The Folder Experiment… Revisited

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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!

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