Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What is a M.O.N.K.E.Y. Book?

I just took for granted that everyone knew what a M.O.N.K.E.Y. Book (M.O.O.S.E. Book, S.T.A.R. Book, B.E.E. Book, etc..) was.  I had read about them for years online and didn't completely buy into them until my neighbor, Mrs. S, moved in and showed me the way with her M.O.O.S.E. Books and I was sold.  Since I started my blog and have mentioned this book, I have had several questions from bloggers, so I thought, now that I finally have my books together (thanks to my wonderful mom!), I thought I would share the answers and pictures with everyone.

What exactly is a M.O.N.K.E.Y. Book?
They are the best means of communication and organization I have ever utilized as a teacher.  It is a 1" binder that includes note paper for notes to and from home and a folder to hold work and items that need to be returned.  It also houses the specials schedule, contact information and a monthly calendar that includes special days and due dates.  The children learn responsibility to bring their book back and forth from school to home EVERY day.  It is a rare occasion that a child doesn't have their binder with them as they line up at the door in the morning and they never lose them.  I am not completely sure why, but my experience has proven that the families and children take better care and pay closer attention to the binder than they ever did when I had daily folders.

How Are These Books Put Together?
 This is the cover that I print off and slide into a view binder.  I print (always in draft mode to save ink) onto photo paper (that is often FREE after the Easy Rebate at Staples if you keep your eyes out). In the past I have made smaller covers and taped them on regular binders with heavy duty clear shipping tape.
And, really, you don't even need a fancy, schmancy cover at all.  I just like the students' books to  be special enough for them to realize their importance right away (okay, and I'll admit, I like cute stuff!). 
I put about 5 pieces of notebook paper on the top with a label that explains what it is.  It is a quick and easy way to send a note home that will be seen (because the parents know they need to check the MONKEY Book every night).  I also check for notes from home every morning here before the children even step foot in the  room.
The most important part of the binder is the folder.  This year, I was really excited to find plastic folders in the School Specialty catalogue that I could 3-hole punch to use in the MONKEY Books.
I clearly label them the Rodeo Monkey is on the RIGHT side and all of the items in that pocket need to be brought RIGHT back to school.  The Love Monkey is on the LEFT side and all items in that pocket can be LEFT at home.  The picture clues assist in the children packing their own MONKEY Books every afternoon (as well as help them learn their left vs. right!).
I also put an explanation page, a rules (about the book) page, and our specials schedule in page protectors.  These stay in the book for the entire year.  I also put a monthly calendar (with special eventsand due dates written in) in a page protector that is changed each month.
Lastly, I always give my parents 2 copies of my classroom handbook.  One is to keep at home and the other remains in the MONKEY Book for the year for them to refer to as needed.  I actually write on the cover (before I copy it) "Please leave in MONKEY Book to refer to throughout the year".
You can also see a sticker stuck in the middle of the right side of the folder.  It basically asks parents to return any items/notes, etc to the front pocket of the book, so that I can just open the front of the book and see if there is any paperwork or notes from home that need attention.
How Do You Make Sure You Get Everything You Need Out of the Book Each Day?
I train my students to line up at the door with their MONKEY Book and I quickly just open the front cover and start making a stack of paperwork that needs attention.  Once I have checked their books, the students put them away.  If there is a note that needs a response, I keep the book on my desk to make sure I write back when I have a chance.
Where Do You Store the Binders?
I used to have a laundry basket that the books were housed in for the day (if you do this, I recommend putting their names on the spine so each book can be quickly found).  But, last year, I tried something new and had the kiddos put them in their personal cubbies.  I loved it for so many reasons:  it gained me more space in my space-deprived classroom since I didn't have to have a big basket just sitting there, I could immediately see who was absent or who failed to give me their book by looking at the cubbies, and if I needed to write a note home or put something in a book, I could find it fast!
How Do You Find the Time to Pack MONKEY Books Everyday?
I don't!  I train the children to do it starting the first week of school.  Do they always do it neatly and orderly?  Absolutely not, but it is worth it to me to have that much more time with them versus taking the time (or my planning time!) to do a job that they are capable of themselves. 
I hope I have given you enough information (and answered all of the questions from you!) so that you can make your own to try out this year.  If you are interested in all of the materials that I used for mine, I have the kit for sale at my TpT Store for $5.00.  All you need to do is print out the pieces and put them together like I have shown you.  Good luck and I would love to hear if there are more questions or how you do your binders differently!

Click here to purchase this kit!


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