Friday, June 26, 2009

Studying for Tests

Someone had a question about using the notebooks to study for tests. Good question!

As mentioned in a much earlier post, I generally do not let the notebooks leave the classroom. I worked with a group of students my first year who did not take care of their supplies and often things that went home never came back. This was extremely frustrating so I stopped sending the notebooks home.

Instead I adopted the study guide above from a co-teacher (thanks Ms. Gannon!). The children, parents, and I love it. Basically you create a two table grid in a word document (see first picture). You put a question on one side and the answer on the other. You can leave the answer part blank and students can fill that in during class. I only had about 45 minutes with my students last year and for the sake of time I would only leave a few blank that they would either fill out as we reviewed the study guide or I would give them a set amount of time to fill in the blanks using their notebook and then reviewed.

The paper can then be folded in half (see second and third picture above) and students can self quiz themselves (questions will be on one side, they try to answer, and then they flip it over to check themselves).

I usually talk to my students about being strategic when using this study guide. Example - Don't waste time studying the things you know. If you know the information concentrate on the things you don't know...put a star by those questions. I find that students overwhelm themselves when studying in general. I stress that they already know more things then they think they do. If they can isolate a few items instead of all the items they do much better. If I have time I pair them off for about 10 minutes to study and have them put stars on the things they need to study better so at least I know they have looked at it more then once. This may be common sense for most of us but I find that fourth graders are just developing these skills and they need practice being strategic.

I have a place for parents to sign at the top and if they turn in their study guide with a parent signature they get five extra points on the test.

In one of my classes I had a large group that were really having trouble focusing and the last thing they did at home was study. I would give them about 15 minutes immediately before the test to pull out their study guide (always having extras on hand) to look over. I figure that would at least give some students a fighting chance of passing.

There are some teachers who do send their notebooks home and have them review pages ___ - _____ for the test. Nothing wrong with that. I really dislike having to deal with forgotten, misplaced, or lost notebooks and the system above works for me. My game plan next year is to have students take the notebooks home for a parent signature at the end of each unit but they will continue to stay with me in the classroom the bulk of the time.

Substitute Teachers

I had a really good question about what do you do when you have substitute teachers and you notebook. Normally I do not have them do anything in the notebook while I am away. I may have them work on something that might be put in the notebook once I get back but as far as actually taking the notebooks out and working on

If I am only going to be gone one day I sometimes make up close notes using the textbook (that I rarely use) and format the notes (using Word, landscape, two columns) so they can be cut down the center and glued in upon my return. My close notes are a combination of fill in the blank, draw and label a diagram from the book, answer questions, etc. Enough to keep the students busy but still be able to tie it into what we are learning. If they are done early I have the substitute play vocabulary bingo (see previous post) or I have another activity planned.

If I am going to be gone several days I will put together a booklet using publisher (catalog template - which I just delete all their stuff and then put in what I want). The workbook will have a combination of things in it and the students can do it in any order they want as long as it is complete by the time I get back. It is generally a mix of "fun" things such as a unit related vocabulary word search (try this great build your own website), vocabulary crossword (there are lots of build your own crossword sites on the web), acrostic poem (i.e. SOLAR SYSTEM), draw a picture, etc. and more formal academic items such as definition of words, answer an essay question, a short science/unit related reading with comprehension questions, close notes, etc. I then glue it into the book once I get back (make sure there is a space for their name on the back or front and stress that the substitute make sure their names are on it). I generally grade the academic items and give students some extra bonus points for completing the "fun" items (except the acrostic...which I grade). If you have a good substitute they can start the grading process for you.

I get some of my items for the booklet from activity books the textbook company gives us that I haven't used, online search for items, etc. I often scan them in or just shrink them down to fit the completed booklet. Usually I give student too much stuff to do and I will adjust my grading based on an average range of completeness.

I have had some "difficult" classes before and I will tell the substitute that those classes may not start the fun stuff (i.e. words search) until they have completed the following pages (and list them for him/her). I have students that will milk that word search into four days if humanly possible!

Other things I do with substitutes are the obvious science related movie (requiring the students to answer questions as the movie progresses or make ten connections to what we are studying or list ten vocabulary words that we've covered in class, or draw a comic book strip summarizing the main points of the film with pictures and captions - all of which can go into a notebook) or I'll book the computer lab and have them complete a webquest on the topic at hand (which also can be glued into a notebook).

This next year I am going to have to be creative since I am going to be gone twice pretty close to each other.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Grading - Again

I know a lot of folks ask about grading and I have confessed a love/hate relationship with it but I am happy to report that Mrs. Gannon has just addressed how she grades in her social studies blog. This might be of more use then my post, as she has been notebooking for years with her middle schoolers and was my "go to" person my first year of notebooking. She is moving down to teach fifth grade (social studies) in our new intermediate school so I am excited to see her post her adventures notebooking with upper elementary. Her blog is also on the right of this screen under "blogs I am following."

Hope everyone is enjoying the summer. I recently attended Space Camp for Teachers on a scholarship from Honeywell (applications are due early December and are for math and/or science teachers who teach children ages 10-16...even though it says middle school teachers on their webpage it does not indicated that on the application). It was a great experience and I posted a video (animoto) on my classroom blog. This week I am dealing with freshman orientation with my son who will be starting Coastal Carolina University in the fall (computer science) is so hard to let go!!!!

Planning to start my teacher edition of my notebook and tweak and plan for next year. Will post as I progress.

Monday, June 8, 2009

End of Year Blues

We are near the end of the school year and today I had to give back my student's science notebook. I had a few that said I could keep theirs but, as you can guess, the really good notebooks were claimed proudly by their owners. This is a far cry from the sixth graders I taught last year that let me all keep their books. I'm glad I got to keep a few because I was not that faithful with keeping up with my teacher version.

Overwhelmingly students loved the solar system accordion book with velcro assignment the best (although as stated in an earlier post they play with it constantly). I had a child bring in his visiting aunt and uncle and that was the page he showed off to them.

Next year I would like to:

- Incorporate a popup or two in the book
- Do a full page picture that has flaps students have to write under (I'm thinking water cycle)
- Have some kind of menu activities for students to work at the end of a unit.
- Create BINGO for each unit (the kids loved playing it)
- Give students more independent work and less guided work
- Incorporate a few writing assignments (journaling to a question, etc.)
- Decoupage the front cover at the end of the year (saw it once and liked it but need to try it first)

I'm sure there are more things but those are things that made the top of my list to be thinking about this summer.

I am hoping to get more organized this summer and maybe even get a completed teacher book together. A friend suggested that I do my teacher edition in a three ring binder with page protectors so that I can add and remove things more easily then in a composition book. So if I skip or change a notebook activity last minute I can make the necessary changes in my teacher edition without throwing the book off. I liked the suggestion.

For those following this blog...I will be back at the same school next year (Mossy Oaks Elementary School) teaching fourth grade again. I will be on a team of three teachers this coming year teaching science to all three classes. I will have one homeroom ELA class (first time teaching ELA so I am a little nervous but will be on the lookout how I can incorporate notebooking there as well...probably not the first year but who knows.)

I'll continue to post during the summer as I come across ideas.

Site Visitors

I just checked my blog counter and found out that over 2,000 people have visited this site since January of this year. That is very exciting!

It is entirely possible that people were directed here accidently and just as quickly moved on but still....I was excited about the interest in notebooking. I am happy to write that a friend of mine is moving into the fourth grade and is going to start notebooking in science. Another friend today grabbed a book that one of the students didn't want. She is planning to notebook in the third grade. A teacher I met at a training asked me to send her a book to show in the classes she runs for other teachers. We are all pretty close so I should be posting their experiences and ideas as we get together to discuss what works and what doesn't in our science classrooms.

Thank you for taking the time to visit this site...even if it might be as a result of an accidental mouse click :)