Friday, August 10, 2012

Student Math Class Notebooks

I've been giving notebooks a lot of thought in the past week or two.  As a principal I encouraged teachers to keep their notes, lesson plans, and ideas online.  I tried to organize my online folders to keep information accessible to anyone who might need it.  So for the last 12 years I have not taught students how to organize a notebook.

I want my students' notebook to be a study guide and practice book ... one-stop shopping so to speak!  I envision the possibility of needing one simple spiral notebook per six weeks.  That sounds like a lot but if we put all of our notes, class practice, and homework in it, we could potentially use most of a typical 100 page notebook.  (If we use one per six weeks, we will store the completed notebooks in the classroom to serve as references for future units and testing).

My plan is to tape each six weeks' set of standards in the front of the notebook along with a list of the key vocabulary.  I am debating on the need for a Table of Contents.  Instead, I envision our starting each class period on a fresh page - clearly labeled with the date, standards addressed, and textbook reference pages.

On the last two pages of the notebook, students will keep a record of their graded work.

I plan to use notebook foldables for taking class notes.  The foldables will be useful study guides for unit tests, exams, and state tests.  In addition to our class notes, students will complete practice problems in the notebook ... showing detailed work to provide examples when they are working on their own.

Homework practice will be just that ... practice.  I don't plan to grade daily homework.  Instead, I plan to give notebook quizzes.  A quiz might have 5 to 10 problems on it.  Each quiz problem will be taken from homework assignments and even classroom examples.  For students who followed instructions and completed their work, they can use their notebooks to copy the work.  If students did not do the homework, they can still complete the quiz - they just don't have the support they might need from their notebook.

Over the next two weeks, I'll be consulting with other teachers if they use a structured approach to notebooking ... and I'll be scouring blogs as well ... always looking for the "best" idea!

What have I missed?


  1. Great post! I had one notebook per trimester last year and did the same thing that you speak of. We started a new notebook each new trimester. I really liked the "fresh notebook" for a new semester. Then, I collected them and stored them in my classroom for future reference. At the end of the year, I had my students go through all three notebooks and tear out pages that they thought would be the most helpful to them in the future. We then combined all of those pages into a "Math Reference Notebook". I have stored those in my classroom and will give them back to students when school begins. (I blogged about it here if you are interested.

    This year I am going to use two notebooks. They have a homework workbook so only recorded notes in their notebooks. Thus, we only used about 2/3 of the notebooks last year.

  2. I love the idea of 1 per 6 week grading period. I just highly doubt our school would allow us to require 6 notebooks for one class :( I could maybe get away with 1-3 subject notebook for the whole year.

    I love the idea of the notebook quizzes and plan on using that in my classroom as well. I brainstormed with my sister last week and we came up with this plan:

    Homework is completion for 25 points total. Students can get partial points if they do some, but not all homework.
    Quizzes are graded out of 75 points. This way, students that do not do the homework, but DO know the material can still pass (so frustrating when smart kids fail because of not completing homework) Students that do the homework can also still pass as long as they get a 50 or so.

    Not 100 percent on this yet, but like that they are still held accountable, but not ruined if they do not do their homework one night.

  3. instillnessthedancingAugust 12, 2012 at 7:01 AM

    Julie - thanks for sharing your blog post on how you set up your Math Reference Notebooks. I'll definitely read it!

  4. instillnessthedancingAugust 12, 2012 at 7:05 AM

    Megan - I am new to the school/district ... haven't checked in yet to be sure I can ask for several notebooks in a year! I'll do that soon ... so that I can continue to think about my plan for what to put in the notebook. It could be that I'll do something like what Julie (I Speak Math) did in a previous year - make just a reference notebook - and put homework in something else.

    While I want students to do homework, I am conflicted because I know that not all kids need as much practice as others to succeed. And for those that need the practice I don't want to grade their practice. I've done completion points in the past. I am going to try the notebook quizzes at least for the first 6 weeks and see how that works out.