Evernote

Arches / BinderI registered for Evernote and have had the app on my iPhone for a long time now, but I admit I really didn’t know what to do with it. It seemed perfect for students who needed to organize their notebooks. I was excited that Curio had Evernote support, but again, I wasn’t sure how that might help me. It was a case of being excited about the potential of a product but not really knowing how it can benefit me.

Until Jillian Ratti gave me an idea. When Jim Burke described his new organizational method, and I posted my own response, Jillian commented on my Facebook profile that she wondered if one could use Evernote to make a digital version of the notebooks (which I’m sure take up a lot of storage). Ding! I have a use for Evernote. I can organize my unit plans with all the resources and documents I might need for the unit. What’s more, I can access the notebooks anywhere.

I’m sure other resources exist that will do essentially the same thing, but I’m going to try this out and see how it goes. Thanks Jim, and thanks Jillian!

I have begun creating my Wuthering Heights notebook. You can check it out here.

Creative Commons License photo credit: t0omuchfun

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Organization

I am really jealous of Jim Burke’s new organization scheme. I think he has come up with a system that is easy to use and will enable him to find and retain (and reuse) lesson and unit plans.

I keep most of my documents on my computer and several of my unit plans at the UbD Educators wiki. I am fundamentally disorganized, but I can usually find what I need when I need it, and if I can’t, I can print it again. I could really use a system like Jim’s. Why? This is what my desk looks like:

Desk 1

Here’s a shot of the other side:

Desk 2

And the kicker is that several folks have commented lately on how neat it looks. As in you can see parts of the actual desk.

The trouble is that organization takes a great deal of time to get going. Once you start, it saves you a lot of time. Unfortunately, with five preps, it’s hard to find time to get it started. I need an assistant!

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Interactive Notebooks

Although I think a system I’ve been using to encourage students to keep good notebooks works really well for me, and might even work well for students, I am not exactly sure what they’re writing down and whether or not they are truly using their notebooks to the greatest capacity. Therefore, I am going to try Interactive Notebooks next year. In case you haven’t heard of Interactive Notebooks, they are a system for taking notes developed by Addison Wesley as part of their History Alive! program. Teachers quickly adapted the resource to other subject areas.

What are they?

Essentially, Interactive Notebooks (INs) are a format for taking notes that encourages organization, making connections, and interaction. The Interactive Notebooks Wiki describes them as a way “to enable students to be creative, independent thinkers and writers.” The beautiful part of the IN to me is that students are encouraged to do assignments as part of the notebook, which will mean I will have fewer smaller assignments. For example, I frequently ask students to do close-reading assignments with questions in small groups. With an IN, the assignment can be part of the notebook. When INs are collected, I can assess the assignment as part of the overall notebook, which should cut down on some of the time I spend grading.

What do they look like?

Greece Central School District, as always, has wonderful resources related to INs, including a picture of what a language arts IN might look like (click to see a larger image):

Interactive Notebook

How do you set them up?

Students should use the right side of the notebook pages for testable material: notes from class and group discussions, reading, video and audio presentations, and lectures; literary terms; vocabulary; and assignments. The left side is for reading responses and journals; graphic organizers; songs, pictures, cartoons, and poems; connected or related ideas; reflections, quotes, perspectives; and mnemonic devices and memory aids. Take a look at the sample page above, and you’ll see it action.

What materials will I need?

Depending on how you want your students to organize their notebooks, you will need different tools. For instance, most teachers discussing INs seem to loathe 3-ring binders. To me, it makes more sense for organizational purposes to have a 3-ring binder as opposed to a spiral-bound notebook or composition book—there would be less need for pasting, for one thing, and it would also lie flatter when closed because 3-ring binders are designed to hold a lot of paper. Here is my list of supplies:

  • 3-ring binder (1-1½ inches)
  • notebook paper
  • highlighters
  • colored pens or pencils
  • subject dividers
  • a glue stick or tape
  • a pencil bag (or students can keep tools in backpack or purse)

The binder, paper, and pencil bag are probably self-explanatory, but highlighters and colored pens/pencils are used to underscore ideas or add color, both of which seem to help students when they are studying. The subject dividers are optional, but if you divide your course into units based on either a textbook or curriculum, you might consider them. The glue stick or tape is for affixing materials into the notebook.

Where can I learn more?

Start with the Interactive Notebooks Wiki, but be sure to check out Greece Central School District’s information, too. I also created this presentation for my own students that you are free to read, download, and adapt for your own purposes (it is licensed under a Creative Commons License).

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