Thursday, September 23, 2010

Confessions of a Binder Queen

I actually own a book called Confessions of a Binder Queen. It's all about how to organize your life using 3-ring binders. But I didn't actually become a Binder Queen until I started my current job where my boss, who's a bona fide BQ, got me into it. Here are some examples of ways I use binders to make my teaching life happy, healthy, and organized.

A Binder Topic Begins
Right now, I am making a gigantic spreadsheet combining the artists covered in Using Art to Create Artand Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Mastersto see which artists I have the most project ideas for. I am putting them in chronological order by the birth year. These pages are in landscape format and will get printed and put in page protectors at the beginning of a binder labeled Heart: Great Artists 2010. Then I'll make a separate page for each artist as I go through, listing additional resources (like the biography of Audubon) and the projects we did and how they turned out.

Organizing Your Binder Efficiently
I always label the spine with Head, Heart or Hands, the unit title, and the month and year when I taught it. Then I put the binder on the shelf. NOT in a pile on the table!!!! On the shelf it will still be there when you want to refer to it. Also, I have learned to make the binder at the very beginning of the unit instead of at the end. If you do it right when you begin to plan the unit and then keep it on the shelf in the classroom, you can write in all those notes or good ideas as they occur to you. Trying to record the thing afterwards never works out. For example, in my Sewing binder for this year I have a booklist, a list of project ideas, and my notes as to how it went. I have the photocopied pages from Around the World with Finger Puppet Animals that we used in sewing our Peace One Day flags, plus extra pieces of tracing paper in the back pocket. In the Knitting binder that I just began a few days ago, I have a note on the wool dyeing we did yesterday (white wool yarn pieces cooked with turmeric in the crockpot plus a tray of wool yarn and a bunch of pokeberries collected and smashed on top of it with a rock). I also was idly flipping through a vintage book called It's Fun to Know Why: Experiments with things around usby Julius Schwartz and discovered a chapter on Wool! I immediately put a note in my Knitting binder of this resource. My binders begin with a complete booklist (just a piece of college ruled paper that I can scribble notes on), then a plan for the unit, then the actual notes from the unit as it progresses. Put a bunch of loose leaf paper in it, stick it on the shelf, and write in it as you go. It Really Works! And, believe me, you'll be glad for it next year. For units that I've already taught, I just download them from the website, put the booklist page in front, and then add my looseleaf paper so that I can take notes in real time and update the unit pdf later.

Right now I would say that you should have several binders working. I've got a Math unit on Number Shapes & Patterns coming up in October so I have my planning binder. That's Head. Heart is Watercolor Painting and I've got my binder started for that. Hands is Knitting and I have a binder for that. I also have an ongoing year-long unit on the Great Artists. You can have a binder for any year-long topic, such as poems you memorize in circle time or math games you play. Just make the binder before the unit begins and put it on the shelf. You'll be glad of a place to make those notes, I promise.

By the way, this book It's Fun to Know Why: Experiments with things around usis pretty awesome. It has a simple explanation plus science experiments for the following topics:

  • Iron - King of the Metals

  • Coal - Black Diamonds

  • Cement - Rock of Ages

  • Glass - A Window on the World

  • Rubber - Jack-of-all-trades

  • Wool - Fleece for Man

  • Salt - The Spice of Life

  • Bread - The Staff of Life

  • Soap - Dirt Chaser

  • Paper - A Web for Words

Written in 1952, it's a little old-fashioned but still incredibly interesting. And I love the science experiments for wool. One involves putting hot water into three small jars with lids. One jar is left as is, with the lid on. One jar is closed, the lid put on, and then a wool sock is placed over the jar, covering it completely. The third jar is covered similarly but with a cotton sock. After half an hour, remove the socks and feel all the jars. Which one is the warmest? The coolest?

What You Need to be a Binder Queen
You need a bunch of white 3-ring binders (trying to color coordinate the binders to the color of the main lesson books used actually makes things more difficult -- white is the way).

Page protectors for things that you want to put in the binder but don't want to put holes in, like sample watercolor paintings.

Looseleaf college ruled paper, so that you don't waste time typing up your notes on the computer and printing them out, because you'll never get over to the computer anyway. You also won't need a hole punch.

A pencil.


Eva said...

The book looks interesting. What age would you recommend it for?

Rhoda said...

I would say grade 2/3. The experiments and explanations are simple. I tried the sock one and found that the cotton actually kept the water warmer! I asked a winter backpacking/ski buff friend of mine about this and he said that the key to wool -- why it's such a popular fiber -- is that it insulates well even when WET. It blows cotton out of the water in that regard. So to have this experiment turn out best, dip the outside of the jars in water first or use damp socks.