Binders to Collect Work

I want my students to save certain papers during the year and use later as they study for the AP®  Exam. These papers include labs, charts, handouts, some notes and other important papers. To force them to keep these papers, they are required to make an AP®  binder.

Just a note: the binder helps kids keep the papers after they’ve been graded and passed back–I don’t use binders to collect work to grade.

Requirements to Build the Binder

I require a 1 inch binder. My class doesn’t use as much paper as it did a decade ago as a lot is done virtually and we do sticky notes instead of regular notes. I tell students to reuse an old binder from last year (duct tape together as needed) as its better for the environment, saves money, and they only bring into class to grade 3 times per year. Legally, I cannot require a binder in California so alternately, students can use another organizer/folder and receive the same points. I also have old binders left behind from previous years that I empty and give to kids as needed.

My students can use whatever they’d like for daily work in my class—a folder, another binder with multiple classes, etc. The “official” APES binder only needs to come to class 3 times per year to grade.

Dividers with tabs can be purchased or made using sticky notes. Most students opt to make with sticky notes to save money.

Directions for creating the binder are given to students at the beginning of the year in a little booklet I created called the “Great APES Booklet”

Hand-made sticky notes used as tab dividers.

What goes into the Binder?

Students make a cover sheet for the APES binder with their name, period, my name as the teacher and decorations. I tell them the decorations can be printed or hand-drawn and can be of things related to the environment or of the great apes.

A student who chose a picture of an ape for their cover page.
An artistic students’ hand-drawn cover
A student who chose a political cartoon for their cover sheet

Students must also have a table of contents or AP®  binder list. I write the list on a side board and also have it on a google doc for kids to use.

Binder list or table of contents

Students use the list to number the assignments in the binder. We place items in chronological order as they’re covered during the year.

This GPP/NPP lab is item # 18 in the binder.

Grading the Binder

Students bring in their AP®  binders 3 times per year in about October, January and April.  I have 175 students in APES and if I have enough room in the lab, I will collect and grade and then give back in about a week. If space isn’t available, students peer grade and take the binders home. Here is a sample binder grading sheet. 


In March, I give students a “6 Week Study Plan”  for the AP®  Exam which emphasizes certain items in the binders. Some examples are the water quality lab, salinization lab, charts etc. These are papers which have content, science practices, or other things they need to review for the AP exam.

APES Binders force the kids to save papers that they will need later.

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