We have reached the end of the first trimester, with final being given last Wednesday and Thursday. At the end of each trimester, as the kids take their exam, I collect their binders and grade them for completeness. The binder is to contain everything: handouts, notes, tests...everything. One thing I have noticed in making the transition to Harkness is that the kids don't really know how to take notes. Before making the change, the kids were ok at taking notes, meaning they were ok at scribbling down what I wrote on the board, but even then they missed a lot of the important information because they normally didn't write anything down unless it was written on the board. And in a Harkness classroom, with so much of the information being delivered in the course of the discussions, the kids have a difficult time discerning what they should be writing down. It's not surprising to me that the kids who do well in the course tend to be the ones who have organized binders and a fairly complete set of notes. I really focused this trimester on what the successful kids were doing as far as their notes were concerned, and will be "imposing" the following on the kids next term:
(1) The homework must be done on a separate sheet of looseleaf paper. Some of ths kids try to do the initial work on the actual worksheets. None of the successful kids do this.
(2) Corrections are to be made on the homework sheet without erasing the original mistake. The successful kids understand that they need to learn from their mistakes, and they tend to make corrections in pen next to the original work so they can remind themselves of what their instinct told them to do originally, and so they can have the self-awareness to avoid making the same mistakes in the future,
(3) A clean set of notes must be made on looseleaf paper during the discussion, especially at the end of the discussion of each exercise. The reason for the looseleaf paper is to allow the kids to see their original work as they write the clean set of notes, but still be able to keep them separate from each other.
(4) A glossary and a formula sheet must be created as we make our way through the trimester and kept at the end of the "clean notes" section of the binder.
For my part, I will need to check the binders with a certain amount of regularity, the hope being that not only will this improve things for the kids in my class, but also in their other classes. Granted it will be up to them to transfer the skills, but my hope is the success I'm anticipating will be contagious. I'm certain I'll write more about this later...