Saturday, January 31, 2009

Clock Partners


I was at a conference once and they told us about using clock partners to team up students in the class. The concept is that students walk around and set an appointment time with other students and record their appointment on their clock (example: I go to you and ask if you have a five o'clock open. You tell me yes and I write your name in for 5 p.m. and you write my name in your 5 p.m. slot). You can specify that you can only list a persons name once or you must have equal number of boys and girls to keep it fair.

I found a template on the internet and recreated it on my own (feel free to email me if you want me to send it to you). I had my students get their clock partners at the beginning of the year and they glued it to the back inside cover of their science notebook. If I need to group students I just say, "Get with your two o'clock partner" and they know what to do.

I don't use them as often as I should. I've been trying to correct this recently. The other day I had students get with their three o'clock partner to work on the two worksheets in the post below. I did not want that activity to take a long time and I figured if I paired students up that I could get it done quickly. As always you get the mismatched, "I dislike you" kind of pairing. I never change partners. Instead I say that they have the option of doing the entire activity by themselves, as long as they check their answers with each other at the end of the activity. They are also not allowed to ask me for help until they have asked their partner for help. That helps reduce the complaining.

As always students come and go throughout the year. If a person has a partner that has left the school they automatically get any new student to the class in that time slot...so always have students write names in pencil (although I can see middle and high school students erasing names to put their friends name for a called time slot so gauge that how you see fit).

Reducing Handouts for the Notebook


I read somewhere to shrink handouts to fit the notebook you need to set your copier to reduce and hit 85%. I had never actually put this to the test. I did the other day and the picture above was the result. I still had to trim and I am actually thinking that 80% would probably have been better. Then I could have cut the sheets above in half and put them together on the copier to run a full sheet of paper with a copy of the worksheet on both halves (thus saving paper).
Also....and this just occured to me typing this...since one side is always glued to the notebook you could recyle paper pretty easily. I always request scrap paper in the copier room and I could easily run the blank side through the copier and glue the unwanted side down in the notebook. Mmmm....might have to try that this week.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

University of South Carolina - Beaufort Campus

For any South Carolinians....the University of South Carolina, Beaufort campus (USCB) is holding a local teacher share fair this weekend (January 24, 2009) in the Hargray Building from 9:30 - 11:00 a.m. I will be presenting my notebooks and several other teachers from around the county will be presenting ideas from their classroom. Anyone in the area is welcome to attend.

This is the first of its kind and I think it will be a learning experience for the University and the teachers attending. I am hoping that there is a good response and the University considers more of these share fairs in the future.

Flow Chart - My Version

This was my version of a flow chart of sorts using the process of photosynthesis. Students had to create, in picture and words, an eight panel flow chart that detailed the process of photosynthesis.

As a group we broke down all the steps into eight possible panels and students were required to write the steps we had come up with and draw a picture to show what was happening in each step.

I have not used this in my elementary class yet but most likely will when we get to our electricity unit (a flow chart explaining how electricity is made and gets to your home).

Webs

Another good right hand assignment idea is the use of webs. In the picture above we were talking about the five characteristics that all animals share. I instructed the students to create a web using words and pictures addressing all five characteristics. (The left hand assignment students had to answer a series of questions from their text addressing those five characteristics).

If you need to differentiate instruction the web can be done as a group on the board. You can ask for volunteers to give you the words and have folks come up and draw the pictures. Students then copy it into their book. To differentiate a textbook search list the page number the student can find the information and make sure that all questions are in order of how the student will find it in the textbook.

Projecting Images - Quick Tip

I have an interactive white board in my classroom but the bulk of this year and all of last year I used an overhead projector. I would draw samples of what pages were to look like the old fashioned way.

I was excited about using the white boards and was thinking it might be nice to scan in notebook pages to show students examples of how things were done (i.e. title page, concept maps, etc.).

I never used the scanner feature instead I got an idea off of www.classroom20.com that suggested using a webcam as a cheap document reader. Just point the webcam at a sample page and it will project onto your board. We have a couple of webcams and I have used it for this. Webcams are also very inexpensive to purchase (under $40).

Teacher Version of the Notebook

Last year I saw another sixth grade teacher who kept a teacher copy of the students notebook with notes about how the activities ran, modifications she would use next year, etc. I thought it was a great idea. However, as good plans often go...I found I didn't update it like I should. Still the idea had merit.

I tried again this year (fourth grade) and I have been much better about gluing in sheets to my teacher notebook but have been lacking in the note taking department (one year I will get it all right!).

My mistake in studiously maintaining my teacher notebook this year is that I glued ahead what I was going to do with students. Turns out I have had to adjust several times and have not used certain lab sheets and others with students that were now in my notebook. This has been driving me insane since now my teacher copy does not match the students copy for this year (oh well!). I figure I learned the hard way not to glue ahead :)

Quizzes

Fairly routinely I do a weekly "If you were paying attention in class" quiz. It is generally a multiple choice/short answer format anywhere from 10-15 questions. I started to have students glue in their quizzes to their notebook and I like the idea. I don't do it with tests, since they tend to be longer. Here are some things though to consider:

- I am trying to keep the science notebooks to one book this year and not bleed over to a second notebook. This means that space is at a premium. I stopped gluing quizzes in around December. I am also trying to conduct my weekly quiz through my websites quiz feature - it gets graded for you and uses less paper (website I use to create my own website is School World at www.myteacherpages.com).
- It is nearly impossible to make a 10 question quiz that will fit on one side of the book unless you use a publisher catalog format (see previous posts). Most of my weekly quizzes have been running about 15 questions and take up a two page spread.
- I glue in after I have graded. Using the work room cutting board or just a handy pair of scissors to cut in half.
- I use to send the notebooks home and require that students have parents sign the quiz page to indicate that they had seen it.

Some teachers I have shown my books to like having the quizzes in the notebook. It really is a personal preference.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Journal Writing


I went to a science notebooking class at NSTA and the teacher presenting exclusively had students journaling in their notebook. It was very impressive but I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of grading it represented and time involved on both the student and teachers part. It got me thinking though about adding a mini journaling component to the notebook.
I decided to try it and had students every Monday open their books to the first two blank page spread. They drew a line on each side dividing each page into twos and marked the top of the first page "Monday", at the bottom "Tuesday", at the top of the next page "Wednesday" and the the last section "Thursday." I would then give them a journal prompt of the day, which varied from draw and label all the parts of a flower to explain the process of photosynthesis in complete sentences.
This worked as a settling exercise as well as got them thinking about science when they walked through the door. I was strict about timing them. Students done early could look through their notebook and color any areas that needed coloring, write their homework in their agenda, etc.
To differentiate for lower students I didn't require full sentences (bullet points were fine) and/or we answered the question together as a group and recorded the response together.
I have not tried journal writing with my elementary students for no other reason then I simply do not have time. I have approximately 40 minutes - give or take - and I find I don't have enough time as it is to get through the lesson and activity of the day. I may try it during our end of year testing review and see how it goes.
I definitely liked mixing the type of journal entries around, i.e. draw and label, bullet points, full sentences, make a list, define three vocabulary words introduced this week, etc.
I use to give them a stand alone grade for their journaling and then a separate grade for their notebook assignments for the week. That was a bit time consuming and I ended up combining the two grades for their weekly (or my case bi-weekly) notebook grade.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sensory Figures

This is another notebook idea that I used last year after seeing it in someone elses notebook. It is called a sensory figure. In the example I saw it involved a Roman Solider, which the students drew. They then had to label the five senses on the solider and tell what they would see, hear, etc. as a solider during that time.

I used it this one time (loosely) in science as we were talking about adaptations. I had student draw a picture of a horned lizard (we had just seen a video) and label the adaptations the animal had, which made it successful in its environment.

Another idea, I didn't do but will next year, is have students draw a picture of a scientist during our inquiry unit and have them label how they would use their senses in the lab.

I would love to hear if anyone has any other ideas for applying this feature to science.

NEW NOTEBOOKING IDEA - Flow Chart

This idea came from a webstite that was passed on by my old team teacher (and avoid notebooker). The website is http://www.mrcoley.com/flowcharts_examples.htm. It is a flow chart of the Pilgrams arrival at Plymouth. We both thought it could be modified and used in a notebook. I can see more applicability in social studies then science but I can certainly see how I could use this to have students do a flow chart of the process of photosynthesis or how a generator works. Please check out Mr. Coley's site as he has a lot of great teacher resources listed.

Vocabulary




There were a couple of ways I have handled vocabulary. The first was a suggestion by a fellow teacher that I use the last 25 pages of the notebook and have students define the word(s) of the day in the back (first picture). I liked the "settling" aspect of the activity. Students were required to come into the classroom, find the word(s) of the day and write the definition in their book (I gave them a time limit strictly enforced with a timer). This reduced a lot of the monkeying around that comes with switching classes.
I was not a huge fan of this method. I tried it until Christmas and did not go back to it afterward. I found it too cumbersome to grade (having to flip back and forth). I had to grade it, as I had a large population of students who would not unless they knew I was looking at it.
The second method was suggested by my team leader. It is called Visual Vocabulary. Basically students have four boxes (you can either provide or you teach them how to do it in their book). In the first box is the word, in the next box across is the definition, below the word can either be examples or use it in a sentence, and the last box requires the student to draw a picture that will help them remember the word.
In the example above I gave them the boxes. I also wrote the word in the box using Word art (on your drawing tool bar if working in Word). I have done the same thing with elementary students effectively. You can fit five words on a page (10 if you do a two page spread). Some teachers introduce all their chapter vocabulary at once and I only focus on it as needed. This week students in my fourth grade class had a vocabulary sheet with the following five words: organism, vertebrate, invertebrate, reproduce, classify. Those were the only words I felt needed reinforcing. Next week they may not have any words.

Interactive Cut Outs


In sixth grade students needed to know about the structure of plant leaves. As I was reading I was thinking it might be fun to do an interactive cut out of a leaf that students have to engage with (hoping this might help them remember all the parts they needed to).
This was a lot of work and if I was teaching sixth grade again I might modify the assignment. However, it did give me some experience with interactive cutouts.
In this assignment I precut a leaf on green cards stock (sturdy). Then students taped the stem to the book using clear packaging tape. I had precut out the bubble wrap (probably wouldn't use that again due to the popping distraction) to serve as the stomata. In the middle of the leaf student used a clear candle to wax up the area to serve as the cuticle. The top part students had to draw tiny chloroplast cells. Underneath the leaf the students had to draw something guarding the plant to indicate the guard cells (students drew guard dogs, guns, soldiers, you name it...I wasn't too picky as long as they could associate their picture with the function of the guard cells. They then had to label all the parts and explain what function they served.
I have not tried interactive cut outs with my elementary students yet...nothing has sort of lent itself to it in our curriculum but feel that students could easily handle a toned down version.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Notebook Activity Idea - Acrostics


Having students complete acrostics is another way students can engage with the textbook or the material.
In the first picture students had to design an acrostic using information in a specific chapter of the text. The example is a little weak and I doubt the student received full credit for the assignment. The rules are you can not use one word next to the letter and it has to convey a full thought...it doesn't have to be in a complete sentence format but I have to understand something about what you have written (I see that the student listed Innate Behavior under "I"...well I don't know anything about innate behavior from reading what she wrote so she would have received less points as a result).
The second acrostic was from my elementary school students and I gave them a rough draft format, which they then had to approve through me before transferring to the notebook (the acrostics were also published online by the students at our blog site http://www.mrsheatonsclass1.blogspot.com/). This was their first time doing an acrostic and I wanted them to get an idea of what the expectations were and the importance of rough drafting their ideas before putting them down. The next time they do an acrostic I can refer them back to this example and grade them a little more realistically, since the work will have no teacher input.
You can also see that in the first example (middle school) students wrote out the letters of the word on their own. In the second example (elementary school) I glued in strips with the word prewritten. I felt having the words preglued in was a way to help the students with their spacing.

Journal within a Journal Idea







This was something I came up with during our weather unit. I wanted students to track the weather for about 10 days and I developed this weather journal (using the Publisher catalog template).
The first two pages were general weather map and symbol information. The remaining pages all looked the same. At the start of each class I would put today's weather map and ten day forecast on the interactive whiteboard from http://www.weather.com/ and have a couple of students go outside to check the cloud cover and type, wind speed, and I started having them read and record the barometer.
I liked the journal within the journal idea and will use it again when we start our composting project. I wouldn't do it for more then 10 days. I still have students rotate the weather job in the morning and they post the weather in the hall (I blew up the journal page above to poster size and laminated it..students plug in the information). I think next year I will have the last pages in the journal involving graphing so that students can graph the high and low temperatures, how many sunny vs. cloudy days, the barometer reading (which was really hard to read for all of us...next year I think I might invest in a digital barometer).
I also like the idea of a moon journal, where students color in the phase of the moon for a month. I didn't think of that while we were studying the moon this year but I will definitely make one next year.

Notebook Activity Idea - ABC Book











This ideas was taken from my team teacher last year. She had the students make an ABC book in their notebook in one of their units (Greece, I believe). I thought I would try it as an end of year science review. She gave me her grading rubric and format (which students then glued in...see first picture).
Basically students divided each page in fourths and then they had to write three things about the lettered item. I choose the lettered items for them (which was in the glued handout). You could have the students pick their letter items but it was just easier to have them already assigned.
If I remember correctly my team teacher gave this to them as a take home/when you have free time assignment. I gave students a week during our end of year state test review to do it in class. You can diffentiate instruction by randomly choosing a letter of the day to do together as a class in order to model what you expect from students.
Students were required to list the facts, draw a picture and color each block.
My team teacher combined the X Yand Z letters, which kept it from having two random letters on the last page. I went with the random letters.
I loved how this assignment turned out. I think the students were a little "done" with the ABC book format having done it in two classes. I will have my elementary students do one closer to the end of the year.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Random Classroom Labs


These are examples of classroom activities (labs) that my students did where they had to record information in their notebook.
In the first example we read and highlighted information about dichotomous keys on the left hand side and then students had to create a dichotomous key using the people in the classroom on the right hand side. We also watched a movie and did a key together before that activity.
In the second picture students were learning how to use the triple beam balance and then had to record the mass of various objects in their notebook.
These pictures are presented to show you how you can use your notebooks for even "minor" classroom labs.

How Many Books Do I Need?

In the middle school (my first year) students were asked to have two notebooks per subject area. One was for before the holiday break and one was after the break.

That worked out well for me because I felt like I did a horrible job the first part of the school year and was grateful for the "do over" opportunity a new book presented in January. I have to say that I felt the same way about my first scrapbook I ever created...it was horrible. I then went to the opposite extreme and my scrapbooks were very elaborate. I am now at a "happy" place with my scrapbooking style that works best for me. I believe that will be the track I am following with notebooking :)

I am trying to avoid going to a second book this school year. I like the idea of trying to fit the entire year of science into one book. I think I can do it but I guess only time will tell! I will reevaluate if that is how I want to continue at the end of this year and decide if I want one or two notebooks next year.

Miniature Science Fairs




This activity could have easily gone into student notebooks but I had students take them home to help them prepare for our science fair.
Students were involved in a classroom experiment and then had to create miniature science boards and lab books that mimicked what was being asked of them when they turned in their actual science fair boards (from what page contains what information in the lab book to the placement of pictures and graphs on the board).
It was really a fun project and the even though it took some prep work (making all those mini lab books) the students really got into it. It was a two day process. One for the experiment and recording some information in the lab book and the next day to finish the boards and lab book.
I am not a huge fan of science fairs in general but I really try and prepare my students and parents for what is expected. I have a "science fair center" on my website at http://www.mrsheatonsclass.com/ and anyone is welcome to view what I have posted online as far as science fair information and resources.

After the Lab - Science Fair Tie In











Once labs are finished I have students put all the information on a "mini" science fair board that gets glued into the book. All our elementary and middle school students are required to participate in our science fair (from fourth grade up) and I was trying to show them how easy it is to do.
I used the Dinah Zike shutterfold foldable and had students put information generally required for a science board on the foldable from the experiment. I wasn't able to get all the required information in but enough to show students that science fair projects didn't have to be overwhelming.
Students love anything miniature so I never got any fussing when they had to complete their boards.

More Lab Paperwork



Here are pictures of more lab forms that I created to go with experiments the students were doing in class.
The first picture is an experiment where students were collecting qualitative and quantitative data related to a lab.
The second picture is an observation and inference lab that students were involved with.
These pictures were from the middle school books but I use lab sheets any time students are involved in an experiment and just glue them into the notebooks.

Lab Paperwork - Mistakes I Made


In my first lab notebook experience I had students in the middle school write up their own lab chart in their book (see first picture) . Students really struggled with drawing a chart (top of the page) to collect data over this multi-day experiment. The picture above was from the notebook of a good student but even she made it so small it was hard to read what data she collected day-to-day. I learned my lesson and from then on out provided lab sheets to glue into the book.
The bottom picture is of the same identical experiment a year later (we did it at the start of the fourth grade year) but because I had made up a lab sheet for the experiment it was much easier for students to record information and for me to read.

Small Reading Activities



If text is very long I look for ways to break up the reading by having student draw something in a box I have added to the text.
In the first picture we were reading about characteristics of hurricanes, blizzards, thunderstorms and tornadoes. I created boxes while I was typing the information and gave students a few minutes to draw a scene that featured some characteristic of that type of severe weather. I was rigid about the time frame. If the student was not done they would have to finish later. Students also were required to color the pictures in but most had to finish during their free time. Their right hand assignment was to complete a venn diagram comparing and contrasting two of the four severe weathers discussed.
In the second picture we were discussing how clouds were formed and the three types of clouds. The drawings in the boxes was their notebook activity for the day (we also watched a film about it so I had very limited time to work in the notebooks). On the first page students drew the steps of how clouds formed (using the text above as guidance) and on the second page students drew and labeled the three basic cloud "shapes."
Students like the read/do model since it does require them to engage in the text a bit more then just reading and highlighting.

Coloring


I love the colors in the notebook and I generally require students to color (remember NO magic markers...they bleed through to the next page). However I don't always have to time to let students color. In those cases I allow students to go back through their book, if they are done an assignment early, and catch up on their coloring. That is one of my "If you are done early" activites (along with read quietly, etc.).
Above are pictures of two venn diagram activities, one with color (last year) and one without (this year). The student who hasn't colored will most likely color both sides of that assignment during free time that she has.

Students Coming and Going

I learned several things the hard way my first year of notebooking...one was how to start with students you have, students you are going to have, and students who are leaving.

Let start with students you have.....

- Last year I expected that each student would bring in the required notebooks as requested on the supply sheet. I was unprepared for the number of students who did not bring in the supplies. I frantically went out and bought about 20 notebooks so that we could start notebooking right away (students were required to pay me back the $1 I spent on the notebooks....but I rarely got the money).

- This year I joined my school after the supply list was made (with no composition books on it). So I pre-purchased about 40 notebooks when they went on sale (about July/August) for .50 each. During the open house and on the first day of school I told parents that students would need one notebook for my science class. I gave them until the end of the week to bring them in. Meanwhile I passed out the notebooks I had purchased and as students brought in their notebooks I kept them as replacements for the ones I bought. That allowed me to start notebooking right away and covered those students whose parents don't purchase supplies.

Students you are going to have...

- Last year I was not prepared for new students. They didn't have a notebook because they were new. Many students had to wait until their parents got paid in order to get supplies. They worked on loose leaf paper unless I had an extra book for them to use (they were always expected to either pay for the book or replace it). It was a bit nightmarish.

- This year over the summer I took five notebooks and pre-numbered all of them while watching TV at night. Those were kept with my new student information so as I got new students they were ready to start notebooking with us day one. I am glad I did that because low and behold I have had five new students already this year. Again, student were expected to either pay or replace the book I gave them (sometimes that happened and sometimes that didn't).

Students who are leaving you....

- Last year I had several students leave the school. I kept their notebook. Lucky for me I didn't not misplace them because we had two come back! I was able to hand them their old book and they didn't miss a beat. I believe the other teacher let the student take their notebook and he lost it by the time he was re-enrolled. He had to start a new book.

- I wasn't sure how I was going to handle that this year. I've had several students leave but it was within the first two months of school so I kept their book. At this point I might let the leaving students keep their book, since we have done so much in them. I would probably weigh a lot of factors like how long they have been working in them, did they take pride in notebooking, how much departure notice we received, what is the probablity of their return, etc.

My advice is to think of the three scenarios above and decide how you would handle it so you have a plan when/if it comes up.

Notebooking Everyday

I don't think I mentioned this before but I feel strongly that if you are going to start notebooking in the classroom you should use the notebooks everyday.

If you only use the notebooks every once in awhile they become less meaningful to both you and the student.

It is pretty easy to get into the mindset of using notebooks everyday. I start my weekly planning asking myself:

What do we have going on for the week? (Elementary schools have so many programs, special events, etc. that it affects timing)

Where are we in relation to the standards and the long range plan?

What are the main things that students will be learning this week?

I take the last question and then start planning notebook assignments. For example, when students return to school next week they are going to make their title page for the the next unit in their notebook and review the standards and possibly do a book walk through the chapters. They are going to learn about the characteristics of life that all organisms share and do a notebook activity. We are going to discuss how organisms are classified and do a notebook activity and so on for the rest of the week.

By using the notebooks everyday you become better at notebooking and the students become better as well.

I have a friend who started notebooks but didn't use them everyday. She was commenting on the work of my students and how she needed to be better at pulling them (the notebooks) out more often. She started on her next unit and made it a point to use them everyday and the quality of work her students were producing went up and now I am the one commenting on her notebooks. So it doesn't matter if you haven't been using them effectively you can always restart and move forward from where you are at now.