Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Stepping Out of the Teacher Box Part 1

Good evening, dear void!

One of the great things about my job is that I get to work with some very creative people.  I also get to work with teachers that are willing to think beyond "What I've always done" and try something different.  Believe it or not, stepping outside of the teacher box we put ourselves in is very hard to do. As educators, we tend to look for what works, or what we think works, and stick with it until we are either forced by administrators to change. decide to quit, or retire.  Yes, it's that drastic.  Yet there's not a teacher out there who would willing admit that they are inflexible.  We all truly believe we are are open to try new things, buuutttt....(insert logical reason why a new idea won't work).

Hey, I'm just as guilty.  But my position gives me the opportunity to look from the outside in.  And I must say that my point of view has changed over the last few years.  There is so much I know now that I wish I would've known when I was in the classroom!

If I had to go back to the classroom, I would step out of my teacher box when it came to utilizing interactive notebooks.  Now, I don't mean just using them in classroom instruction, but using them as tools to teach students how to look up information, find evidence, and go back and investigate previously written text.

I am a huge interactive notebook fan.  I think they are a fantastic tool for the classroom.  I use them in small groups.   However, I know many teachers that spend a lot of time copying materials for students to glue into their notebooks. (Not my idea of best practices, but that's a post for another day.) Even more teachers spend a great deal of instructional time having students create foldables for their notebooks, or enter information creatively into their notebooks.  But at the elementary level, what is the true purpose????  We don't send these notebooks home for students to "study".  They are not developmentally ready for that.  What I typically see is that students enter new information in their notebooks, but never use those notebooks with purpose.

So here's a thought...an idea...a time to try out some of that flexibility...

When you are spiraling through previously taught material, REQUIRE students to use their notebooks DURING ASSESSMENT!!!!  :::GASP:::  I know what you're thinking.  But I have not lost my mind.

Think about it...when you learn something new, whether it be a professional development system or an electronic grade book, you look at the instructions many, many, many times.  The more you use the instructions, the more things you remember.  So you reread, practice, reread, practice...until you finally understand exactly what you need to do.  It's the same with students and interactive notebooks! If they use the notebooks to complete assignments, answer test questions, or even as a guide to help them figure out how to get an answer to a test question, they are rereading and practicing over and over again.  They will eventually learn exactly what they need to do!  It's an open book test.

You'll teach them to:

  • Look back into text for information.
  • Locate key facts.
  • Reread for understanding.
  • Compare what's written to what's asked.
All of these things are precursors to finding text evidence, proving information, gathering information, and clarifying for understanding.

Try it...I dare you!  Give a test over something you've taught and make them use their interactive notebook to answer questions.

You just might be surprised.

"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.--Andre Gide



  1. Shocking!!! But seriously I think it's a great idea. The ones with absolutely no clue probably wouldn't even be able to figure out how to use their notebooks to help them anyway so you wouldn't have to worry about artificially inflated scores.