Previously, I mentioned that requiring notebooks was a great success, so here's a few additional thoughts on the issue.

In all my classes, every student has to get a notebook, which can be had for 50¢, if you want to get fancy $1. The notebook should be math only, no piggy-backing on economics. I keep a bucket in the room for each class and they have the option of keeping their notebook in the room if they want. Some students get confused and think they have to stay there, but that is untrue. Maintaining the notebook is part of their grade and right before a progress report or report card I inspect the notebook and look for a few things. The main item is an updated test chart. With my standards based grading, kids have to record all their scores to increase their investment in their grade. Depending on what we've done, I usually will look for any handouts I've given out that have to be taped/stapled/glued in, and a quick look at if they're taking notes. It's easy money grade wise.

Including it as part of their grade encourages them to maintain it, but there are some secondary benefits that are great.

  • Every student has something to write on almost every day, my first year I had a lot of "empty desk syndrome" because most mid-range students elect to passively absorb my genius
  • "I show, you show" is quick because I can put a small handful of problems on the board and they can start working on them right away, they no longer waste 5 minutes asking around for paper
  • No write up sheets for activities, I know they have something to write in, so if we're doing group work, they collect any data/information in their notebook, and I can make EVERYONE write down EVERYTHING, when I get around to writing up my group lessons from the last couple weeks this will shine through
  • Worksheets have been replaced by my Tasks. I cobble together a problem set, have them staple/tape/glue the small paper in their notebook. The biggest benefit of the notebook appears right here. Kids are fantastic at losing papers, and having them complete worksheets, loosely grade them, and hand them back is just asking for the paper to get tossed in the trash and the kid to never use it for reference later. Why give a worksheet if it's in the trash 48 hours later?
  • Fewer worksheets, cramming problem sets into half sheets means fewer trips to the copier. My school has loosely requested we cut down on copies, something I try to do anyway. Plus fighting for a copier at 7:30am isn't wise. Standards based tests are nice for this as they're never more than one front and back page. Sticking problem sets on half-sheets cuts down the load as well.
  • The next phase of my drive towards a project-based group curriculum will combine my on-the-cheap document camera and their notebooks for presentations

Increase student involvement, save yourself some work, and save the Earth all by making your kids spend $1.

The big picture education philosophy move with this is taking my classes away from the textbook. Rather than absorb a mediocre book, why not build their own? In their own writing?

AuthorJonathan Claydon