Monday, August 27, 2012

Proof that the ISN has changed the way I teach

I have said before that the Interactive Student Notebook completely changed the way that I teach and I've certainly expressed my thoughts on the ISN plenty, but I haven't quite showed what exactly changed in how I teach.

At the end of the year a couple years ago I knew that I wanted to do ISNs the next year.  I kept a couple kid's binders so that I could see what they looked like by the end of the year and to figure out how I could improve upon them.  So let's compare the notes that I used to give to what I give now and I think it will be crystal clear how much ISNs have improved my teaching.  (I just chose one of the binders to use as an example to keep it consistent.)

I have always been an organized person.  Even with a regular three ring binder I had kids keep a table of contents so that they could find things.  This worked ok for kids that liked organization, but it didn't really help the other kids at all because it didn't force them to be organized.  If they didn't feel like filling out the table of contents then they just didn't.  And since it was in a binder, things fell out and got lost.  Here's an example of what I mean:

Table of Contents BEFORE
Now this is a binder I kept at the end of the year.  Notice the table of contents stops in October. Awesome.  Clearly this idea didn't work out too well.

Here's an example of some notes on scatter plots from that year:

Scatter Notes BEFORE

This makes me cringe.  Is that bad or what??!  And I don't blame the student one single bit, this is on me.  I could blame the kid (like so many people do) and say they should be a better student and pay attention and so on, but it's my job to make sure that kid is engaged and interested.  So this kid started out copying down my little pictures and then started to write some of the examples, but then stopped.  Maybe I went too fast or maybe it just wasn't interesting.  That's a problem.  The other problem is that I gave them the examples and told them where to put them.  If I recall correctly, there were like two or three examples under each type.

Now let's compare to the ISN scatter plot page. (which I talked about here)

Scatter Plot Notes AFTER

This has pretty much the same info, but it's just so much better and there was SO much more thinking going on with this versus what I did before.  The only thing that I gave the kids is the definitions.  They matched the graphs and they were way more engaged in sorting the examples than before.

Ok this next one is bad.  These were my integer notes.  I thought that I was being helpful by typing them out because I used to have kids write down this stuff and it ended up a mess.  Instead, I figured that I would give them the rules and have them record the examples.  Oh and I also went through this in ONE DAY because it should have been a review for them!

Integer Notes BEFORE
The biggest problem was the fact that I rushed this.  The information on here is good, it's just not presented in an interesting or easy to read way.  I think that it could be difficult to really find the rules on here and when things aren't easy to use, kids aren't going to use them.

Here's the foldable I give now. (more info on it)

Integer Notes AFTER
Integer Notes AFTER

No contest.  But what I think I really need to point out, is that all of the information is identical to what I gave before.  It's the same amount of explanation and examples, but just changing the presentation completely refreshes this whole thing and turns it into something WAY more useable.

Here's another one on linear relationships.  Again I thought that I was doing a good thing by typing out a frame for their notes and having them add in the content.  On the back were four tables where they had to graph and label each linear or non-linear.

Linear Relationships BEFORE

Compare to now. (more on this page)

Linear Relationships AFTER
Linear Relationships AFTER

Another example of the same information presented in a much better way.  I get way more student engagement now and I feel like the students get a much better explanation of the idea.

I wish that I could have compared the student binder to student ISN but my goal for the ISN is for the kids to use it as a reference guide so I don't ever want to keep them.  The kids' notebooks really did look really good though.

Overall, starting to use foldables and the ISN just forced me to really think about what I was doing. I find that I put more thought into lessons because my focus is on making them interesting, interactive and easy to understand. For me, giving regular "notes" isn't really an option anymore so when presenting new information it's not even something I consider. When planning I put a lot of effort into creating things that can be used as a true how-to guide instead of just writing down information so they have it. Tomorrow I'm going to go into some more detail about my actual thought process when creating new pages and foldables so stay tuned.


13 comments:

  1. I love that I found your blog and that you are giving so much detail about your notebooks. It is something I am going to work on this year and you have been so helpful. This past week I made my notebook cover--from your inspiration, and a sheet about rules and expectations-- I gave you a shout out for it on my blog.
    Thanks
    Michele
    coffeecupsandlessonplans.blogspot.com

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    1. Your cover is so cute! I love the mascot on there & the distance stuff...I'm stealing that idea for mine :)

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    2. Oh the mascot would have been a great idea-- I'll share that one with my class. It's actually a Florida Gator. My husband is a Gator and we follow their sports teams. My class knows its orange And blue for me whether it's UF or Syracuse. But suggesting our mascot is a great idea,
      Thanks for posting about your notebooks.
      Michele

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    3. ahh perhaps I should have recognized that (I'm so not a sports person!)...but I love it even more that it's something personal to you!!

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  2. Oh my goodness! This is so awesome! I love your foldable and lesson on integers. Last year was my first year teaching and I knew my lesson on operations with integers was boring and uninspired, but I didn't know how else to teach it back then. Now after seeing this, I can't wait to teach it again later this week! Thanks so much for sharing!

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    1. Good luck! I'd love to hear how it goes

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  3. Found your blog through Michele. I do ISN too. Live your ideas. Thanks!!!

    Elizabeth
    http://hodgesherald.blogspot.com

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    1. awesome! I love new ideas, I'll definitely be checking out your blog

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  4. Thanks for the inspiration. Need to think a lot about what/how I ask students to "take notes."

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  5. You have me so motivate to try ISN. I think I will try to create one this year as I go along and then actually have my classes on board with ISN next year. I try to do foldables now whenever I can - we usually do them on color paper and hole punch them for their binder, but putting them in an ISN will work out so much better. :-) Thank you for sharing!

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    1. I'm so glad to hear that! That's a great idea to plan it out this year...that's also a really good idea to hole punch them to keep them in a binder :)

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  6. I just want to say that this blog is such an answer to prayer! I am finishing up my second year teaching at a small, Christian school. I teach four math class at this time- pre-algebra, algebra, Algebra II, and geometry. I have been so frustrated because I feel like there are those students that know matter how many times I say something they just do not understand. Everything you have said I either have felt the same way or has inspired me. I am officially obsessed with your blog. In the last 24 hours, I have spent several hours reading through your blog. I started a homework binder this year, but I didn't like the results I was getting. I am so excited to start the ISN next year. I still have a lot more to figure out about how they work but I am very ready to start the process. Thank you for your blog! Oh, and I fell in love with the Einstein quote last year too :)

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  7. Thank you so much for posting your before and after photos of your teacher pages. That visual was exactly what I needed to get an idea of what an interesting and informative teacher page can look like to help me start ISNs in the coming school year.

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