Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My Foldable Notebook for Teachers

Shortly after I started using Foldables in 2012, I realized that their use was transforming my planning process for the better.  Prior to using Foldables, I was teaching from a textbook.  If the textbook had three examples in a section, I was going to present them.  If the textbook ordered the sections in a particular way, that's the order I was going to teach them to my students.  I hate to entirely slam textbooks.  After all, there are lots of people working to produce textbooks from curriculum writers to teachers who pilot them in their classrooms, and I have to believe that all those people working together will produce some quality work.  However, after being mostly textbook-free for about 3 years, I can say that I don't always feel like my students saw the big picture when we were using textbooks.

Enter Foldables.  When I used the first few, I thought they were cutesy and not much else.  I didn't see why I should "waste time" cutting and folding when we had so much material to cover.  It felt like it took an eternity to get students through the assembly to the point of having something they could use.  However, I also noticed that students remembered the notes (or the fact they HAD notes) on the topics we did with Foldables.  They made an appearance on desks after the initial note-taking was over.

As I reflected on the use of Foldables more, I recognized that I was approaching content differently.  I would ask myself, "What is the main idea?" followed by, "What are the supporting ideas?"  My answers to these questions helped me select the structure of the Foldable that was most appropriate for the topic.  How the shape of the Foldable, the direction of the folds, and the number of sections would reinforce the content I was teaching was at the forefront of my mind.  This meant I was truly reflecting on the connections students needed to make in planning my lessons.  I also was deliberately chunking my lesson, something that's vital since a teen will remember only about 5 chunks of information at one time.  I absolutely had these thoughts pre-Foldables, but less frequently than with them.  I've become a better teacher through the use of Foldables.

For the last year or so, I've wanted to make a resource that would help in my planning.  I've used countless Foldable designs and I have digital templates that I've made for nearly all of them because I typically have Cloze notes on them for my students to fill in as we go. Nevertheless, I feel like I rely on certain designs too often (2-door or 4-door shutter fold is my go-to!) and when the novelty wears off, so too does the learning!  So this afternoon, I started to put together a sample composition book full of Foldable designs and some other interactive notebook resources.  The book is organized by the number of sections needed since that's my focus when I plan Foldables.  I used some tabs to mark off each section of the notebook and I left several pages at the end of each section that will allow me to add new ideas when they come to me.

Sam Shah (@samjshah) blogged about teachers having a "brand" at #TMC15 this year.  While I wasn't able to be in attendance, I agree with his observation that we (the MTBoS) are less likely to label celebrities than we were in previous years.  More of us are out there and that's helping us to develop circles of interest.  Most circles have a teacher or two leading the charge, hence their "brand."  Can we all have a brand?  Sure.  Will all of us have a brand that other teachers in other schools can identify?  Not unless we blog or tweet A LOT and have high readership.  I would pose the question this way: can your students and your close colleagues (whether in person or virtually) identify your brand?  I'm pretty sure if you asked my students, interactive notebooks with Foldables are my brand.  Sarah (@mathequalslove), Kathryn (@kathrynfreed), Julie (@jreulbach), and numerous other bloggers have way more posted about notebooks than I do, so I'm not the MTBoS guru, however notebooks are one thing that sets me apart from the other teachers in my school. 

That uniqueness in my school led me to a secondary purpose for this Foldable notebook.  I'm starting as a math teacher specialist this fall at a high school.  While I've used interactive notebooks for the last two years with my 8th grade students and classify them largely as a success, I don't think any of the teachers I'm going to be working with have used them.  My supervisor is a fan and said she would like to see the teachers use them at the high school level.  I thought that in addition to my completed notebooks from the past two years, having this resource on hand might make it easier for a teacher to use Foldables for the first time. 

Sorry this is a wonky slideshow.  I had designs on a true video but I'm short on storage on my phone, so this is the best I could do.  If you're tying to find templates of what's shown, click on the label "interactive notebook" or "foldable" under this blog post to be taken to all posts concerning those topics.  Many of the things in this notebook are just small pieces of paper cut and folded, so I don't have them as typed templates at that small size.      

One final note: I tried the Pinterest acclaimed glue sponge and I am impressed.  While I doubt it would be really mess-free for little kids, it made quick work of my gluing today, I had no blobs of glue to contend with, and everything stuck nicely to my book.  Consider me a fan! 

What have you done to get pedagogically reinvigorated for the upcoming year?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B