"We can no more afford to spend major time on minor things than we can to spend minor time on major things." ~Jim Rohn
We've all had them, maybe we are one ourselves - A lifelong learner that no matter what system gets puts in place at home or at school has a binder, desk, or locker that looks like a recycling facility by the third week of school.
In the past few years there were even a couple of students who once a month or every couple of months I would pull them and a recycling bin aside and go through the binder and the desk and the backpack. Rewards are offered, tears are shed ( sometimes by parents), conferences are held and recesses are missed, but nothing can MAKE a student who struggles with executive function instantly organized.
Last year as an attempt to jazz up foldables for our language arts notebooks, I "accidentally" ran a set of study guides on hot pink paper. Not wanting to waste the set, we went ahead and used them. Two days later when the study guide was due for review, little Tommy ( whose binder always looked like the aftermath of an F5 tornado) said he "had it, it was just in the pile of papers" Before I could even open my mouth, another student chimed in "it's the pink one!" And lo and behold, Tommy pulled it out and was ready on time with the rest of his group.
It was then that lightning appeared out of the clear cerulean sky, came in through the open window and cracked me on the head. The amount of time that Tommy and a few others routinely spent searching for different things was well worth the cost of colored paper. (My school typically doesn't like paper...we use single sided 'recycled' paper a lot because a parent donated a ton, but even then our principal always encouraged us to go paper free)
I spent the rest of the year ( well halfheartedly, because I lost a prep and sometimes you just gotta make a quick set of something at the copy machine!) using colored paper to help my students, and myself get organized. It was much easier to prioritize grading for myself when I knew that all math tests were light blue.
This year, I am expanding my system. Even though I work with students who have need of extra assistance as well as those who don't, I think all of them will benefit.
This year all of my math tests will continue to be light blue and my language arts tests will be light green. According to color theory, light blue minimizes anxiety and green stimulates thought. Study guides will be burn-your-retinas-orange. Since the students will be turning in their work at the end of a unit and clearing their binders, there will (fingers crossed) be no reason to have more than one study guide or test in their possession. White paper will be saved for articles/reading selections so that the kids can easily write on and highlight them.
Making copies on colored paper may not be ideal for every situation, but I saw a positive change in some of my students who struggle and I look forward to seeing that same positive reaction in my new crop of sixth graders!