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.