Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Maintaining the Table of Contents

At the beginning of each unit of study, my students started a new table of contents. The format appears below.

I organized the table of contents the way I was taught to do so - with right and left sides to chronicle the different types of assignments present in the notebook. Also included: the title of the unit and dates.

Everyday when students entered class, my example table of contents was projected on the board (using a document camera and LCD projector). Their first task was to update their own table of contents, then attach handouts or set-up cornell notes appropriately.

On the end of year survey, a student gave some excellent feedback regarding this set-up. She suggested a main table of contents at the beginning of the notebook to outline each of the subsections. This idea is worth thinking through, and definitely something I'm trying to decide on for next year. Another modification for next year - using the table of contents as a tracker. Instead of setting up the table in two columns, I might use one column and then include a far section for "grade earned" by the student on that particular notebook page.

Including a grade earned brings me to my next point about the table of contents. The student example below reveals a check mark and a grade of 100%.

This raises a lot of questions as I reflect on last year's notebook.
  • Why did I give a grade for the table of contents? I won't try to justify giving a grade, because at this point I admit that was a bad idea. I was thinking that giving students a grade for the table of contents would hold them accountable to keeping it maintained and completed.
  • What skill was I assessing for this assignment? Apparently I was assessing the ability to complete a mundane task (copying an example). Bummer.
  • How do I motivate students to maintain a table of contents and how do I enforce non-compliance? I'm still thinking through the answer to this. Suggestions appreciated.
  • Is it really important for students to maintain an organized table of contents? I would argue that yes, the most organized notebooks I saw were ones that included a complete table of contents. I think a student's diligence in completing the main page for the unit was a behavior that stemmed from their intrinsic motivation to comply, perhaps regardless of whether it was graded or not.
  • Why didn't all my students earn 100% for this "assignment"? There is investment and classroom management tied into this answer. Not all of my students were invested in my class and in using the notebook. Unfortunately, I failed to effectively portray the purpose and usefulness of the notebook to that group of students. Also unfortunately, I often assumed that if a student was starting to glue in handouts, then they of course must have already updated their table of contents. Not exactly.
There are many things to think about as I structure next year's table of contents. I plan to spend more effort on investing students in using the notebook and explaining its purpose. Possibilities include: posting my example on a class website (or on a bulletin board in my classroom) and allowing students to maintain the table of contents for homework or printing and copying a table of contents "tracker" and essentially doing the table of contents for students (I prefer the former).

1 comment:

  1. What do you think of a weekly table of contents, by topic? I used that to double as a tracker for that week's quiz. I was wrestling with the same TOC dilemma and settled on weeky...