Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My Story

I had never heard of science notebooking until I started working at Lady's Island Middle School (6th grade science). I was hired and the teacher I was replacing was moving up to another grade level. She gave me a copy of one of her student notebooks and related papers and said that they notebook in science. This was my first year teaching middle school science and I thought better to stick with something you had copies of then reinvent the wheel.

Unfortunately the sample notebook I received was bland (very black and white with little student work or color), again I was just starting and went with what I had. By sheer luck I was placed on a team with a Humanities teacher who has been notebooking for years, who was able to walk me through the notebooking process and share several of her notebooks from years past. Her notebooks had lots of color and more student work and interaction then my sample and I was able to see what students were capable of. I didn't truly tap into that until January of that first year and you can easily see the progression from where I started (in book 1) to where I ended (in book 2). Another bonus of being teamed with such an awesome teacher was that she was training the students in her classroom on how to use the notebook so that when they came to me for my class period they already knew how to create a visual vocabulary layout, make a title page, etc. I can not tell you how invaluable that was! I am now in the elementary school setting and I am the one teaching the students from scratch and it was slow going to begin with (frustrating to the point of wanting to give up...but I'm glad I didn't).

The whole concept of notebooking appealed to my creative scrapbooking side. I loved the idea of having all the student work in one interactive book and using a variety of different mediums to teach and reinforce science concepts, from foldables to storyboards.

Apparently notebooking had been around since the 90's but somehow missed me in grad school. I looked up books, articles, webpages, and went to conferences and attended workshops to find a recipe book for starting and maintaining a good science notebook. I found several in each category but again was struck with how bland and unappealing they were. I found myself relying more on my team teachers experiences and samples, and what I wanted to accomplish, then all the other information I was finding.

During my December break that first year with notebooking, I really dissected what I wanted to do going forward and started fresh when the students came back in January. The difference was night and day in the quality of work and finished product. Still it was my first year and I listened intently to my team teacher saying how it is a growing and evolving process...she recently introduced Cornell notetaking into her notebooks this year and is working through what works and what doesn't with that. I am introducing notebooking in the elementary school for the first time, so I too am working through what works and what doesn't in that setting. I expect that to be ongoing until the day I leave teaching.

I shared my middle school notebooks with several friends who are now attempting their own versions in several schools in both social studies and science. We share back and forth and they are experiencing problems that they are working through, just as I am. I have shared my books with a few teachers in my school but hesitate to "push" them on anyone because this is my first year using them in an elementary school setting and I think I might be able to "sell" the concept better if I had finished versions to show. I also feel that teachers need to decide for themselves if it is something they would like to do, rather then have it thrust upon them by administration. Teachers who want to do it rather then are forced to do it take more pride in what their students are accomplishing using the notebooks.

No comments: