Thursday, May 31, 2012

It's More Than Just a Planner

Do you use student planners with your students?  I did until I went with a few fellow teachers to observe a teacher in another district.  I was so impressed that I began using this new found idea in the middle of October.  This past school year was my first full year of using what they called a Brain Book, and I can tell you that I will never go back to using a simple planner.

When I was first introduced to the Brain Books they were in a one subject spiral notebook.  I quickly found out that I preferred the composition notebook over the spiral.  Although there is a bit less space, they are much more durable.

At the beginning of the school year, you can buy these one subject composition notebooks really cheap.  I think I found them for a quarter at Wal-Mart which is significantly cheaper than a $3.50 student planner.  Because they are so cheap, I went ahead and bought two per student.  One notebook lasts for half the year.  I allowed my students to personalize their Brain Book.  As you can see by the pictures below not all students jumped at this opportunity but, then again, it was up to them.

At this point, you are probably wondering what a Brain Book is.  According to me and how I used it this is my version:

I use this notebook as a replacement for the traditional student planner.  Everyday upon arrival to the classroom my students date a brand new page in their notebook.  They then copy the days learning objectives onto that page.  As you can see from the pictures, they are required to place the name of the subject.  On the bottom portion of the page they draw a small t-chart.  On the left side is where I may write comments that are to go home or their parents may also use this space to send me a note.  On the right side is where parents sign that they have seen the Brain Book.  It is a requirement for my students that their Brain Book go home with them on a daily basis. 

Beyond writing the objectives we use this same notebook for placing important things that we can refer back to.  In the very back, students had their reading record.  Other items included word wall words they needed to know, foldables that they made,notes that they had taken, and many other items.  If it could fit into the notebook and it served a purpose, they placed it in their book.


During reading if I had a question that I wanted them to answer, I gave them the question and they taped or glued it into their Brain Book.  They would simply write the answer to the question right in their Brain Book.  When reviewing word wall words, their Brain Book was the place they wrote.  When completing a few math problems, their Brain Book was the place where they showed their work. 

The perks to using a Brain Book:
  • I like that parents see what we are doing in the classroom on a daily basis.  They don't have to wait until papers go home. 
  • It is so easy for me to do a quick check on all my students' work and I don't have to deal with collecting papers.
  • There is no question about where they are to write.  They know that their notebooks are their "think pads" they write their thoughts.
  • They don't have to search in folders or desks for a missing paper, they know that they can find it in their Brain Book.
  • I don't hear, "I don't have any paper".
If I had to pick what I like best about the use of the Brain Book, it would be the pride that my students take in their books.  They take pride in the work that they put into it and they love to show what they "do".

These Brain Books have worked wonders for me.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to have seen them at work!


Lisa at Stories From Second said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I LOVE this, what a great alternative to planners. Thank you so much for sharing it with us, I can't wait to share it with my team!
Stories From Second

LACOMBE said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I love it! We do a 5 day math problem solving every morning and they have to get out agenda the math notebook. Brain book would also save on transition time. Thanks for the idea!!!

RealOCteachers said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Wow! This is awesome. This is definitely something I want to try.

The REAL Teachers of Orange County

Kaylees Education Studio said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I love that they have to write the learning objectives for the day.

EveryNewBeginning said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I tried having my student write their learning objectives in their planners & it just didn't work (parents complained it was too messy). This is a great alternative!

Every New Beginning

Mrs. T. Williams said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

What a great idea!! This is going to solve many of our "planner" problems!!! Super thinking! Thanks for sharing!


Jenn said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Mandy, How did you manage the student who left their Brain Book at home or actually lost it all together?


Ann and Celina said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Hi! My name is Celina and I team-teach in a 3/4/5 Multiage classroom in WA State. Our students have used something similar for over a year now. Ironically we also call ours Brain Books :) Great minds definitely think alike!

We have a slightly different spin on them, as ours were initially created with the help of our students to support brain-based learning strategies and their individual learning styles and intelligences. They are also vital tools for the sake of integration and the synthesis of information/ standards learned over time. Are these major focuses of yours as well?

Over time our Brain Books have replaced our planners, but are not necessarily used as a parent communication tool- although we know the majority of our students do love to share their thinking and learning from them. I do agree that a resource like this cuts down on an assortment of folders, papers, and random
Notebooks floating (spilling) about. Our students organize their Brain Books in ways that best fit their brains and have no problems finding specific information or resources when needed.

Our students look forward to Brain Breakfasts, Brain Breaks, Brain Snacks, and utilizing their books during collaboration and communication opportunities. Here is a link to our Brain Breakfast- which starts our mornings with our Brain Books in hand:

We could not imagine life without our Brain Books! Thanks for sharing, we would enjoy collaborating with you sometime either through email or on Twitter!


Veggiemomof2 said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Thank you so much for this post! I have a special needs child in high school I want to try this on. There are many times I need to exchange notes with the teacher, vise versa, or he just can't remember what he's suppose to do. I can't wait to share this page w/his resource teacher!

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