I started using composition books more regularly in my classroom last year. Before you go off and comment on how cutting-edge that must be– a teacher using composition books in her classroom, keep in mind that my second graders rarely manipulate those skinny lines well. Second graders also draw a lot. I may not be the only one that has issues with lines in the middle of my illustrations! Students documented their science thinking and learning in a science notebook. We tabbed each new unit, so they had a section on insects, sound, weather, and structures by the end of the year. We studied Colonial America and The Revolution, so I had them keep a separate notebook for Social Studies. It was a place to collect information and reflect. For some reading groups, I implemented a reading notebook. In the beginning, I used the notebook to introduce new strategies. After I modeled and we practiced together, they added a label with the strategy to a table in the front of their books. By the end of the year, students were being asked to use their notebooks to document their work on their reading goals. I felt it held them more accountable for being intentional with their work during independent and partner reading.
Becca’s guidance has helped me to reflect on the purpose of using notebooks as well as how I assess. Quite honestly, I didn’t look at the notebooks as often as I felt I should last year. I fear I was sending a message that they weren’t important. I was simply looking at them from a participation level. Were they being accountable for doing their work? Were attempts being made? Were they able to write for different purposes?
As I think about how I want to adapt how I use these notebooks for next year, I am also questioning my desire to add more. Are they as useful as I am pretending them to be, or am I being my compulsive? I envision using a Math notebook so to watch for progression of math thinking. I think this could be especially helpful when preparing for extended responses. I had them use a steno pad to record word patterns from their word work. If I use a notebook, I could have them designate a space to record their words one day, write a story incorporating x-number of the words on another, and so forth. The one subject I’ve not been as excited to implement a notebook for is writing. How crazy is that? This may be because paper choice has been so intentional throughout the writing units that I use, because they are encouraged to write across pages, and because (as I mentioned earlier) drawing is still an important part of writing– especially for those who struggle to put words down on paper. Mostly, I’ve struggled because I haven’t come up with a plan. I think I may need to look at the idea as separate from Writing Workshop. Maybe I could encourage a writing notebook during independent writing time. It would certainly save paper, but would it be a good container for a second grader?
It is time to buy stock in 3M. I feel a major purchase of sticky tabs coming on!