School Supplies – binders or duotangs?

This year, our whole school has decided to buy our school supplies and ask parents for money instead of supplies. This has a number of advantages. I’m looking forward to knowing that all my students will have good quality supplies, there won’t be any jealousy over who has the better stuff because it will all be the same, and I will be sure that all my students will have the supplies they need right from day one.

There are some disadvantages as well of course. For example, right now I am expecting 24 students in my class but I know this can change. I want to make sure I have enough for all of my students without exceeding my budget. For some supplies like pencils and paper, that’s not very hard. But for larger items that I would like to last all year it can be a bit difficult.

I’ve been working on my shopping list after taking stock of the supplies I already have, and I’m debating whether I would like my students to use binders or duotangs. Now I understand that duotangs is a word that seems exclusive to Canada, so for those outside the country, they are folders with three metal fasteners to hold work. They look like this.

I like using them. They can make organization by subject fairly easy. But at the same time they can be a pain in the behind. Students are sometimes very hard on them. They put in papers upside-down, backwards or don’t attach them in properly at all. They take up a lot of space and sometimes take up a lot of time. One advantage of them over binders is that it is easier to take home a class set of duotangs over binders and it’s easier for students to take home one duotang if there is homework in one subject.

That all being said, I’m leaning towards trying out binders this year with tabs for each subject, at least once I switch over to the English half of the year. For  the first 5 months while I teach French, they’ll only need one duotang and one scribbler and one folder. A binder would be unnecessarily large for the amount I would have them use it. But once we switch over I think it would be useful. Part of my reasoning is that my grade 5’s will be moving on to middle school next year and I think it would be good for them to get used to keeping a binder organized. I also think that it would be easier to go out and buy 25 binders instead of going out and buying 250 or more duotangs.

Which system do you prefer? Have you tried both? Any other systems that you think would work better?

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