Homework Binder Ideas

I recently received an email from a mom, Beth R., concerned about organization for her middle school son.

She believes in our streamlined system, but she’s concerned that her son won’t feel comfortable using our system. He won’t want to “stand out” amongst his peers. Beth’s concerns are fairly common for a student using the Binder System on his/her own.

However, when schools are adopting the Binder System “school-wide,” it’s not the students that have concerns; it’s the teachers! When everyone is adopting the Binder, the students are excited; they innately understand the simplicity of the system. Teachers, on the other hand, are concerned about how their systems will work with it. They are scared it won’t work.

So, I prepared this video to share with: students, parents, teachers, and administrators.  It explains why simplicity is biologically essential for student organization. It also illustrates how the SOAR® Binder delivers on simplicity.

If you prefer to read, scroll below for an article covering some of the points addressed in the video.

If you believe in this streamlined organizing approach like Beth R. does, share this video with teachers and administrators at your school, or your child’s school! Don’t forget to share it with your child…maybe he will be inspired to be a quiet leader at school.

Here’s to empowering our students for success!



-Susan Kruger

Simplicity Is NOT Optional; It’s Essential for Organization!

I am a former struggling student who became a successful student, classroom teacher, 1-1 tutor, and now a study skills expert of 20+ years.

Through all the tears, years, and classroom experience, I consistently observe the #1 bottleneck for students is organization! If students can effectively organize and track their notes and assignments, they almost can’t fail a class.

An effective organization system puts students in control. It settles anxiety. It frees up critically valuable brain chemicals needed to engage in the primary function of school… learning.

“Simplicity” is not optional for organization. It is essential for brain biology. The prefrontal cortex is the region of the brain responsible for managing organization and organizing tasks. This section is the “weakest link” in our brain.

Every single turn-of-a-page adds a burden to the prefrontal cortex; imagine how much greater burden is placed on the brain with every additional supply students must manage?

There is a very common belief among teachers… “If each of my students has a separate folder and notebook for MY class, they will be more organized.”

This belief is not only false, it creates the very problem teachers are desperate to control!

The more supplies students must manage, the more students will lose things. There are variety of physics and mathematical laws that govern the reasons for this fact.

Students typically have 12-18 different folders and notebooks to track at one time. That’s quite a lot of supplies… and they all look the same when stacked in a locker or sandwiched in a backpack!

But, let’s focus on the practical stuff… like the fact that every folder and notebook looks the same when they are sandwiched in a backpack or stacked in a locker. It is far too easy to get to class with the wrong folder and/or notebook. It’s also far too easy to leave a trail of supplies at home, when doing homework.  When you’ve packed six notebooks in your backpack after completing homework, it’s really hard to notice that Notebook #7 is not there.

Let’s also consider the sheer number of transitions students must manage. They start their day at home, ride in a car/bus, then arrive at school. So far, not terribly different from adults. But, when they get to school, they have to manage all of their supplies between a locker and 6-8 different classrooms! This would drive us crazy, as adults.

As a former teacher, I know how much we hate having to move to different classrooms throughout the day. The experience is no different for students.

Every extra layer multiplied times alllllll of those transitions radically amplifies the (literal) amount of brain power required to manage student organization. It’s typically not practical to reduce the number of transitions in a students’ day, but we certainly can do something about the number of supplies we expect them to manage.

The least we can do is make all of the transitions easier for students by streamlining the number of supplies we ask them to manage. For more than 20 years, I’ve been teaching students how to use ONE binder to organize ALL assignments and notes for their classes. Most students immediately “get it;” they innately understand this system relieves a major burden and will make their lives easier to manage! (When they aren’t worried about social pressures, as I addressed in the video, above.)

Understanding the Brain Circuit

The brain is an electrical organ, powered by billions of tiny wires, known as neurons. In reality, each of those neuron wires is no different than this familiar circuit:

Our brains are electrical organs filled with billions of neuron wires. But really, each wire works just like this familiar circuit.

Imagine that each bulb on this circuit is a task the brain needs to manage: turning a page, opening a locker door, unzipping a backpack, pulling books out, zipping a backpack back up…

We don’t typically think about these steps consciously. But, each one of these actions requires navigation…and drains valuable power in the brain.

Imagine a student is in class and has just received a homework assignment from their teacher. This is what it typically takes to put that one assignment away:

With the SOAR® Binder, however, students have a system that simplifies the process. Now, when a student is in class and receives a homework assignment from their teacher, the process looks like this:

With a simplified system, we dramatically reduce strain on the brain. We create a situation where students are set up for success from the beginning, rather than having them start with a faulty, complicated system.

With fewer demands on the brain circuit, there is more power available for learning. There is far less anxiety. With a proper organization system, students are set to experience a positive, upward spiral of success!

When Teachers Have a Special System for Student Organization

Our first priority has to be centered on what is best for students. But, sometimes, a “single binder system” interferes with a teacher’s system. In this situation, we must find a compromise.

When I am visiting schools and working with teachers with apprehensions, I ask them, “What are the reasons you use this system? What is the main objective you are trying to accomplish?”

Almost always, we can find a way to meet the teacher’s objectives and accommodate the needs of the students. For example, science teachers often like to have a separate binder with tabs to separate: class notes, vocabulary terms, labs, and homework assignments.  One common way we address this situation is by keeping the Science Binders in the classroom and using the SOAR® Binder to transport papers/assignments between home and school. This requires some adjustments (such as finding a place in the classroom to store the binders, setting up a system for students to immediately/instantly manage distribution of binders at the start of each class). But, these extra adjustments pay dividends when far more students are showing up to class, prepared, with the correct assignments and papers.

Another option is to add the tabs right to the SOAR® Binder, behind their Science folder. Teachers can then guide students when to transfer all of their notes over to their home “paper station.” Or, perhaps teachers can maintain one filer folder in class, per student. At the end of a chapter or unit, papers can be transferred from the binder into the file folder until the end of the semester or year.

There’s an infinite number of ways to find common ground between teachers’ objectives and students’ needs. It is an adjustment, but it will work for everyone’s benefit very quickly!

Get more information about the SOAR® Study Skills Curriculum here.

Here’s to empowering our students for success!



– Susan Kruger

Filed Under: StudentsTagged With: brain, organization, paper organization, school organization

People in my life would maybe say that I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. Once I make up my mind, there’s no going back.  Remember how I recently made a family binder and Post-it Note grids?  Well that started an organizational kick.  Finally.  It only took 30 something years, but I am feeling the need to organize.  Phew!  Part of my organizing kick included this back to school binder.

I’ve always wanted to make a school binder for each of my kids but I’ve never gotten my act together.  I spent some time in Illustrator creating files for each of my kids (and now you).
First things first, I bought different colored binders and created a simple cover for each one.  Below I shared a generic version so you can add your child’s name to it.

I wanted a grade printable for my almost 2nd, 6th and 8th grader.  Originally I was just going to have them hold it for a picture but then I decided it’d be fun to have them write what they were looking forward to or hoping for in their upcoming year around the grade.
These days my 6th grader is not a fan of traditional smiling pictures.  Instead I get this:

After I took her picture, I put that printable grade into a sheet protector and it’s at the beginning of her binder:

Next I created an “All About Me” sheet for each grade. (see printables below) I added the picture of Julia into it and had her fill out the sheet.  I plan on having each one of my kids fill one out at the end of the year too.  There is a spot for a 4×6 picture on this sheet.

In this school binder, there are several sections.  The idea is to have one for each child so that all of their important things can be in their binder.  This binder can carry on through the rest of the grades.  Some of the sections are: homework, artwork, grades, and calendar.  Sadly for her, Julia carries on her mom’s not-so-organized trait.  One of the things I’m determined to teach her this year is to keep better track of things.  To help with that,  I made a calendar and punched holes to add it to her binder.  She can pencil in all of her important assignments and things she needs to remember.  I want her to start junior high next year as a much more organized and responsible student.

I’ve done all the hard work creating the sheets, you just have to click below! Grab a binder, some sheet protectors, dividers and school supplies at any store and get to it.  Now is the time to do this when there are SO many deals for supplies.  I found several posts on deal sites sharing school supply sales (ie this Back to School Stock Up Worthy post).  In some cases you can get stuff for free.  For free people!! And if I’m sharing these for free…..then the whole thing is free….and you really have no excuses.  Right?  Right.  If I can tackle this project, anyone can.

As always, all printables are for 30days subscribers and personal use only.  Thank you!
The following printables are 8.5×11.”  Make sure to check your printer settings when printing.

Just write your child’s name on the line and you’re set.
Boys Binder Cover
Girls Binder Cover

1st grade
2nd grade
3rd grade
4th grade
5th grade
6th grade
7th grade
8th grade
9th grade
10th grade
11th grade
12th grade

1st grade
2nd grade
3rd grade
4th grade
5th grade
6th grade
7th grade
8th grade
9th grade
10th grade
11th grade
12th grade

Here’s a generic version of All About Me if you want to make copies to use in future years!

You can get the all new Student Binder for 2016-2017 here!

Looking for other ways to get more organized? Check out my Family Binder and Accountability Binder with lots of printables too!

Here are some of my other binder printables and ideas:

Follow me on Instagram to see what printables and projects I’m working on next! And don’t miss my other 100+ printables.


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