Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Prelude to a series on my 2011-12 semester 1

Well, there has been quite a gap since my last post.  I had a very busy first semester teaching the physics portion of 9th grade physical science.  I made major changes to my instruction (for the better I believe), and now I am planning on a series of posts to hopefully get some feedback from the science teaching blogging community at large.  I changed my instruction from a lecture-driven approach (using Peer Instruction ala Mazur) using traditional grading to Modeling Instruction using Standards-Based Grading.  Additionally, I have been using interactive science notebooks (ISNs) for the past few years, and I reformatted all of the modeling materials I used to fit into a 9.75 x 7.5" bound composition notebook.

I am going to start this new series of posts with some information on ISNs.  I have also provided a couple pages on the blog where I've posted some of the generic pages that may be of use to others as well as the blank templates that I use to create assignments in the ISN.

If you haven't looked into using interactive science notebooks in your science class, I would highly recommend it.  I have used them for a few years now with great success.  Some of the benefits of using ISNs are:
  • if students have the science notebook, they're prepared for class - you'll never hear, "I can't find that assignment, so can I get another copy?" again!  Ever.
  • students are always organized (they have no loose papers)
  • students never lose assignments (they're glued into the notebook!)
  • students are literally and figuratively "on the same page"
  • students have a built-in reference for the entire semester (since everything goes into the ISN)
  • It's a great communication tool with parents - especially at conferences.  I require regular parent reviews and I require students to bring their notebook to conferences.
I wrote a paper for an action research project I did which outlines exactly how I used them in class (my use of ISNs continues to evolve), so if you want a primer on how to effectively set up and use ISNs take a look at it.  I included an extensive annotated bibliography that covers all aspects of ISNs.

A few things that I have found important for using and setting up ISNs:
  • Having the student customize the cover of their notebook is a big deal.  It makes them take ownership of the notebook and creates a personal connection to the notebook that cannot be underestimated.
  • Ensure that all students number all pages of their notebook right away.  Trust me - it will save lots of time in the long run.
  • Have the pages to glue in and the glue in the same spot every day.  I have very few tardies in my class - students come in and get to work right away before the bell even rings.  It's a good way for them to connect with each other and with me at the beginning of class.
  • Use white glue.  Glue sticks will hold for approximately 1 day.  Wrinkle-free glue pens will hold for approximately two days.
  • Use small drops of glue.  More is completely unnecessary and will make the ISN look wrinkly and not neat.
  • Make small circles on your assignments to show the students where to put these small drops of glue.  Trust me on this.  If you don't, stand by for your glue supply to dwindle quickly.
  • Sitting on the notebook for a minute after gluing actually makes a pretty big difference in the thickness and neatness over the course of a semester.
  • A table of contents is mostly not useful (although I still have the students use one).  Much more useful is an index of topics/concepts/terms that students update as they progress through the semester (I still have work to do on this myself).

So, that's about it for now - more to come on modeling instruction soon!

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