Thursday, September 18, 2014

Creating a Thinking Classroom

I began this post on Sunday, but I am finally posting it after a couple days at camp with my students.  You can read more about what I learned about myself at camp at my personal blog

Some teachers have those big READ decorative letters hanging in their classroom library.  A previous coworker told me I needed to have giant letters in my classroom for THINK.  On almost any personality test I have done, I am first and foremost analytical. I think about everything.  My mind is busy and scattered.  This is why I learned to make lists and write things down.  This is why I have to organize my physical space because it allows me to begin to organize my mental space. 

After two weeks in middle school, I am so excited about the potential of the rest of the school year.  Seventh and eighth graders are independent enough that we can now really pursue my passion – thinking. My primary goals for my students this year are to become better thinkers and to be able to articulate their ideas. As teachers and students alike, we have to take time to stop doing to allow time for thinking.

I have a co-worker who uses the ideas of Dr. Sandra Kaplan in her teaching.  In discussing the traits of a scholar this  past week with her students, she introduced the idea to them of keeping an idea notebook. She bought them mini-composition notebooks from Staples and they used tabs to create sections.  The students will write down their questions and ideas in each section. 
I am absolutely in love with this idea! I played around with having an ideas section in our binder last year, but it did not really work.  There is something more special about having a separate place just to keep ideas. 

One of the very first things my advisor recommended to us last year when I began my doctoral program was to keep an idea notebook.  It is a place to record ideas and even notes from discussions during research meetings.  I had already been keeping a notebook, so I was to get some validation for my habit.  My past notebook was giant conglomeration of ideas related to work, school, home, and every aspect of my life.  It could be difficult to go back and find things.  Thus, last year I decided to try a sectioned notebook to see how I liked it.  I bought the Arc notebook by Staples.  You can see below how I created sections for ideas for for work, school, research, blog, and home. 

I also could have just made tabs like my co-worker did with her students. I am finding I am using it some, but I am also recording a lot of ideas in Evernote on my iPad.  For me, I am finding it easier sometimes to record ideas on there in different notebooks than even in my paper notebook. I like Evernote because I also have the app on my Mac.  So I can use it from a variety of places.

 I really want to encourage my students this year to ask questions, generate ideas, and pursue their interests.  I work at a blended learning school, so all of my students have Macs.  Like all good teachers, I am going to “steal” my co-worker’s idea of using idea notebooks.  With my 7th and 8th graders, I am thinking about giving them the option of using Evernote or using a physical idea notebook.  Like myself, some may even use a mixture of the two.  I want my students to apply what we learn to the real world.  I like Evernote because you could also save web links and pictures.  When we get ready to start doing research papers later in the year, I am thinking Evernote could be a great resource to record resources and thoughts about those resources – an updated version of the index card.

Have you ever tried idea notebooks? How did they work for you?

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