Interactive notebooks can be the best or the worst thing that happen to your classroom. They can be the best thing because kids become engaged in the learning, it’s a hands-on experience with the material and it adds a little fun to the reading work.
It can be the worst thing that happens to your classroom if there is zero classroom management surrounding it, no set procedures or if kids are not taking the work seriously.
At my project-based school, a huge part in students creating beautiful work is having it critiqued. But there is a caveat to the success that makes critiquing worth it. The person giving feedback about the work needs to mean something to the students. The person providing their input must be an expert in the field or be an authentic audience. Parents coming to view the work of the students isn’t enough. The teacher grading the work is not enough and kids giving each other feedback is not enough. Let me explain. I totally believe in having kids critique each other’s work and teacher input is valuable and parents seeing what their kid has done all semester is just as important, but all of those things only go so far when you are trying to get students to push themselves in their learning. Those things are important, but it’s not as meaningful and beneficial and helpful as when an expert in the field comes into the classroom, teaches the class something and then comes back to gauge where the students were with their work.
I remember when I first decided that I wanted to teach my 5th graders how to conduct research in order to write a 5 paragraph essay. I was overwhelmed with where to even start! I know that kids are highly motivated when they have choice and are excited about their learning, and so I knew it would be important for each child to choose their own topic of study. Even though I would be modeling each step along the way, I did not want to assign them their topic. To guide students in choosing a topic, I always tell them a subject to choose a topic from.
For example, for years, I had students choose a state they wanted to research while I modeled researching Alaska. For the first time this school year, I asked students to choose a topic related to WWII while I model with Japanese Internment Camps. I feel this gives them a sense of interest and independence when they are able to choose for themselves what topic they will be spending their time digging through books and talking about with experts.
When creating a process for conducting research, I also wanted to provide students with a list of steps that they could use later on in middle, high school and even college. The steps had to be simple enough to work for any topic and any level of topic. So it had to be simple, but also have potential for students to gather lots of information. (click below to read more)
Unit 2 Alaska Exploration and Research
Unit 2 is a focus on Alaska which is my platform for teaching them how to do research and to demonstrate how a person's environment effects the way of life. Here are the components of what I planned:
6th grade Humanities Teacher, Writer, Resource Creator, Curriculum and Course Developer