"I was going through my son’s binder for freshman year and saw that several of his teachers use your system. I am very drawn to it and would totally teach it if I were in front of kids. Kudos. It makes this so clear, so that learning can happen vs. just chaotic lack of organization of basic stuff."
Glenn Kenyon - San Francisco State University
As mentioned in a previous post our collaboration with Sacramento City College continues to grow and expand. Some of those implementing Organized Binder are English instructors in the college's English Composition Accelerated Program in response to AB 705. Students who did not qualify for English 300 (College Composition) take a concurrent support course called English 108. At the Second Annual Acceleration Across California conference it was noted that co-requisite courses, like those offered at Sacramento City College, have proven successful. We agree!
Here are student reflections on Organized Binder in the Fall 2017 108/300 Acceleration Project shared by professor Dr. Travis Silcox:
Student #1: Since there were two classes’ agendas to keep track of, it was nice to get organizational lessons. The way we organized the binders in class was awesome because I could reference any piece of work or information from the class. Without this help it’s likely that I would have shoved things into a binder in no particular order. Having an organized binder helped me keep track of my grades, as well as my goals for the semester. I will definitely be putting these new skills to use for the rest of my life.
Student #2: With me gaining comfortability in the class, I was able to be vulnerable with my goals. The goal page was something we would revisit every 4 weeks, with goals being made daily, weekly, and in the 4 weeks. This was very important for me as, I had a goal on paper, in my binder that I have to look at every time I do one bit of work for this class. Goals are important to me as it is one way I can keep myself accountable, and until the organized binder I never had one for school. Some of my goals included, reading Devils Highway daily, no homework missing for 4 weeks, and make sure I write a journal entry weekly. I can easily attribute these things for improving my grammar, writing and work ethic.
Student #3: The Organized Binder helped me in ways that on the first day of class I was unsure and skeptic of, little did I know it was going to be the one thing that kept me organized and sane. We set our personal goals and everyday we made a kick off and learning log entry, along with our agenda, homework and reminder entries, not only was it for self evaluation and reminder it was for storage too ! In this same file we stored our notes and handouts, this made life so easy especially for me and I know I will be using this same binder in the future for referencing.
Student #4: An additional way ENGWR 108 promoted an easier workload in ENGWR 300 results from the daily usage of organized binder pages in class. Throughout the semester the professor had students complete a page in our binders labeled as “My Goal in ENGWR 108”. Every four weeks, the professor had students set a goal that they wanted to achieve. This gave students an objective and gave a sense of responsibility to the students to achieve it. If they succeeded, students can see they are able to accomplish anything that gives them hope to do well in the course. Another section in our binders was a section called B pages. This section consisted of a question asked by the professor and in response would be an honest answer. This allowed for the professor and students to communicate in a nonverbal form. Also, this let the professor to express her honest opinion and understand how the student is progressing. If the professor knows of an issue in the B pages she was very willing to help and accommodate to the students’ needs and overall the class needs. This gave the chance for the professor to adjust and redo lesson plans if needed to accommodate to the entire class to ensure success.
Student #5: The binders that the teacher gave us had organized papers such as: goal setting sheets, B pages, Learning logs / Kick offs, among other things that helped us to stay organized throughout the semester. The kick offs and learning logs, which are basically warm-ups, helped us a lot as well, since in them we could ask the teacher questions about some work that we had to do or that we were in the process of doing it. Like if we were embarrassed to ask those questions in person. The learning log / kick off that we did once in this class says the following: "How far have you advanced in your Research Paper?" That time when the professor asked this question, I was hypnotized, since I didn’t know what to answer, because I was barely looking for the articles to read, while other students were ahead of me already finishing their rough draft. I did not know what to answer, however I told the professor how advanced I was in my research paper although I did not know what she would say to me. That learning log / kick off made me realize that I really had to make more enthusiasm and be on topic of everything we did so as not to delay and be at the same pace as the other students.
Student #6: In ENGWR 108, we had binders where it would carry all our paperwork and additional pages. Those additional pages were pages called “ B Page” and “Goals Page.” On the “B Page” was a page where we would write a “Kick-Off” and a “Learning Log.” The “Kick-Off was really helpful because it started the class with something engaging. This would be the time where we would really have to use our brain and a sense of what today’s class lesson may be. It was a great way to start off the class. With the “Learning Log” this was a time to reflect on today’s lesson. This would be where we write what we learned or what we still have trouble with. This was handy because it was a great way to communicate with the teacher. At times it was a bit confusing with the binder but the way we organized it, made it a lot simpler. Overall the binder was something very helpful and big in the class.
Student #7: Another helpful thing in the 108 class was the organized binder. The responses in the B page section helped me keep in mind what I had to do. Those responses usually ruminated in my head and reminded what needed to be done in my English class. Also the toolkit provided many useful outlines and the guides. This toolkit helped me whenever I had trouble organizing my thoughts for my future essays. My binder pages helped me organize my work and helped me keep good management throughout the semester.
Student #8: The goals page and B pages had me thinking about my learning process on a weekly and even on a daily basis. These pages have kept “in check” through out the semester. In my goals page, I really wanted to have strong time management because I went to SCC full time and worked twenty five hours a week. The goals page has made me realize that I wasn’t putting enough hours into my education. The B pages were my favorite because I had a chance to let the instructor know how I felt about an assignment and really think about my questions. The prompt I really liked was from week 6,” What is your time management plan to finish this essay?” I would think about a list in order to be prepared for the assignment. Our kick-offs would prepare us for the class time and the learning-logs were our reflections.
Over 85% of students surveyed said the system helps them know what the class is doing each, whether or not there is homework, and when larger or important assignments are due. 67% of students report that Organized Binder helps them express what they are learning in their own words. 65% say that the system helps them get and stay organized.
"Absolutely love these binders!"
"I felt that the binder was very useful yet it was hard for me to organize myself because once you failed to update your binder it can be messy to reorganize the binder back again.
"It was a good approach to help students stay organized. I myself feel that it helped me be prepared for class and stay on track."
"I like the Agenda sheet that we used, it helped to look back on what is due if I forgot, it served as a great reference throughout the week or over the weekend. and I liked the Learning Log because I was able to express myself to the instructor and provide feedback on things the instructor wanted to know."
See all the results here: Sacramento City College Spring 2016 Student Survey Results
"In order to be a successful student, one needs to see him/herself as a student first. I witness that happen through Organized Binder each day and with each new student who comes to camp." -Abbie Korman Stendahl
The school and students featured in the March 2016 Newsletter must remain anonymous for student privacy and security. What we can tell you is that this is a residential County and Community School and serves incarcerated youth. Teacher Abbie Korman Stendahl has sent us feedback on how Organized Binder has had an impact on her classroom and students.
Abbie Korman Stendahl is an English and history teacher in her sixth year teaching. Currently, she works with incarcerated youth in the Court and Community Schools in Northern California. Previously, Abbie worked for five years at an urban, Title 1, comprehensive high school where she taught AVID, Read180, CAHSEE Prep, and every grade level of English 9-12. She knows what it is like to have three preps every year, teach classes of 36, and to have 170 students on your caseload to get to know, connect with, and teach.
Now, in integrated classes of 9th-12th graders, her goal is to facilitate learning and a sense of empowerment through engaging, scaffolded, and organized curriculum for small class sizes of incarcerated boys. Ms. Korman’s English and history course content are aligned and allow students an in-depth, multidisciplinary lens through which to analyze literature and gain historical thinking skills. In the classroom, students use the Character Based Literacy (CBL) program developed at the Santa Clara University, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, tools from E3: Education, Excellence, Equity, and Organized Binder.
Most of my students self-identify as young men who were not successful as students before coming to court school. Many students admit that not only did they not have organized binders, but they “didn’t do homework and didn’t bring a backpack to school” either. At our court school, there are many of factors in place that allow students to focus on school in a way that was not a reality for them before, and a main one of those is Organized Binder.
My classes are made up of young men who live on-site at an honor camp and are monitored 24 hours a day. Students work each week in school and in their mandated after-school programs to earn their release. The transition to our school is a difficult one; for many, this is the first time they are required to do the work and homework expected of them. There is no truancy, there are few distractions, there is mandatory study hall in the evenings, and there are security guards in the room; students must try in school, or they will not be released.
While school is so important to students’ release, it is not something many students feel comfortable with or are ready for when they first arrive; their affective filters are high, they do not feel they have ready many tools with which to be successful, and it is more academic work than they are used to having to do. I believe Organized Binder is one of the main tools in the classroom which helps students transition and succeed.
I believe all students are uniquely intelligent and all are capable of success. Unfortunately, many of my students have a history of negative experiences in school where they have not felt that to be true. At camp, in my classroom, I believe it is my job to help my students see themselves as the students I know they can be. At camp, with clear routines each day, an organized binder, and a map of our day, week, and unit, students get the hang of school and know what is expected of them. The longer students are in my classroom using the Binder, the more and more academic they become. The youth begin to see themselves as students, and their mindsets change. I am losing track of hearing students say, ”you know, I don’t like school, but I actually kind of like school.” I think this contradiction comes from years of not succeeding in the classroom and finally feeling successful as a student at camp.
In a survey at the end of the unit, it is telling that 73% of my students reported being more organized now than they were “on the outs”, and the remaining 27% were almost all the students newest to our school. Because students attend our school as a court-ordered sentence, we have a constant flow students serving their six to nine months at different times throughout the school year. The Organized Binder is an anchor for students showing up at different times of the school year to our unit, but it can feel unfamiliar and unusual at first. For new students, Organized Binder allows them to look like everybody else, to jump right into our lessons, and to have all of the papers everyone has; it is easy to find the papers they need to be on task, and seated next to a peer who has been in class longer, they are able to catch on quite quickly.
In our class survey, students who have been at camp longer wrote about themselves that: they “take academics more serious [sic],” “I always do my homework”, “I actually learn a lot because I am organized”, “I do work, behave good [sic], show up to school, and learn”, “I am more open minded and learned to be successful in life I need school”, “I try here” ,“I get homework done. I am organized. I’m always on task”, “I do some of my work and its [sic] fun to learn.” While students are required to be in school each day and to complete homework each night, it does not have to mean that they actually learn or change their attitude toward school, but it is what happens at camp.
At camp, many students are able to finally see themselves as students, successful ones, who show up every day, know where every paper is, and are organized. Students say, the “organized binder helps because it makes it easier to access assignments” and “organize binders help me find my work easily.” When asked one way Ms. Korman’s class is different than other classes they have had, students report “very organized” and “i’ve been able to get my homework done more using the organized binder.”
This is similar to classes at the comprehensive high school I worked at - students remember and utilize our skills of organization on a daily basis, and it stands out to them. It empowers them. It is often the thing in my class that is reported as what they have learned most - not English or history standards that we, of course, are hitting each day. But that they have learned to be organized. I think this is because this is a tangible, measurable step for students to see their own growth. This is a clear first step toward success. In order to be a successful student, one needs to see him/herself as a student first. I witness that happen through Organized Binder each day and with each new student who comes to camp.
I have seen Organized Binder work in classes of 36 at a comprehensive high school, and I have seen it work in class sizes as small as four with incarcerated youth. It has worked in English class, AVID class, and history class, with ninth graders and twelfth graders, honors students and students achieving far below standards. No matter the curriculum and no matter the demographics of the students, I have always and will always use Organized Binder. It works, and it is transformative.
“What’s one thing you are proud of?”
“that im actually doing my work”
"I believe more schools should do the Organized Binder. it is very useful and will help kids become organized. It will also help kids do better in school."
"All schools should use Organized Binder because it helped me stay organized and helped me get ready for class everyday."
"Organized Binder helps my binder from being a complete mess of papers."
"I think that Organized Binder is really helpful."
Below are a few highlights from the survey. You can download the entire survey results from this Northern California County and Community School as a pdf by clicking the pdf icon below.
Two years ago Harbor High School implemented Organized Binder:Teacher. The effort, lead by principal Dick Davis, has been the model of a faculty committing to a reform initiative. All of the teachers who have participated in Organized Binder have committed to trainings, follow-up sessions, and implementing the system with fidelity and the results show their efforts. This past year Harbor High School was awarded the Gold Ribbon Award and received an additional award for being a Title I Academic Achieving School.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said, "These schools are academically successful, vibrant, and innovative centers of learning and teaching."
You can see other Harbor High School highlights here.
When principal Davis got the news that Harbor was being given these prestigious awards he contacted us to share the good news. He sent us a letter explaining that Harbor's application was focused on the school's work with Organized Binder. Excerpts from his letter are below:
"Big Picture: Building student-ness through using structures - Organized Binder", a letter to Organized Binder from Dick Davis, principal of Harbor HIgh School.
"The Gold Ribbon visit forced us to examine our work with the Organized Binder. We built our application for this statewide recognition based on our implementation of Organized Binder. As we worked on our application "To build Student-ness" sounded good on paper; As we found out this week it is real. We are building student-ness using this system of organization. Organized Binder is guiding students to learning organization skills and helping teachers structure their lessons.
For the visit we gathered ten students to meet with the folks from the County Office, this is what they had to say:
“The most impressive part was that when we asked “what part of the binder has helped you the most” we got five different answers. This made us think that Organized Binder is working on many different levels and helping kids who have different needs. Some kids felt the Weekly Lifeline (Page B) was the most helpful because it kept them centered on the key area of the class. Students liked that they got a chance to think about the lesson in the Learning Log. They also said it helped them study for the test. Some students said that the Agenda (Page C) helped them stay on top of the assignments while others talked about the Academic Toolkit (Page F) as being the section that helped them the most because they could refer to it to do homework and to study for tests.”
Our Gold Ribbon visitors noted that the students had a common language to talk about their classes - "they all knew what a C Page was and they all could talk about the Academic Toolkit and they knew that class starts with a Kick-off prompt and that it ends with a Learning Log that reflects on what they learned during the period." They also reported that the students were incredibly proud of their binders. It was their work. They could "see" that they were learning something by the volume alone.
In writing up their gleanings from talking with the teachers, they noted that the teachers felt that Organized Binder had an impact on their teaching: Teachers agreed using the binder pushed them to have a purpose for each lesson, to prepare a prompt for the starter that related to the previous day or previewed the lesson. They also talked about how the Learning Log (Page B) pushed them to think about a closing question or activity each day.
It was clear to them that the Weekly Lifeline (Page B) was a powerful formative assessment and that it was obvious from their class visits that teachers used both the opener and the closure as ways to check for understanding. “In one class it was clear that the teacher had to re-evaluate based on the way that several students responded to the opening Kick-off prompt.”
We discussed the impact Organized Binder has on the instructional norms that we have set for ourselves at Harbor High School:
All three of these instructional norms are embedded in the structure that is set up by using Organized Binder. Along these lines, one parent whose son is Special Education and struggles with organization, said that her son not only knows when the tests are in his classes that use Organized Binder, but that for the first time he seems to know what to study in those classes!
We have done a lot and its impact has been bigger than I had realized. Students were more focused and were feeling more supported in those classes that were using this system. After our Gold Ribbon visitors left, I had a moment to clean up the office and was glancing at the binder that we put together for their visit. Looking at the timeline of implementation, I saw again that this was only our second year with this tool...
Our most vulnerable graduates who go to college overwhelmingly attend community college. The Student Success Task Force for Community Colleges recently reported that "more than 70 percent of community college students who enter the system are under prepared to do college-level work with the majority being first generation college students, low-income and/or minority."
I have always known that Organized Binder is a tool that could benefit community college instructors. Baily, Smith Jaggers, and Jenkins in their 2015 book Redesigning America's Community Colleges suggest that to "take control of their learning, students need to practice skills such as self-regulation, task planning, time management, note taking, and organizing study time effectively", all hallmarks of Organized Binder.
I am very pleased to announce that the first Organized Binder Community College Pilot occurred in the fall semester of 2015 at Sierra College in California. The data team at the college created and administered an independent survey to gauge the impact the system had in the classrooms that participated in the pilot. The results are in and the data is overwhelming! The pilot was so successful other community college campuses in California are adopting Organized Binder in 2016.
I asked professor Jason Roberts to share a snapshot of why he decided to implement Organized Binder and the impact he saw it have on his teaching and his students learning and achievement.
"After learning about the system I decided to pilot Organized Binder in my classes at Sierra Community College. While Organized Binder has been very successful in the k-12 space, my pilot was the first at a community college. I chose to pilot the program because I saw the absolute need for Organized Binder at the community college level. I would like to start by saying that Organized Binder never impinged upon the actual content of my courses, nor did it force me to teach a “certain way.” It weaves itself into the course, but it does not alter what I teach and, in most cases, it did not alter how I teach aside from helping me to be more prepared and better organized.
After 15 years of community college teaching – and constant revision of my curriculum to address student needs – Organized Binder has proven to be the most successful tool for students and for my own teaching. Many of my students need to understand how to “be a student” – and many of these skills are assumed at the college level. Some professors assume that students know how to organize themselves, how to study for exams, how to meet deadlines, how to set goals, and how to think. However, most students need exposure to and practice employing these noncognitive factors. To do so we need to reach students in a different, more personal way, which is the primary idea behind the Equity movement. Although this seems daunting to many instructors, Organized Binder manages this task for the instructor and provides a simple tool for student success.
My students immediately connected with the ritual of Organized Binder. Exemplified in the daily Kick-Off prompt and Learning Log on the Weekly Lifeline, students write at the beginning and end of class about what they learned or what confused them from the lesson. For students this is a key metacognitive piece, and as I read their responses each week, I was able to address individual students and their specific needs about course material. Additionally, I quickly assessed students who clearly understood the material and it made it easy for me to get to know each student on an individual level.
Building the Agenda as a class proved to be another powerful tool. Each day’s class content and homework were clearly addressed, and the entire class, including me, was literally on the same page. This helped eliminate missing assignments and late assignments as students knew exactly what was due, in detail, each day. Rather than looking to a course calendar I constructed on my own, we built the calendar each day in class. The process of writing the day’s work and the homework themselves was incredibly powerful. As a result, most of my students found Organized Binder to be a powerful (and even necessary) tool for the academic success.
Here is what some of the Sierra College students who used Organized Binder had to say about the system:
"I feel very strongly about the integration of Organized Binder in the entirety of the Sierra College Campus because it has tremendously helped me to keep myself organized, and engaged with the class. One of the greatest aspects of Organized Binder is its clarity, as well as its versatility. So to say, it's an adaptable form of organization in all classes, and when utilized correctly, can be the key to your educational success. Specifically: Easy Access- all the material in Organized Binder is always readily available. I have never had to say that "I left material at home" because as long as I had my binder I had everything I needed."
"This Binder setup is really helpful and I look to use it in other classes of mine."
"Best class I have ever taken at Sierra. I have learned so much and he made the class fun at the same time. He made sure that all the students in the class understood the material. Thanks a lot."
"Organized Binder helped me be more organized. I am not organized when it comes to keeping up with work and homework but with the organized binder that has changed."
"It helped me keep track of my work and it allowed me to find notes and information more easily than I would if papers were randomly put into my binder."
"I like the idea of using Organized Binder in this class, it was really helpful and if we can get other teachers to do that in classes it will be great!"
"Organized Binder would be very helpful in every class that I am currently taking. I would love to see it in my future courses."
We visited Ballou High School in the summer of 2015 to introduce the staff to Organized Binder. Within a month of that training Adam Evans sent the following email to the Ballou faculty. I appreciate Adam's honesty around his reluctance to implement and his observations afterward:
"Good evening, Knights.
I just wanted to follow up with these reminders and let you know I was very reluctant to implement the Organized Binder system, but most of my students have bought it fully....
Some of what I’ve noticed:
One of the best things about Organized Binder is it is encouraging me to be deliberate in both lesson planning and distributing materials. When students realize there is a well-organized plan on the part of the teacher, they will exceed your wildest expectations.
I know we’re all working hard – and a short week is never an easy week – but know we are already doing great things as a team in these first three weeks. Our kids are worth our best, even if they don’t know it yet.
Urban Community School is a K-8 school that provides primarily low-income children from Cleveland with an individualized, innovative, and challenging education. The school prides itself on welcoming a diverse student body, with a focus on serving low-income children. Urban Community School serves nearly 500 students with 78% living at or below the federal poverty level.
During the summer of 2015 we visited the Urban Community School to meet with the grades 4 and 5 faculty to train them on how to implement Organized Binder in their classrooms. A few weeks later teacher Megan McIntyre sent an update on how things are progressing in her 4th grade and 5th grade math and social studies classes. The feedback below is an excerpt from her email to us.
I just wanted to give you an update. We are on week 3 of using the binders and my students and I LOVE them! The first day was an almost disaster. Some of my students were more interested in playing with the binder and clicking the rings open and closed than following along to set it up. It took the entire hour of class the first day but day 2 was 200% better. This is what I have observed thus far…
Lastly, one day last week I had forgotten to put up the daily kick off and when my class came in it was a complete mess. Students were running to tell me at the door that there was no prompt and it was loud and kids were not settling at all. This really made me think about how peaceful transitions have been since starting Organized Binder.
I will continue to keep you posted,
School Information:Gateway offers a temporary program which provides students with a place to demonstrate positive behavior in the areas of academics, attendance and attitude. Students are placed at Gateway by the district schools for one or two semesters, and may, with the permission of the district, decide to stay longer.
"Three years ago we reorganized our school from the bottom to the top. Since August 2012, Organized Binder has become an institution at our school. Both students and teachers realize that Organized Binder drives our success. Expectations for the use and care of it are the norm in each classroom. Organized Binder gives everyone, staff and students, common ground to begin and end each class. We literally are on the same page!"
-Melinda Fore, Gateway Principal
“The importance of Organized Binder is to always be ready and know where your stuff is located, instead of going through everything and wasting valuable learning time.” -Gateway Student
“Organized Binder is helpful because I was never organized at my other school and I would lose tons of assignments.” –Gateway Student
“It feels good to have a clean, Organized Binder, it’s part of being responsible.” –Gateway Student
“I was not used to keeping my binder at school. I do like this method, when I used to bring my binder home at my old school I would forget things at home. Here I didn't and everything was there the next day.” –Gateway Student
“My Gateway students keep me organized by making sure my Table of Contents (H-Page) is always updated along with the classroom binder. ” -Sally Ploe, Gateway Teacher