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.

8 responses to “Composition Books to Packets

  1. As ALWAYS, really great stuff Lauren, thanks! And thanks for posting the resources on the AMTA site!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lauren, thank you for this great resource. I have been using the Modeling Chem materials for the last 4 years. I am starting to follow in Kelly O’Shea’s footsteps and make my own packets for my ModPhys classes this year. I’d love to see your ModChem packets, but I can’t seem to find them on the members site at AMTA? Can you help me out?

    Thank you for the help! I directed a colleague to the 180 portion of your blog. She couldn’t make a workshop this summer but has it planned next summer. I’m so excited to spread the Modeling love!


    • Josh, when I submit my next round of packets, I am going to see if Erica Posthuma-Adams (board secretary for AMTA) can write up a quick tutorial for locating the resources that I can post to my blog. Best of luck with your ModPhys packets!


  3. Paul Mollinger

    Thanks Lauren and looking forward to your updated packets on AMTA.

    I started with my physics class two years ago on packets to see how that would work (yea, Kelly O’Shea inspired) and have tinkered with my system and of course we all keep on tinkering. It is much in common with your system.

    Last year at a new school that is 1:1 chrome books I started on making this paperless and that also is my summer project and extend this to chemistry and forensics classes.

    I piloted making a unit interactive using HyperDocs (using just about every Google Suite app there is) and that was pretty good. Kids gave it maybe a B.

    I piloted another interactive approach using MS SWAY (very cool free online tool from MS) – much better, kids gave it an A-.

    Both these were linked to Google Classroom which makes distribution and collecting really nice.

    This summer I have experimented with using the CK12 platform linked to Google Classroom am blown away at the possibilities and degrees of freedom in design and the “look of a textbook”. I have in mind the kids using this platform (they have the same editing tools as any teacher) as lab and project portfolios.

    I also have in mind them using CK12 to keep updating their own “Model So Far” – in the past we did this almost as an art project and made anchor charts to post all over the walls.

    Anyhow, I look forward to what you all have in your packet and how it is linked to your SBG system — and thank you for your generous sharing of your work! Not sure how you find the time to blog!!


    • Paul, thank you so much for sharing your 1:1 experience! I was just going to make PDFs that students could edit using DocHub in GoogleDrive (distributed through Google Classroom) but now I have some exploring to do! I would love to see what you have done in CK12 if you don’t mind sharing!


      • Paul Mollinger

        My first version will be ready to sample soon and will post a link here – I know this will take more than 1 version but we start somewhere and go from there with feedback and new ideas that a come from all over the place. I am putting in some of the Target Inquiry activities I learned about from the recent ChemEdx Conference.


  4. Lauren, did you ever get instructions on where to locate your packets within the AMTA site. I have been unable to locate them 😦


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