I am willing to try out a lot of things in my classroom in my quest (in TFA speak) to continually increase effectiveness. One strategy that I’ve implemented this year I know that considerably increased my effectiveness as a teacher AND made me a more sane individual in the process.
This year I instituted use of interactive science notebooks in my classroom. This is instead of a well planned and never-able-to-be well executed binder system. I provide the notebooks to the students for free (I made them for free through our district copy shop). I have publication kits in my room, which is basically a plastic tub with crayons, markers, glue, scissors, pencils, and any other random stuff related to doing work.
Each day, students must bring the notebook. If they don’t have it, they automatically get lunch detention — even if the notebook is in their locker and they go get it. This has made the “are you prepared for class” fight so much easier.
The science notebooks help solve the problem created by the fact that I don’t work directly out of our textbook. In fact, the first quarter just ended, and we haven’t ever opened the textbook. The notebook becomes our textbook. We glue in anything and everything that can not be written into the pages of the notebook.
This system has made it so incredibly easy to do visual checks of student progress. Additionally, it has reduced my burden of catching kids up on items missed while absent… there is a whole grade of students that have the same exact notebooks from which they can get the notes! Even grading the notebooks is a super cinch with a student-led grading system. I LOVE THIS. (And, almost as important, the kids do, too.)
Interactive notebook strategy is derived from brain research about students’ needs to have multiple chances to process material presented in class. The right side page of every two-page spread is the input (teacher driven) page. The left side page is the output (student driven) page that usually consists of some sort of processing activity for the material presented that day in class.
This notebook system has been so effective, easy, and fun that another teacher on my team instituted a version of notebooks in her classroom. I say this fully-knowing that if this were not true, she would give me the evil eye tomorrow since she reads the blog.
I don’t have much more energy to write about science notebooks, as I gave an extensive session on them this weekend. But I felt it necessary to chronicle this aspect of my classroom for the world to read.
If you’re a science teacher and want the full details to get you started, search for “Interactive science notebook how-to kit” on the Resource Exchange. If you’re not a TFAer and want the materials, leave me a comment with your email (which will only be visible to me).