Monday, February 18, 2013

Unique instruction tool: hanging file folders

I could not decide what to call this post. Do I name it after the technique? Do I name it after the instructional strategy or content I'm trying to cover? And then I realized, no you need to name it after the unique part of it: the tool you use.

I am a queen of cheap. Chances are this won't be the last "Unique instruction tool" post I pen.Why pay for something fancy when you can use a free tool or repurpose something you've got lying around?. Enter the lowly hanging file folder. You know you have some extras in that file cabinet in the corner. Why not take them and re-envision them as a teaching tool?

This idea originated as a way to help students put a bunch of events from European history in chronological order. The inspiration? Those "Price Is Right" pricing games I watched as a kid! I printed out the events on pieces of paper and then stapled them to the front of the folder with the metal bar at the top. On the inside I stapled a piece of paper that had the event, the year it occurred, and the correct number it was in the sequence. I finished off the project by binder clipping the folders shut.

A simple activity, but the benefits were many. It got the students up out of their seats and moving around the classroom. It required the students to work together to figure out the sequence. It introduced quite a few different events (as possible paper topics). And it had the added element of being something the students hadn't seen before. Plus I paid absolutely nothing for it. Paper, a stapler, binder clips and hanging folders--that's it.
Since the initial introduction, I've used this technique to talk about characteristics of different regions of the world, and most recently to reinforce what students have already learned about the parts and purpose of a scholarly journal article. We teach this concept in a few intro level classes, but it's something a little reinforcement can't hurt. When I ask the students about this in class I usually get one student that answers all the questions, but with the folder activity I get at least 8 students involved usually leaving the traditionally quiet students in the "audience" to move the volunteers up front into the correct sequence.

What ways could use use this technique? It works well for sequencing and reinforcement of ideas already presented.

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