Saturday, September 21, 2013

Interactive Math Journals - Part 2

Earlier this summer I kept seeing interactive math journals popping up everywhere, but I was a little concerned about the fact that they were simply a glorified way of taking notes. I didn't get any comments on my blog, but I shared the idea with my two teammates. I kept looking and being concerned, they got really excited, and here we are using interactive journals in math class. So I thought now would be the perfect time to revisit the questions I asked to see if I actually have the answers. What I wrote back in July is in bold print, and my thoughts today are underneath.

  • How is this different than the note-taking I did in high school?
    • It's a lot different. When I took notes in high school and in college the teachers talked or wrote things on the board, and we either summarized or copied. There have been a few times where our kids have copied things, but that's mostly been to check their work. Each of our activities have involved the kids exploring a topic and using what they know to create their own answers. Then they check them and make the corrections necessary so that their journals are accurate.
  • What about kids with fine motors skills who can't write in small boxes?
    • This is probably the drawn back I've seen with the journals. Because of our students needs, we have often provided typed information that they manipulate and glue into their journals rather than them doing all of the writing. Extra time for us in terms of typing, printing and doing some of the cutting, but it's still up to the kids to make sense of the information that we're giving them.
  • What about kids who can't keep up with note-taking in class? Are these as effective if the students are able to participate in the discussion but aren't taking their own notes?
    • I'm now seeing that, at least as we're using them, the journals really aren't so much a place for note-taking, but they are a place for collecting knowledge. I think as I was researching this summer I read a post where somebody likened the interactive journals to making your own text book, and now I understand what they mean. It's not so much about the kids writing or copying what you say, but it's a place for the kids to complete activities that show they've met the learning goal.
  • Besides taking notes and flipping the paper, how do the students affect some sort of change with these notebooks? What else do they do?
    • We're really just at the very start of our notebooks, but my teammates keeps reinforcing with the kids that this is their resource. We know it's hard to remember everything so this is a personal place to look back and get reminders about skills you already know. So what else are the kids doing with them? Using them to review topics and make connections to new ones. 
    • Some of our activities so far including creating moveable rays so kids could create different types of angles, gluing in an envelope with a set of polygons so the kids could compare different polygons by attributes and properties, and creating solids from nets. (I'm not going to lie -- we've been able to make some connections to real life activities in terms of using some of these ideas in construction and landscaping, but honestly, I'm not running around comparing polygons by their attributes. The kids did enjoy finding how shapes and solids really are everywhere in the real world and in art, though.)
  • It seems as though there are very specific notes that go in these notebooks. Do the students have to include exactly what the teacher wants in the Interactive Notebook or are the students free to write / organize their notebooks in a manner that makes sense to them?
    • As of right now we're giving our kids what we want to put into the journals, but we are leaving space and time at the end of each segment for the kids to do some type of a reflection. We think this is an extremely valuable resource, but we're having difficulty helping others see that these reflections are examples of formative assessments. Still working on changing the thoughts that assessments have to be tests or quizzes.
  • How much paper does this use?
    • Probably no more than a more traditional approach of using worksheets that go along with a text book. We probably use more than some people because we provide more completed items for the kids, but since we're using composition journals I don't feel the amount is extraordinary.

In addition to getting the answers to some of my questions, I'm also finding that the short breaks to cut and glue or manipulate and glue have been positive brain breaks or great opportunities for the kids to talk math. It's also been exciting to hear the conversations our kids have been having and watching them work together.

I'm thankful my teammates were able to see the potential and the positives when I couldn't, and I'm excited to see where our kids can go as we collect more and more knowledge in our journals.

No comments: