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Wk 3: Using Table Folders

mtbos-sunfun-logoOk, so I’ve wanted to do this for years, but never got my act together. For years, I’ve read blog posts about them, printed the blog posts to highlight/scrutinize the details and asked questions on Twitter, so I knew I needed to incorporate this strategy. This summer I resolved that I. MUST. DO. THIS!

Where did I get my inspiration?

How did I organize?

I took little bits from each of the above blog and wove my own version. Since I wasn’t sure I was going to stick to this idea (such a pessimist!!), I purchased cheap, on sale, two pocket with prong folders from Wallmart. I put large and small group numbers from the Dollar Store on the front of the folders. I also put plastic labels, purchased at Targets Dollar bins, so my students could list their names. Inside the folder, I added the IN and OUT labels with clear packing tape. Finally I inserted a plastic page protector in the prongs to hold the learning targets for the unit….always visible to the group.

I tried to use magazine holders, but the folders didn’t fit in them. Luckily I had some metal library file holders I rescued from the waste bin many years ago (knew they’d come in handy some day!! Such a pack-rat). I spring-clipped them together and added index cards on popsicle sticks taped to the back of the holders. Everything is color-coded by class.

What’s Working?

My students are doing such a great job of picking up their folders daily and using the IN-OUT pockets to turn in items and late work.

The OUT pocket for handing OUT items to students, such as daily handouts, daily formative assessments, exit slips, graded work. I also have instituted that the Recorder of the group paper clips any handouts and work for absent students…time-saver!! Now students immediately get what they need without the line in front of the room at the start of class – Bonus!! It has also been a great way to get work back to them the next day. Of course, if I forget or miss putting something in the pockets, I can still use the Resource Managers to pick up what is needed for their group. Although I don’t put assessments into the OUT pocket, I use the RM to pick up the assessments for the group: I fold the papers over so only the name shows and the score is hidden – takes a little longer, but privacy is preserved.

The IN pocket is great for collecting work in an organized way. Students simply place their completed work in the IN pocket. If a student is absent, they can place their absent work in the IN folder and I get it immediately that day. Also, since I don’t record assessment scores until students look at them and then return to me, this IN pocket works beautifully. Students can write me a note if they need me to look at a problem before putting the grade into the grade book. The table group also reminds each other to return the assessments before they leave for the day and students fold over their own paper to preserve privacy.


I also like having the learning targets in front of them. I can instantly refer to them and so can the students (although they are also on the unit tab in their Interactive Notebooks…for another post).

Lessons Learned

Stuffing the folders daily is challenging!! It is best to have a student helper do this if you can; otherwise, it takes about 10 minutes per class to insert materials. I think this is the biggest drawback if you don’t have students to help. Perhaps I could utilize the RM to pick up papers at the beginning of class, but that causes a loss of valuable class time as students wait to get their materials. I am lucky that I have a colleague that is willing to share her student helpers with me – YAY!!

It takes another 10-15 minutes to go through the IN materials. I do daily HW checks on which students complete a couple quick problems, discuss with their group, then check with the key and complete a short self-reflection. These take a little more time to look at because I need to open each folder instead of leafing through a stack of papers. But then students get them back immediately the next day. I think its a good trade-off.

Lastly, I think I would use plastic folders next time instead of the paper folders. The time it took to create the folders could be saved in subsequent years if I didn’t have to repeat the process.

As you read through my procedures, do you have any suggestions that would make this process even smoother?

Day 120: Candy Store for Math Teachers

I just love this conference.  There is so much to see, do and learn.

Opening speaker was Jo Boaler talking about Fixed and Growth Mindsets in Mathematics

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Then the rest of the day I attended a variety of sessions using and not using technology, using and not using the math practices, using and not using engagement techniques.  It is really interesting to see how certain strategies in presenting make such a difference

Once strategy I found intriguing is “My Favorite NO-Learning from Mistakes,” presented by Sharon Bruce.  Have to think about how to make this happen in the secondary upper math classroom.  Of course, with a good idea, there is always a way!


Day 63: Clock Buddies!

Last week I was talking with the Spanish teacher here in our building and she shared that she has kids pair up using clock buddies, in Spanish of course!  What a great reminder that I had not set this up with my classes this year and I love the flexibility it offers, the ownership it gives to the students to pick their partners and guarantees variety of student pairings too.


So how does this student collaboration strategy work?  Well, clock buddies is a variation on the “Speed Dating” strategy, but not so intensive.  I hand out this clock buddies form I found at Reading Quest that has been reduced to half size.  Using the clock image with a blank next to each time, students find a unique partner for each time slot.  For instance, when student A finds a partner for, say, 2 o’clock, student A writes student B’s name on the 2 o’clock blank and student B writes student A’s name on their 2 o’clock blank.  Every blank is to be filled with a different name.  Occasionally, students can’t find a unique partner so we do a call-out and pair them up.  If there is not a unique person for the time slot, then the student can use a name twice.  Also, if there is an odd person out, then either they fill in when a clock buddy pair has an individual absent or I allow them to chose the clock buddy pair to join.

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Once all of the cards are filled out, I have the students take a photo of it and store it on their iPad in their Notability app.  If your students can’t take a photo, have them store their completed form in their notebook.  What strategies do you use to get students talking to each other?

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