When I was in high school, my physics teacher required that we copy everything that was on the board. I mean EVERYTHING. He told us several times that if he made a stray mark, it should be in our books. If it wasn't, we would lose points when it was collected. At the time, I objected to this because I was lazy and didn't want to write stuff down. Now that I'm a teacher, I object to it because I don't see the educational benefit of it. If we were supposed to have EXACTLY what he put on the board, he should have given us a photocopy of his notes.
Even that would not have been terrible if room had been left to write notes to ourselves. I think he did it partly as a power trip, and partly because someone told him that if students are keeping notebooks, they should be graded and the easiest way for that to happen is for everything to look the same.
Thinking back on this makes me cringe.
From what I can tell, well-intentioned notebooks exist for two reasons.
1) As a personal reference to be utilized when studying for a test or quiz
2) As a CYA measure for teachers to be able to say "Look! I did teach this concept!"
I think most teachers who require notebooks do so for the former reason. From everything I've read about Interactive Notebooks, every change in what teachers require is implemented for the purpose of making the notebook a better reference guide for students. If I'm wrong about this, I apologize to everyone who uses them. Maybe a reason I don't use them is that I don't understand. Regardless, with all the talk of INB, I've been spending a good amount of time thinking about my initial question.
What is the point of student notebook? Or, more importantly, How can the notebook be a better educational tool for teachers and students?
I think that there are very few students who use their notebooks the way that teachers intend or expect them too. I think too often, they write down class stuff, then never look at it again.
I have never "required" notebooks because I don't feel qualified to decide what is a good notebook and what isn't, let alone assign a grade based on that judgement. I have always strongly encouraged students to have them and frequently say things like "You should probably write this down" or "this might be a good thing to have in your notebooks for when you study."
One of the things I remember from my graduate program is that we should be encouraging, as a method of studying and reinforcement of concepts, students to recopy their notes from the day. We are told that people remember 10% of what they hear, 30% of what they write and 90% of what they teach to someone else (or whatever the real percentages are.) By having them recopy their notes, I guess, we are helping them to remember more of what happened in class, I suppose.
On rare occasions, we focus on the "teaching others" part, we do activities like "get into pairs and explain your work to your partner" or sometimes "design a lesson around this topic." These are excellent activities, but I think we can do more.
Since starting this blog, I've been thinking about reflective practice. It's important enough that it's a required piece of a teacher portfolio. Why aren't we making our students do this too?
I am going to change what I want my students to put in their notebooks. Instead of having a list of things covered in class, I want my students to reflect on the class. Instead of drills as homework, I would rather they go home and write a few paragraphs about what we did, what they learned, what they liked or didn't like, what they want to know more about and general thoughts about what we covered.
I want them to teach their notebooks about what we did in class. If including examples helps them to do that, then they should include examples.
|Pretty, but do they know what to study here?
The student notebook should be in the form of a reflective journal or blog. If students want to make it web-based, typed into a word document, or handwritten, they can. I want my homework assignment to be, eventually, "Teach your notebook what you learned today."
I don't think I can start there though. I think it may be too open-ended. I will need to work up to it, beginning with certain prompts. For example:
Write at least 10 lines about what you learned today.
If you were to tell your friend what we did in class, what would you say?
In sentence form, write 3 things we talked about today, 2 things you found interesting, 1 thing that you think should have been done differently and how it should have been done.
Write at least 10 lines about how you, or someone, might use what we did today outside of a school setting.
The more I write about this and think about it, the more I love this idea. I don't want my students to just be repositories of facts and formulae. I want them to be able to synthesize new ideas and apply prior knowledge to new problems. I think reflective practice and personal application would be a great way to encourage this.
I think it will be slow going at first, and possibly discouraging, with a huge learning curve for both me and the students.
To clarify, students should still be writing things down in class, such as examples and topics, but the point would be different. They wouldn't be writing them down for the purpose of referencing while studying. They should be writing them down so that they can write about them later.
I know that there are teachers who do math journals. I think my argument is that the math journal and the math notebook should be the same thing.