My appreciation for binders developed when I moved to North Carolina after living in China for 5 years. (see my full story)
On August 13th, I obtained a job teaching a Kindergarten Dual Language (Spanish/English) class. It was days before teachers began their meetings and preparations for the school year and I had brought ZERO materials with me to NC as I had given them all away prior to moving to China.
In China, I taught at a Public High School where there were 60 students per class, 20 classes per week.
All I had to work with was a chalkboard and chalk. That’s where I developed 130 lessons to encourage Spoken English. China is truly where I learned to create engaging lessons with very little.
Arrived to the US with No Materials
So, I arrived to NC with literally no school materials. I walked into the fairly empty Kindergarten classroom. It was dusty from a summer of no use. There were tables, chairs, a few books, a closet full of used and unused items. I remember being impressed with how many materials there were in the closet.
And then, my eyes fell on 24 red and blue binders. I wish I had a picture. I wonder if they’re still there.
My assistant and I numbered them 1-24, odd numbers on red, even numbers on blue. That way we could reuse them year after year.
We assigned a number to each student and began storing their drawing and writing work in their binder days into the school year. Each day at the start of the writing block, the children would get out their binders and look over what they had drawn or written the day before. Then, they’d begin a new piece.
The 1st Book They Read
Essentially, the binder was the first book they read themselves. And the fact that they illustrated and wrote it, excited them. The kids consistently loved their binders all year long.
My 5 year old son is learning to read this way also. I introduced the binder to him at around 3 ½ years old. I put his drawings in it. I also put his letter pages A-Z in it. He would add stickers of words that began with each letter.
Storing drawings, adding beginning sounds, simple words, sight words and a child’s own written letters and words is perhaps the cheapest and rawest way to teach a child how to write and read.
Homeschool curriculum can be costly. Workbooks and reading materials get expensive for schools. Culture in general pushes fun and fancy.
Keep It Simple
I understand fun! My whole blog is about how to make writing fun! But fun doesn’t have to involve expense and electronics. In fact, most young children ages 0-5 just want to be with their Mamas! And Kindergartners just want to be with their teacher! We can use this to our advantage. What we like to do, they’ll like to do. So, try sitting with your child and drawing. I explain this more in the post, “Drawing Leads to Writing-Part 1 The Drawing Part.
Hold Off on Electronics
The truth is, I strongly suggest you save the electronics for later. There’s plenty of time to introduce them. And once we do, it’s often a battle to keep children interested in anything else. Interestingly, children will learn to use computers and I-Pads at lightning speed. They will not “be, get or fall” behind if they don’t use until they’re well into elementary school.
My boys are 7 and 6. They don’t have an I-Pad and they don’t ask for one. They do get to use the computer for specific academic activities. Aside from computer time, they are so busy building, imagining, playing board games, drawing, talking, reading, biking. AND, they are strong readers and writers.
Convenience, Conversation and Low Cost
So back to our binders, I love the convenience, conversation and low cost of teaching writing and reading this way.
Binders can be free or very cheap at garage sales or 2nd hand stores. This year at the Walmart back to school sales they sold them for 97 cents. I bought a couple, but do admit that they aren’t as sturdy as the other binders I have.
At Staples earlier this summer they even had BB8, Finding Nemo, Minions, Power Rangers and Ninja Turtle binders for $1.00 each on their clearance shelf.
I bought 6 to divvy up among my boys and their homeschooling friends. Keep an eye out. Grab them whenever you find them cheap or free. Otherwise, brand new binders can be pricey. Also, try to get clean ones that are in good condition, just because. They will last longer.
Binders are great because they can hold a lot of work and show children’s progress. Kids LOVE to go back and reread their work!!!
The following posts explain how to get started and what to store in these binders!