Polski3's View from Here

Quote of some personal revelence: "Is a dream a lie, that don't come true, or is it something worse?"

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Interactive Student Notebooks

Years ago, in the mid 1990's, our History department adopted the Teacher's Curriculum Institute (TCI) supplemental materials for Grade 7 World History and Grade 8 US History, we had two sets of binders full of lessons, slides, etc. Part of the TCI approach was the use of Student Interactive Notebooks. We began to tinker around with Interactive Notebooks. I tried it for a year or two; it was successful and at times, stressful. From what I recall, most members of the history department didn't even try it. Anyhow, here is what TCI says about Interactive Notebooks ( this is copied and pasted directly off their website):

"Interactive Student Notebook
Many student notebooks are drab repositories of information filled with uninspired, unconnected, and poorly understood ideas. Interactive Student Notebooks, however, allow students to record information about history in an engaging way. As students learn new ideas, they use several types of writing and innovative graphic techniques to record and process them. Students use critical-thinking skills to organize information and ponder historical questions, which promotes creative and independent thinking. In Interactive Student Notebooks, key ideas are underlined in color or highlighted; Venn diagrams show relationships; cartoon sketches show people and events; timelines illustrate chronology; indentations and bullets indicate subordination; arrows show cause-and-effect relationships. Students develop graphical thinking skills and are often more motivated to explore and express high-level concepts.

1. Make sure students have appropriate materials.
To create Interactive Student Notebooks, students must bring these materials to class each day:
• an 8 1/2-by-11-inch spiral-bound notebook, with at least 100 pages

• a pen

• a pencil with an eraser

• two felt-tip pens of different colors

• two highlighters of different colors

• a container for all of these (purse, backpack, vinyl packet)

2. Have students record class notes on the right side of the notebook.
The right side of the notebook—the “input” side—is used for recording class notes, discussion notes, and reading notes. Typically, all “testable” information is found here. Historical information can be organized in the form of traditional outline notes. However, the right side of the notebook is also an excellent place for the teacher to model how to think graphically by using illustrated outlines, flow charts, annotated slides, T-charts, and other graphic organizers. There are many visual ways to organize historical information that enhance understanding. The right side of the notebook is where the teacher organizes a common set of information that all students must know.

3. Have students process information on the left side of the notebook.
The left side—the “output” side—is primarily used for processing new ideas. Students work out an understanding of new material by using illustrations, diagrams, flow charts, poetry, colors, matrices, cartoons, and the like. Students explore their opinions and clarify their values on controversial issues, wonder about “what if ” hypothetical situations, and ask questions about new ideas. And they review what they have learned and preview what they will learn. By doing so, students are encouraged to see how individual lessons fit into the larger context of a unit and to work with and process the information in ways that help them better understand history. The left side of the notebook stresses that writing down lecture notes does not mean students have learned the information. They must actively do something with the information before they internalize it.

In short,

Left Side: Student-Processing, “Output”

Right Side: Teacher-Directed, “Input” " http://info.teachtci.com/forum/isn.aspx

A google search will take you to several good pages and examples of student interactive notebooks. There is a wiki page devoted to interactive notebooks found here: http://interactive-notebooks.wikispaces.com/

So, why am I thinking of trying interactive notebooks again? For several reasons. My reasons include my trying to cut down on the number of "ditto" copies I run. The fact that I seem to have too many students who cannot find individual papers in the mess of their backpacks and binders. The fact that I don't want to start what I consider a grade school thing of having a "folder" in each class for each student to put their work into. The fact that for the most part, much of what students need to have to study, review and help prepare for tests and quizzes should be in one place, their spiral notebook that is their interactive notebook. I have on order a new book about using interactive notebooks " Marcia J. Carter, et al "Interactive Notebooks and English Language Learners: How to Scaffold Content for Academic Success" which I ordered from Amazon.com. The idea of using this tool with ELL's is something that has prompted me to try Interactive Notebooks again.

Here is some of what I learned at the CLMS Conference workshop I attended for Interactive Notebooks:

Each notebook has a title page with name of class, student name, class period, and the name of their teacher.

Notebook expectations --- sort of like a contract signed by student and a parent.

Data about what goes on the Left-side pages: summaries, reflections, poems, headlines, graphic organizers, cartoons, illustrations, etc, All for the student to demonstrate their learning and understanding of the data from the right side page. It allows students to be creative and unique. The top of each left-side page will begin with the Title, date and directions.

On the Right-side pages, is data from class. It can include Openers/bell ringer activities, notes from the teacher, textbook, power point presentation or other a/v presentation, new vocabulary, homework questions, in-class assignments, checking for understanding quizzes, project notes, etc. In short, whatever is done in class.

No, you are not limited to one right-hand page per class period.

Table of Content pages. Note: PAGES. In a 100-page spiral notebook, there should be three or four pages dedicated to a table of contents. These pages have columns for page numbers, Left side items, Right side items and grades.

You can also include an interactive notebook grading rubric.

Students probably need a good chunk of a class period to set up their interactive notebooks. Teachers need to keep on hand, glue and scissors for students to use in class. ( I do recall hassles with scissors disappearing and blobs of glue being left on desks and seats for the next class period to find....part of the "stressful" aspects from the first time I tried this idea. )

After students set up their title page, Contract, Data sheets explaining what goes on the left and right sides, table of contents pages, etc, they need to number their pages....ALL of the pages in their notebook.

Then, you, the teacher, needs to get ready and make adjustments to how you teach. This was hard for me, years ago.

Also, encourage students to obtain the "normal" size spiral notebooks, the ones with 8.5 x 11 inch size pages. There are others, slightly smaller ones that are (I think), 8.5 x 10.5. Those smaller ones are usually the cheap ones found at Staples, K-Mart, Wal-Mart, etc., for like ten cents each, especially during "back to school" days in August. The smaller ones will work, but they also have fewer pages in each notebook. I plan to write a letter to our local Staples, Wal-Mart, K-Mart and Costco to see if they will donate some spiral notebooks and glue sticks for my students to use. I do recall, that when we/I first tried Interactive notebooks, some students never came up with a spiral notebook for whatever reason, and at that time, we had a principal that was adamant that we could not "FORCE" any of our students to have any particular item of school supplies for class. She told us that if we were requiring them to have a spiral notebook for YOUR classes, then you go buy them for your students. Come to think of it, THAT is probably what really killed this idea back then.

Oh, grading Interactive Notebooks.....it is suggested that the teacher cruises around the room at times when students are working on something to check certain items in their interactive notebooks, that the notebooks are collected every couple of weeks for evaluation, or that some items in the interactive notebook are graded by students (peer grading).

One note about required materials for the interactive notebooks: at my school, students are NOT to have felt markers or highlighters. I ask my students to use colored pencils. Besides, if they color something in their interactive notebooks using markers, it usually bleeds through the page and can obliterate whatever is on the other side of the page.

They do require some work and effort, but for those who are using them, they say interactive notebooks are a great tool for helping students learn and stay organized.

Do you use interactive notebooks? IF so, share your experiences with us. Thanks for reading this blog.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

California League of Middle Schools 2oo9 Conference

Been busy lately.....anyhow, here are some snippets from last weekends CLMS 2oo9 Conference.

I found out that some map publishers have five oceans on their maps. Yep, there are the Pacific, Indian, Atlantic and Arctic, and now, some maps are showing the Southern Ocean or Antarctic Ocean. How many of you have heard this bit of geographic news? Wow, I said when I found this out. When I got home, I checked my current textbook, published by McDougal-Litell, jcopyright 2oo6, and WHOA, there it was, the Southern Ocean. However, National Geographic web maps, copyright 2oo3, did not have Antarctic or Southern Ocean on those maps. Did I miss the news report about this?

Speaking of publishers, I also found out, that McDougal-Litell is "no mas". They are now part of the Holt family of textbook publishers. Members of my department had not heard this news either. However, my principal knew about it due to the current Language Arts book adoption. So, I guess the history books we "adopted" will no longer be available if we need to buy some new ones? The publishers rep that I spoke to at CLMS did not know the answer to this question. Anyhow, I encouraged my department chair and principal to try to buy some additional copies of our current, fairly new texts to have on hand to replace those that are too damaged, lost etc.

My workshop went well, for the most part. I ran out of time, but I believe, from the feedback I got from the dozen or so who came in the closing hours of this conference, that they got some good strategies in engaging middle school students in Social Studies. Kudos to our nice representative from Nystrom maps; she provided me with several wall maps to use in my workshop and brought along free copies of Nystrom geographical and historical atlases to give to my audience. (I use several Nystrom map products in my classroom and can highly recommend them for any level social studies classroom !)

I attended several interesting and not so interesting workshops. I found out a bit more about using interactive notebooks. I have been thinking about trying this again (I once tried using them eons ago, well, ok, maybe not eons, but at least 10-15 years ago, with minimal success). Anyhow, I am thinking that many of my students, that hoard of them who spend countless minutes in class in an attempt to find what they need in the dark depths of their crumpled paper packed backpacks or flipping through piles of papers in a pocket of their three-ring binders, would benefit from having much of what they need in a simple spiral notebook. I don't like messing with scissors and glue, but it may be workable....Do any of you use interactive notebooks? If so, please share with me (us), how it works for you. For you who are curious about interactive notebooks, there are many samples, directions, ideas, etc., available via a simple search engine web search.

I got a free lunch too, courtesy of the TCI (Teacher's Curriculum Institute) folks. They have been holding meetings/luncheons at various teacher conferences to get feedback about their textbook materials. My school has the old TCI binders for Grades 7 and 8 World History and U.S. History and some of us use some of those activities. IMO, TCI's newer textbook type program is a pretty good one. If I had seen it when we were adopting history texts a couple of years ago, it would have been a top contender, in my book. But, we never received an samples from them. Anyhow, I appreciate the free lunch and the fact that the TCI people wanted our opinion about their products. Our current text publisher has never asked us for any feedback, nor have we heard from them about problems we've encountered (such as powerpoint programs that are unadaptable, easily tearing pages in the textbook, areas on reproducibles that have dark, hard to print with duplo machines stuff on them.....). TCI also gave us a preview of changes that are in the works with their material. And, in their raffle, I won a teacher kit for their Ancient World History program.

I attended part of one of the keynote speeches. While there, hunkered along one wall, a teacher was next to me, grading papers as she listened to the speech. I glanced at the pile of graded papers that lay between us and asked if I could see one. She was grading a grade 8 US History activity, which was an e-mail dialog between Col. William B. Travis at the Alamo and Mexican Army General Santa Ana. It was cool ! I talked briefly to her about it and she gave me a blank copy of her grading rubric for that activity. I can see such an activity used for a discussion between Hannibal and Scipio at Zama, Julius Caesar and Vercingetrix at Alesia, Saladin and Richard I at Jerusalem, (which I plan to do soon), the Pope and Martin Luther, Lord Cornwallis and George Washington at Yorktown, US Grant and Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, etc. etc. You never know when a good idea for teaching will find you!

The last thing I will say about this 2oo9 CLMS conference is that there didn't seem to be too many vendors set up in the exhibition hall. And, they packed up early. I attribute this to the economy. Its expensive to be a vendor at these conventions, and when school districts and teachers don't have much money to spend.....

Thanks for reading my blog. have a great next week!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Updating YOU

Are you a teacher who updates yourself? Are you a teacher who pretty much does the same thing each school year ? I am excited about going to next weekends CLMS (California League of Middle Schools) Conference as an opportunity to update me. Yes, I am also presenting, but here is an opportunity to go to some workshops specifically tailored for middle-level students and add to my ever-growing tool box of techniques, ideas, etc., for helping my students learn what the State of California hopes for them to learn. As I heard someone say once, a workshop or inservice is of value if you can find at least one new thing that you can use in your classroom. I believe this to be true.

Some teachers complain of being "stuck" or "chained" or "enslaved" in teaching. I wonder if they update themselves? Isn't "variety" the spice of life? I know those of you who have taught for a number of years have learned that curriculum changes, new expectations are added to existing expectations, students change and that over time, we develop a tool box of ideas, techniques, etc. to help teach the basics and beyond to our students. Update yourself. Challenge yourself to make you a better teacher. Maybe THIS is the time, during this long March march towards Spring/Easter Break, to find something new and exciting to inject into your classroom. Do it for you and for your students.

How do you "update" yourself? Please share it with us!

Thanks for reading this post. Have a good weekend and Great second week of March !