Sunday, August 16, 2009

What Works For Me Monday: binder rings

I've been busily adapting the May Unique unit on Sound. Between the books, picture symbols, word wall cards, sentence strips, and worksheets there is a lot of stuff to keep track of. The picture symbols are so easily lost, misplaced, or separated from their materials. Word wall cards and sentence strips get mixed up. And where is that worksheet when you need it? So....we needed some sort of organizational strategy. Here is what I'm doing:

Each of the books gets printed on cardstock, laminated, and comb bound. I put both the easy and advanced versions of the book in the same binding since we use both fairly interchangably. My kids can typically handle the content in the higher level material but need the lower level for vocabulary and literacy instruction.

I make a set of PCS symbols for key vocabulary to go with each book. Mine are 3" X 3" to accommodate groups and low vision issues. Each symbol has a hole punched in the upper left corner and are strung onto a binder ring. The ring is then clipped to the comb binding on the book. We use the symbols while we read to reinforce visual vocabulary as well as to talk about the book, answer questions, etc. The symbols are always with the book and I make duplicate symbols as needed for additional books so we don't have to "borrow." I prefer separate symbols to the preprinted communication boards (which are included with the unit) because it's easier to accommodate the needs of my students. I can attach them to a velcro board, hold them up in pairs, display them one at time for assisted scanning, remove incorrect answers for errorless learning, etc. Some of my low vision kids also require us to move the symbols to gain their visual attention. And some of my student prefer to pull off their answer rather than point/touch. Of course, those kids who have AAC devices will have appropriate overlays prepared as needed.

Sentence strips receive the same treatment as the symbols. I used the sentences from the simplified book for our sentence strips. This year we are learning about how words are used and how they make up sentences or messages. We are also working on our sight vocabularies. I used the Symbolate feature on Boardmaker for my sentence strips, reducing the symbols to the key concepts contained in the picture symbol cards.

Word wall cards are key words and sight words from the sentence strips. To some words I add a picture symbol to aid in recall. Other words (Dolch words) I want to teach as just sight words or the picture symbols are far too abstract so we might as well just learn them as words. We will use the word wall cards throughout the year, adding to them as we go. They will be used for vocabulary, sight word reading, alphabetics, phonics instruction, and anything else I can think of. These are put into their own collection on a large ring binder in alphabetical order so we can easily find and pull the ones we want to work on. I'd like to find a way to display them on a true word wall in my room but there are space issues as well as problems with my one ambulatory student constantly pulling them off to use for picture exchange (he gets the idea of exchanging a symbol for something he wants but he doesn't really care what the symbol is, any one will do; so we have to be careful what symbols we leave within reach, which would put the word wall way out of reach of the other students visually and physically).

I make a master copy of the worksheets that go with each activity and place them in page protectors. While we are within our copy budget we can copy them for student use. Eventually we may have to start writing the questions and answers into the kids' data notebooks. The worksheets go into a 3 ring binder. I also print and laminate picture symbols matching the choices on the easy worksheet. These are placed in a zippy bag and slid inside the page protector. I have two sets of questions: easy and advanced. The advanced questions are based on the question prompts at the bottom of the pages of the advanced reading material. These do not have picture cues as my students who use this level either use auditory scanning and/or yes/no responses to answer.

The 3 ring binder also contains the activity guide from Unique, my own notes on activities and adaptations, and any additional activities. For instance, with the sound unit we will be doing an experiment with vibrations, comparing loud/soft/high/low sounds, polling peers about favorite types of music, and traveling to Barnes and Noble to listen to different kinds of music. This binder will also contain assessment notes for the kids, notes on the activities for future use, photos, etc.

At the end of the unit all the materials will go into a 2 gallon (or bigger) zippy bag for storage and future use. We use picture symbols in our library cabinet for self selected reading so the books from the Unique units will be available through this format for selection. The picture symbol list lets us include physical books, audio books (on our ipods or CD), and computer books.

We also use binder rings to create portable communication symbols sets for our students. These might be transition cues, wants/needs, I'm upset and this is why, fringe vocabulary for particular activities, restaurant menu choices, etc. Most of my kids who use picture symbols have at least one set of cards with yes/no/more/stop and other important-to-them messages attached to their backpacks. We have also used them for "what to do when __ happens" cards to cue staff, to create photo dictionaries of sign language/gestures, etc.

So, binder rings work for me when I'm organizing materials. What works for you?


  1. I love binder rings!! I didn't have very many last year but I love them for binding books I've written.

  2. I have used binder rings to make little visual schedules. I take a piece of cardboard and make it in to a tent and then I make a bunch of small pages (usually about index card size) with symbol directions (sometimes 1 picture, sometimes more) for some sequence a student is supposed to do (brushing teeth, packing for home, a recipe...etc.). I then up them on the tent with binder rings (2) and we flip through them so the student can look at one direction at a time.

    Love all your ideas. Making mental notes here.