As special educators juggling multiple levels, we're always on the lookout for fun and educational activities that can help students build important cognitive skills. One of the best ways to do this is by using activity pages that feature interactive elements like velcro pieces, hole punches, and cutouts.
Busy Binders – a.k.a. Busy Books, Busy Bags, or Brain Binders (my personal favorite) filled with fun activities are a great way to deliver targeted practice that's easily customizable and even better – they can be reused every school year!
What is a Busy Binder?
There are soooo many variations, but essentially it's a collection printable activity pages that are often laminated (or you can use sheet protectors), three-hole punched, and assembled into a sturdy binder. Students may interact with the pages using a dry erase marker or there could be moveable pieces, i.e.: number or letter tiles. I found it was useful to have a little bit of both types of pages and then I added pencil pouches or zip lock bags for storing loose pieces.
Activity pages are a great way to engage early learners in hands-on, interactive activities that promote cognitive development. With velcro dots, kids can match uppercase and lowercase letters, or put the right arrows in the right spot. With hole punch activity sheets, they can practice fine motor skills, while number puzzles can help with analytical skills.
The exciting thing about activity pages is that the same printable pages can be used in many different ways. You can create a quiet book or printable busy book with page protectors and velcro pieces, or put together a complete hands-on activities binder or interactive learning “binder”book” with a 3-ring binder and laminating pouches. Or skip the binder altogether and use a plastic bag or tray to create “on the go” centers.
How Do You Use a Busy Binder in the Classroom?
Activity pages can be a great tool for morning work, quiet time, or as part of an independent work system. You can even create a special education binder with IEP skills pages, or math skills and matching activities – this is exactly how we used them. Every student had their own binder of skills to practice that aligned with their IEP goals and objectives. I was even able to use them for work samples (data!) and performance task assessments.
One busy binder can be used for your entire caseload – picture an assembly line. I recommend grouping IEP objectives into similar skills and then start filling up the books! Several students may have all letter activities that focus on the following skills: letter recognition, letter formation, and letter sounds. Another group may find sight words and color words with activity pages that are fun and engaging. Mix and match the pages!
One of the best things about activity pages is that they are reusable, especially with dry erase markers and inexpensive manipulatives, like pom poms or mini erasers. And while some materials may require an extra cost, like velcro pieces and laminating pouches, they can be used over and over again.
Here's a quick video tutorial that walks through all the different activities included in the IEP Skills Busy Binder:
Busy Binders are a great way to promote fun learning and hands-on exploration. They are perfect for growing cognitive skills, and will be a welcome addition to your independent work system.