How to Maintain a Language Notebook

This piece was written some time back for my English teachers. Today, inspired by the blogs of teachers from all over the world I decided to edit and post it. Requirements may vary from place to place, syllabus to syllabus. Still there can be some  points helpful for teachers.
Some may say – “With the advent of technology, writing on paper is going to become extinct in the near future, so we need not insist too much on maintaining notebooks.” I agree to the first part of their opinion but I strongly disagree with the second. In my opinion the aim of maintaining a notebook is not just to improve the handwriting or to have a collection of questions. I tell my students not to expect any direct questions from those given in the text/notebooks. Still they all earnestly complete their notes in the way I insist. How? Why?

A lot of things can be incorporated in the notebooks. For the teacher it becomes a parameter to evaluate a large number of qualities of the child – neatness, punctuality, systematic way of doing, handwriting, spelling skills, sincerity, originality, attention, etc. As far as the student is concerned it becomes the venue to express her artistic and creative skills, to improve her handwriting, to prove to the teacher what she really is. Moreover the students could get constructive feedback – appreciation, motivation and suggestions for improvement – from the teacher.

Given below are just some suggestions:

  1. The note book should have an INDEX (No., Unit No., Title, Author, Remarks of the teacher, Signatures of the teacher and the parent) and all the pages should be numbered (follow any one numbering system).
  2. Each Unit should begin on a new page. The details like Unit, Title, Author, Date etc. should be written clearly (follow the same style for all the lessons). On that introductory page the students should be asked to draw or paste a simple/small picture related to the lesson – something they visualized from the lesson. It should be completely left to the imagination and creativity of the students.  Tell them not to copy the illustrations already given in the text-book. The teacher should give a positive and encouraging remark on the attempt – not on the quality of the drawing.
  3. On the next page the student must write a brief note on the author. Much better if there is a picture of the writer.
  4. Next is the dictation based on all the new/already familiar words from the lesson. Make it a habit that the students come prepared for the dictation soon after the explanation is over. Never give a list of words – let them go through all the words. The students can correct each other’s work. Let the teacher make a comment on the overall performance of the students together with the suggestions.
  5. The textual questions should be discussed in detail. But the notes need not be completed in the classroom. Let the students complete them back at home. Give them sufficient time – something not less than a week – to complete. Keep a deadline. Make sure you collect the books on that date itself, making them feel you mean/follow what you say (ask the monitor to remind you).
  6. While correcting, appreciate the picture they drew, their performance in dictation etc. (Children of any age love getting stars.) Try to point out almost all the mistakes in the notes they wrote. If it is beyond correction, ask the child to rewrite – appoint another bright student to support her.
  7. If the child repeatedly misspells the same word, or is confused by homophones, write the word/s legibly below the margin attracting the child’s attention.
  8. In the end give a comment – don’t hesitate to appreciate the work if she has done sincerely or if she has at least tried to improve (turn the pages back to see how she did in the previous lesson). If you feel she needs to improve, give your suggestions – in a positive tone.  Sign off giving the date. Don’t forget to give your signature in the index too.

Keeping a portfolio helps a lot

Try to include one writing task based on each lesson. Instead of writing the assignments in the notebook, let them use separate sheets (in a prescribed format with a rubric) for that. The convenience is that the teacher could easily take all the sheets home to correct. After that the sheets should be filed by each student in a folder which you call a Portfolio. A proper index, a designer cover page and a title will make each portfolio unique. The students would just love to have such creative collections. This, at the end of the year, will help the teacher assess their level/improvement.   

Some of you teachers, especially those with bigger classes, will be wondering whether all these are practical and whether the students will be willing to follow. The whole plan is practical – you can count on my words as I have been successfully implementing it. You too can do that – just be consistent and ready to spend your quality time for your students!

(Coming up next – the pictures of one of the most creative notebooks I have ever seen!)


6 responses to “How to Maintain a Language Notebook

  1. Thanks so much for visiting my ‘Careann’s Musings’ blog yesterday via Freshly Pressed. I love meeting new people here in cyberspace. As a writer I keep my blog’s focus mostly on writing, but obviously I post on other topics, too. I’ve enjoyed having a peek at your blog. I’m a retired teacher, so can appreciate the goals you have for your students. And, of course, as a writer I value my notebooks. Despite the advances in technology… the digital age… I don’t believe handwriting will ever become obsolete. There is something visceral about writing thoughts by hand. I do some of my best writing that way. I wouldn’t want to give up my computers, but neither would I want to do without pens and notebooks. 🙂

    • Thank you so much for reading. And I feel so happy to get comments from a senior teacher like you who knows the value of handwriting. Let’s continue promoting the skill called handwriting. Would love to hear and read more from you…

  2. Teacher , this writing will be very useful to all teachers and students who read this. I am sad that our new English teacher is not giving any importance to notebook completion…

  3. I’ve once taught English to fifth graders and it was an experience I long to have again! Girls are very particular about how good their notebook looks. Boys can’t care less 😀 I myself used to devote a lot of time to beautify my notebook as a kid. 🙂

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