Teaching more than one class makes it hard for me to keep track of each of my students' levels at all times. Because I am elementary, I still feel the need to be addressing all of my students at their different academic levels. I differentiate wherever and whenever I can. However, when you teach multiple classes (more like a middle school set up) it gets really hard to differentiate. So many things to think about!
The early finishers bin has saved my life! My brain was in so many different directions when I was trying to differentiate for what felt like a billion different students. Especially because in math, some kids can be great in one content area, like fractions, but really have trouble in a different area, like geometry or algebra. Just because a child is good in one area of math, does not mean they will be good in all areas. The groups for differentiating are ALWAYS changing and it is ... exhausting!
That is where this bin comes into play...
I have hanging file folders in this bin I got at the office store. It is made for hanging files. The hanging files are numbered according to the students' assigned numbers in class (alphabetical). I have them numbered so that I can use this bin year after year without having to re-label anything. As you can see, this bin is set up for 2 classes: blue and yellow. Two classes seem like the best fit for each bin. Additional bins are used for additional classes.
In the front, you can see the green hanging files. These are used for the students to communicate with me without interrupting class. Since this is an "early finisher" bin, the students who are working on items from their folder are working on them during a time when others are working on something else. Most likely, I am at the back table with struggling students. The early finishers can go to this bin and look in their file. In their file, they will find handouts or activities hand selected by me for their needs. They know they have to complete the work in their folder from front to back. They cannot skip around.
The students place their finished work in the front file. I check these over. If they are mostly good-to-go, I keep it or give it back depending on the assignment. Sometimes I give them an additional grade at the end of the quarter for all of the extra work they have completed.
They can write letters to me in the "requests" section. If they know they are struggling on something and they don't think I am giving them work on that topic, they can ask for it in this section by writing me a note. It is actually amazing how accountable this makes the students! They start to really think about their weaknesses and they care about correcting them.
I added the "cannot complete: too hard" file because I would rather them notice their weakness is too strong than complete a whole hand out incorrectly. They have to try on some problems and they have to put their name on it...those are our rules! They do not overuse this folder out of laziness, which is what I was afraid of at the beginning.
I hope this file system can work for you! I really love it and it has been really successful for me in the past. I can also put little projects, team work activities, and test practice in there. There are just so many ways for me to use this because it is like direct communication with my students without any sort of class interruption.
Let me know if you have any questions! :)