Reflection: Organizational Systems Direct and Indirect Characterization - Section 5: Setting Up Notebooks for Figurative Language


Oh my.  Oh my.  Oh my.


This is my tenth year of teaching.  There are very few things that I do now that I did during my first year of teaching.  I've kept the way I handle papers to grade.  I have my baskets, and students put their work in there.  NEVER ON MY DESK.  There is a monster under my desk that eats ungraded papers.  PUT THE PAPERS IN THE BASKETS.



This picture shows my baskets.  They're the plastic baskets on the left.I have five and they're color coded. 


The fabric baskets on the right are holding something new this year.  The red and green baskets are for my Honors classes, so those baskets hold work to be handed back.  The yellow, blue, and purple baskets hold the students' folders.  They're simple paper folders with the three prongs. We keep the folders in the room so they don't get lost.  When we have an assignment that they need to take home, they take home that assignment.  When we have a test or big project, they take the folder home and we promise that if they don't bring them back, it'll be sweet, sweet ETL.  So far, only one folder has been lost, and that kid would probably lose his head if it weren't attached to his body.  I'm not sure that he hasn't already lost his head.


They keep everything in their folders--notes, bellwork, plot diagrams, written paragraphs, their punch cards, and privilege passes.  If I can figure out how to get a goat into each of their folders, that'll be there too.


I was reluctant to implement this new system. My co-teacher and I started our co-teaching relationship last year, and we had some growing pains.  I wanted students to take responsibility for keeping track of their work, and she wanted to make sure things stayed safe by keeping folders in the room.


We compromised.  I said I'd try it with folders living in the room for the first quarter and see how it went.  It went well.  Surprisingly well.  I still don't like that the students can't take the folders home to study, but I'm thinking about it.


What about my honors students?  They keep all their bellwork, plot diagrams, paragraphs, etc. in a binder. They keep their notes in a composition book.  I want the composition book to be a resource. It has all their notes in it, they can keep it forever, and it'll be the handiest, dandiest resource ever.


It's not working awfully well.  I'm playing with the idea of using, instead of 'proper' notes, having reference sheets for the various concepts and topics.  They'll get a paper folder and all the reference sheets can be put in the folder.  I can color code them.  Did you see the baskets above?  I love me a good color coding system. 


The Pros:

  • Students who are absent can get the 'notes' without getting behind.
  • New students can be handed a reference folder.
  • We can spend more time on analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating, rather than rote memory of literary terms.  (I'm trying to think of how I learned literary terms.  I remember taking notes in science and social studies, but I don't remember taking notes in English. Hmmm.)
  • If we have writing reference sheets, like reference sheets for topic sentences, concrete evidence, commentary, concluding sentences, students can use that in their other classes.  


The Cons

  • I'm supposed to be using Cornell notes in my classroom.
  • Isn't writing things down supposed to help students remember things?
  • If I change the system partway through the year, some of the students' brains will explode, and I don't want to clean that up. 
  • I'll be recreating the wheel, but I'll be able to recreate the wheel the way I want it. It should be shiny and handy dandy.


I'm formulating a plan. 

  Student Notebooks
  Organizational Systems: Student Notebooks
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Direct and Indirect Characterization

Unit 4: Analyzing Literature in Socratic Circles with Chaim Potuk’s “Zebra”
Lesson 4 of 11

Objective: Students will be able to analyze direct and indirect characterization by writing Cornell notes and discussing examples from three short stories.

Big Idea: Students analyze how readers learn about characters through direct and indirect characterization.

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