Sunday, August 4, 2013

31st Day: Keeping the Evidence Organized

Although we continue to move towards "paperless" education, we are just not there yet. And dealing with the paperwork generated by students is often a challenge for me.

I teach sixth grade--but I don't work at a middle school. Rather, I teach sixth grade at an elementary school (which I LOVE, by the way!). Our school is small--one class per grade, so I am responsible for teaching all of the core subjects to my sixth graders.

We have had standards-based report cards for the past five years, and I have learned to think not only in subjects, but in strands. This makes the transition to Common Core a little bit easier because my mind compartmentalizes... What evidence do I have that the student has an understanding of ratios and proportions or statistics and probability? Evidence is a key word... and with several strands for each content area (now echoed in Common Core), I know I have to have a system for the paperwork or my evidence will be... well... missing!

graphic by Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs HERE on TpT
All that evidence has to be stored somewhere and it needs to be accessible when I am asked to provide data and details at a parent conference, a RtI discussion or an IEP meeting. That evidence is also a component that is reviewed and analyzed when I fill out report cards.

Too often, for me, "storing evidence" can mean papers stashed in a box, stored in piles, or hidden in my teacher bag. If I am going to stay organized, I know I have to have a way to keep everything in the right place.

There is no doubt that I have a passion for color-coding and this folder system just makes that tendency even more obvious...

To keep all of my evidence organized, I use a series of file folders--colored file folders, of course! Last year was the first time I labeled the folders. I always knew the links between content and folder color in my system, but other people didn't. Adding the labels simply limited the guesswork for those who work with me and with my students!

There are folders for literacy and math...

And science and social studies...

And my personal favorite, the "other" folder.

As the school year gets underway, any kind of test, formal or informal assessment, or significant piece of evidence gets filed into the corresponding folder. If you lived through the "portfolio days" of teaching, this system will look familiar!

The "other" folder holds assorted information... anything from parent contact notes to IEPs and other formal paperwork. But it also holds anything related to behavior, so discipline referrals, our class "yellow cards" (part of our behavior management system), tardy slips, students' accounting of "incidents"--all of these things are filed away in the "other" folder (along with an occasional intercepted note or questionable artwork, etc.). During parent conferences, I often give students a  chance to explain how his/her behavior has improved in contrast to the evidence that might be lurking in this red folder.

Here's my favorite part about this system...

All of the students have a labeled folder in the file cabinet. Here is Amy's folder.

And here is Amy's folder with her content area folders inside. (I promise: You can see the names on the folders better when they are hanging in the drawer.) But notice the labels on the colored folders.

These folders don't have the student's name on them. Consequently, you can use these same folders for several years since they are labeled only by content area. The hanging folders last a long time too because I just switch out the names in the tabs!

Admittedly, it is an initial investment. However, aside from emptying out the content, and shredding it or returning it to the student at the end of the year, the system stays in place, with little updating necessary. Personally, I love any system that keeps itself maintained and organized!

As the year gets underway with Common Core, I know it will be critical for me to keep track of exit slips and assessment data and evidence of understanding. This system just seems to work for me. Besides, all those colors simply make my heart happy!

How do you keep your papers organized? Any tips or trade secrets that you can share? I'd love to hear what works for you!


  1. Our admin requires us to keep portfolios for the kids, so luckily they also provide us with the folders. I think this year I'm going to use file boxes and hanging files because all of those folders take up a lot of real estate!


  2. Love using the different colors! I use one and paper clip the different subjects. I was rethinking how to do it for this year. Thank you my friend!

  3. I love this organization! Awesome!

    I grew up in a small town and my elementary school went up to eighth grade. I love small schools! I teach at a small school as well, but we have 2 teachers per grade level.

  4. Ooooh, I love this Kim! I may have to snag this idea.

  5. What a great idea! I love that you can reuse the folders for at least a few years, until they wear out. DO you have any leads on exit slips for 4th grade? I'm trying not to reinvent the wheel! Thanks.

  6. I love your colour coordinated folders. It all looks so clean yet simple. Sounds like a VERY good investment to me!

    The Imaginary Classroom


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