Using Manilla Folders to increase classroom engagement

One day I was sitting at my desk trying to figure out a way to keep my students engaged in class. I wanted students to be able to work through multiple problems and see multiple examples at their own pace. This is when I saw my box of manilla folders.

I first used the folders for an activity in Geometry where my students discovered the converse, inverse, and contrapositive.  Each pair of students worked on the activity together on the manilla folder, and at the end of class they were passed around. Students were able to see multiple examples and figure out the patterns of converse, inverse, and contrapositive without having to do multiple problems.

I next decided to use these folders in my algebra 1 class for teaching word problems. This particular class has A LOT of energy. It’s hard to get them to focus and take notes. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to have them practice word problems (perimeter, consecutive numbers, uniform motion). Students already filled in notes with notes with me and had examples of every type of word problem. Instead of giving students multiple problems to practice, I broke the class into partners and gave each group a word problem. It was each group’s job to complete the word problem and call me over when they finished. Once a group completed the problem correctly they had to copy their problem onto the manilla folder. On the front of the folder, they had to write the word problem. On the inside of the folder, they had to draw a chart (if necessary) and show their algebraic work. They also had to write their answer to the question out in complete sentences.   Students finished at different rates so this activity gave me plenty of time to walk around and help students and check for understanding.

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For homework that evening I had my students do the same thing, but this time they had were given a specific type of word problem and they had to create and solve their own problem. I wrote down the different types of problems on slips of paper and put them in the cup. Students got to reach into the cup to pick the problem they had for homework. This added a sense of excitement for getting the homework that night. I had students send me pictures of their problem before they copied it to the folder.

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In class the next day, students passed around the folders from their homework and from class the days before. The problems were on the front of the folder and the answers were on the inside. This was great because students were able to practice a variety of problems that they SOLVED and CREATED and were able to check their work instantly. This activity freed me up to be able to answer questions without the hassle of checking if every student had the right answer. This also gave my students the autonomy to create their own problems, decorate the folders, and work at their own pace. This activity took a little more time than just giving students a worksheet, but it was definitely worth it.  A worksheet would only keep this class engaged for a quarter of the time, but using folders kept them engaged the entire class.

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