Monthly Archives: July 2017

Composition Books to Packets

Hi friends! I took a little hiatus from writing to focus on what is happening in my classroom. Now that I have some free time, I wanted to share about some changes I made last year and some changes I want to make next year. Vacation is over and my mind is already on next school year!

Some of you who are AMTA members know I made a big switch from composition books to packets last year in my general chemistry classes. Here are the reasons that lead me to making that switch:

  1. Lost papers! I’m sure you all have that student whose organization system is one folder for all of his/her classes. Over the course of the year, that folder gets so jammed pack that it is actually just two folder halves making a paper sandwich. I have dug through many paper sandwiches for lost worksheets only to end up making extra copies.
  2. Messy, incomplete and lost composition books. I found that students have trouble keeping neat composition books with the information I think they need. This comes back to lack of modeling expectations on my part. I also do not give any formal, PowerPoint or guided notes so students often do not know what they should write down.
  3. The SBG thread needs to be pulled through everything. The thing that ties all of SBG together is the learning targets. I wanted a system that makes sure those learning targets are at the forefront of every activity.

Putting worksheets in a packet is easy but eliminating the composition book takes a lot more thought. I did not want to spoon feed my students everything but I also wanted them to be successful and gather the information they need in one place. I remembered seeing what Kelly O’Shea had come up with for her physics materials and that inspired what I came up with for chemistry.

I cannot post entire packets here because they include copyrighted AMTA materials but I am happy to share what I have if you have been trained in the Modeling Instruction pedagogy.

I will break down the anatomy of my packets that can be applied to any unit.

COVER PAGE: The cover page is where students write their learning targets and track their grades. This puts the learning targets at the forefront of the unit. Every time a student needs to write down a new learning target, they need to get out their packet.

LAB PAGES: Lab pages are the trickiest because you need to find a balance between guiding students without spoon-feeding them. It also helps to keep the formatting consistent so students know what to expect from a lab. I try to format it like a lab write-up: purpose, methods, data, discussion/conclusions. The only part that changes from lab to lab is the conclusions section. I like to put one or two questions at the end of each lab that sum up what I want students to take away.

WORKSHEET PAGES: Worksheet pages are the easiest. Just insert whatever worksheets you would hand out to students. Make sure to put the associated learning target(s) at the top though!

END PAGES: I end every packet with the same three pages: practicum, the model so far and additional notes. All of these blank pages are graph paper style like the lab pages. They provide students to write down practicum calculations, what we added to our model and anything else they don’t have room for. Since this is the first year I used packets, I found myself forgetting to put activities in so the additional notes pages ended up being a lifesaver!

These packets were great this past year! I only had to worry about making copies once a unit, students didn’t lose papers, learning targets actually got written down and I think students got more out of the lab activities. This coming school year my district is implementing a 1:1 Chromebook program. My summer project is figuring out how to make this system paperless! I think I will keep composition books for my honors students but my general chemistry and physical science students will be sticking with packets.