which you can buy on Amazon for £7.99 for 50 which may be more transportable and less likely to fall apart as normal binders do?

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    1. That's a really interesting idea, thank you - I've not seen those before.

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  4. Jo - anyway you could possible share any of the individual lesson resources you used to get an idea of how you structured them? Many thanks, Ian

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    1. Hi. I shared a link to some examples in my original post. I've had a few requests to share the whole lot so I'll see what I can do (I'm nervous of sharing material that isn't mine - copyright issues etc) - bear with me.

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    2. In FE, our GCSE resits started using cardboard wallets to keep all their work as students would take work home and lose it. We now keep their folders and have a half termly sort through/tidy. Each term we staple/paperclip all work together to aid revision. All assessments are kept together along with their trackers and individual targets again in their folders. We found students more engaged and motivated having an organised folder with all assessments, trackers and work in one place. A great idea using files!

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    3. Thanks for the comment. We use cardboard wallets for loose sheets and assessments at KS3 - it doesn't work well because we don't do the organising and sorting thing you describe! That sounds much better, and it's good to hear that students are motivated by it. Great stuff.

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  5. Hi. Sorry for the delay for those of you waiting for my Year 11 worksheets. You can access them here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B9L2lYGRiK2bY092dmxQdENJMzA?usp=sharing

    Please note that all I have done is arrange material into individual lessons: I did not write the material myself. Most comes from Don Steward, MathsPad and Edexcel. I used other sources too. I can't take credit for any of this.

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  6. Hi Jo, would you do the same thing with sixth formers? Any suggestions with regard to files for A-level students? Thanks!

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    1. Hi. My sixth formers have always had folders and I leave them to be fairly independent with regards to how they organise them. I give them a handbook to keep at the front, and I suggest that they have file dividers labelled by chapter.

      My colleague suggested an alternative approach: 3 sections. One for classwork, one for assessments, and one for independent work. The idea is that the independent work section should have a lot in it!

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  7. Jo - thanks for sharing I love the idea.
    Did you manage to differentiate the work you gave your pupils?

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    1. Hi. My interpretation of differentiation is: 1. challenging activities for all and 2. support where needed (ie helping students in lessons with additional explanation where required). I don't do differentiated resources with any year group. I believe differentiation should be through support, not task.

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