Soon after I introduced notebooks, my classes started getting bigger. Testing started to become a challenge. Long ago I'd make them physically separate a bit, but now it's impossible. I tried the folder blinder thing. And still, the determined would try to deceive me. Different test versions have had the most success. But I'm trying to remove the motivations as much as possible.

In the spring of 2013 I said forget it, they put so much effort into these notebooks anyway, let's make them available on the test. Day one of school last year I mentioned this policy, with much excitement, naturally.

It felt appropriate in academic level classes. These students needed a little more support. I want to reinforce good habits like keeping a worthwhile notebook. It helped me prove a point when I could draw correlations between the state of someone's notebook and their performance. They usually weren't doing the classwork anyway.

Fast forward to now and I've got PreAP Pre Calculus. A lot of people hold up Pre AP as this sacred thing. We don't mess around in here, mounds of homework, and the highest of high stakes on tests. Again faced with students on top of one another I said you know, if I make enough versions (three each time) I'm ok just making them all open notes.

You might see that as a cop out. But it actually affords a lot of unique opportunities. For one, we don't review for tests. Straight up, no. I announce the date some days in advance and I might mention the list of topics. But there's no scripted review.

The content of my tests has changed as well. A lot of the sections model things we've done in class, but each and every time there's something in there that can't be copied.

And in the end, everyone in there did ridiculously well. Over half got an A for the semester. That might sound wrong and unnatural, but aren't the kids supposed to feel like they learn something rather than satisfy a normal bell-curve of grade distribution?

AuthorJonathan Claydon