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Student Notebooking - Learning at its Best

Have you ever kept a journal? Were you faithful to it? When you were on a roll with it wasn't it a fulfilling experience? Have you looked back at any past journal and seen your growth since then? Maybe you've never kept a journal, but know someone who does. Did you know that most of what we know today about many of our founding fathers such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and George Washington, we know from their personal journals? This started from their youth, when they formed the habit of writing down things they learned, drawing diagrams, listing goals and steps to reach them. George Washington wrote his own list of etiquette, which has since been published. Jefferson even designed a portable writing desk he could carry on horseback.

We have a wonderful opportunity to help students establish the art of keeping notebooks while doing everyday schoolwork. It is such a great boost to their joy of learning when they can see their own progress from year to year when they record what they are learning in their own personal student notebook. There is a sense of true learning going on, and I'm convinced a higher level of thinking skill is utilized.

Several programs (e.g. Principle Approach, Well Trained Mind) recommend establishing a student notebook approach to learning. If you've been interested in giving the notebook method a try I can give you some ideas to help you get started here. If you want more details and to see some first-hand examples be sure to check out my workshop on this topic at the conventions where I'll be speaking this year.(For a schedule of coventions See Workshops)

Notebooks can be organized in a variety of ways. Find what works for your child and give him some freedom to make it personal. You can use a 3-ring binder, a sewn composition book, a store-bought journal, or report folders. My kids particularly liked using the sewn composition books, and I let them choose, from the wide selection of colors, which each wanted to use. This becomes your student's personal diary of a school year, and the more input they have in it the more it reflects their own tastes, skills and natural gifts.

Whatever type of notebook you choose be sure to make it interesting. Include pictures, (photographs for children who can't draw yet). Occasionally let them copy diagrams from the textbook, or trace a picture if their drawing skills have not developed yet. Have them design their own cover page, and use lots of color whenever possible. Encourage your students to form the habit to do their best work in this special notebook. Show it around. When Grandma comes over for a visit, you get together with other home school families, when Dad gets home from work, show their notebooks. When they know others will see the book they tend to take better care in doing their schoolwork. Once the notebook is established you will often see a pride of what your children accomplish reflected in their work. My kids still bring out their notebooks and look at them on occasion.

A student notebook can be done in a variety of ways according to your need, but be firm with maintaining quality. You can put one topic in a notebook, or place dividers for several school subjects in one notebook. It's strictly up to you. If you want to do a notebook for the first time, start with one topic. As you get going you will develop some great ideas of your own for making it really special. I like to include a vocabulary section at the end of each book where the student can add new words as they learn them. At the end of the year number the pages and add a table of contents in the front. Set guidelines for their notebook. Here are some of mine: use your neatest handwriting, only final copy of written work is included, no doodling, you are not allowed to lose this book! I suggest you keep it in a special place and make sure it is returned there at the end of each school day.

Space does not allow me to go into more detail, but know for sure, that you will not regret establishing a student notebook discipline with your child once you get it going. Start exploring ideas with others and get a look at the notebooks your friends have been keeping and if you want more info see me at the convention.


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