Monday, February 9, 2015

Work Notebooks -- Keeping the Paper Work Organized

When T and S attended traditional preschool the slew of paper that came home with scribbles, glitter, or other "beautiful" work was rather large. (I have boxes of these treasures sitting in a closet.) When T and S attended primary Montessori school, very little paper came home. Now that we homeschool and are following Montessori's methods, we don't do workbooks, generally, or print-outs, or worksheets.  But I've found that as my elementary children advance they are doing more work on paper. 

I don't like messy cubbies with papers of all kinds and colors sticking out in every direction imaginable. It makes me feel dizzy and I suddenly get an overwhelming urge to grab a hole puncher, my label maker, and the recycle bin. (Even when when I see papers that aren't mine to organize.) I wanted to devise a system for our classroom that would eliminate loose papers and organize and archive the relatively small amount of paperwork we do produce.
Let me introduce T and S's working notebooks. These are just smaller spiral bound notebooks that I happened to find in a random box after our move. (These were gifted to my husband who helped put on a college conference in the Boston area a few years back. None of us actually went to RISD. ) These notebooks happen to have a pocket in the front, which serves nicely for the very few items that don't get pasted in, taped in, or written on the pages.

We tape or paste EVERYTHING into these notebooks. Stamp game paper, geometry lesson cut-outs and LBF paper get accordion folded and taped in so that we can unfold it and look at it in place. Things like word problem equations, word study work, and flag illustrations are written directly on the pages.

Most of the time T and S remember to date the pages. When T started working in his notebook on the 21st, he noted the date at the top of his first page of work. If he pulled out his work notebook anytime during the rest of the day he didn't date subsequent pages. The next day when he pulled out his work notebook he'd put the new date at the top of a new page again.
So far, we don't label what each work is called. Sometimes the type of work is obvious...
...and sometimes it is not so obvious. We'll work on titling our work sometime soon. We are taking baby steps here.
S has been doing a lot of daily world problems. Since I don't let her write in the Daily Word Problem book, she notes her "work" in her working notebook.

S is almost finished with her notebook. No, isn't because she does more written work. It is because in the beginning she was choosing random pages on which to do her next work. When I finally caught this, she had already marked a page halfway into the notebook, so I made her continue from there, making sure to mark her work on each next page

Since S is a lefty I am thinking of getting her either a new steno book, where the coil binding is at the top, or a "lefty-notebook" which could be a bit non-Montessori, since it looks like your are flipping the pages the wrong way. The steno pad could get too thick because of all the items she ends up "pasting" into the book. Humn, maybe a composition book, since that doesn't have a spiral binding. We'll see which she likes. 

S likes the daily word problems because she likes illustrating each problem. I guess drawing 40 camel legs was fun.
In the end, when we use work notebooks I don't see tons of paper pieces flying around the classroom. And the kids know that there is one place they should put their written work. I also think it is neat that they will have a real archive of their written work to reflect upon when they are older. And yes, I know that their future spouse will make them throw this away about 20 years after they get married because really, who keeps their school work from 1st grade??


  1. I tried this with my son - he wasn't for it. He wants individual papers.

    So we have the mess. It was actually looking pretty good, but the last 3 years, we've not done our yearly scrapbook; and then we recently moved. We have "Stuff" (yes, that is a proper noun) living in the corner of the master bedroom. 7 or so boxes worth - not all that we'll keep - some just need photos taken and printed; some is probably not worth saving; some will actually go into page protectors in a binder or taped accordion/folded to the outside of the sheet protectors... I LOVE doing it - just prefer to have everything else done so I can truly just sit and ENJOY doing it, with no time pressure.
    like THAT will happen ;)

    You wanna come visit? You can organize it for us. ;)

  2. I like this idea but am too addicted to specialty papers to implement it. I just invented a new kind of paper today, LOL.

    I guess it will be work binders and bound booklets for us.

    1. Wow, I totally didn't get a shot of that. We do use stamp game paper, and LBF paper, and graph paper, squared paper, plain paper, colored paper, you-name-it-paper, we just "tape" these papers into our notebooks so they aren't hanging out around and I don't have to fuss with cheap hole punchers that get jammed and S throws a fit because she can't get the three hole punch to work, or the binder doesn't open, or....our tape dog does the work.

      What is the new paper you invented? Want to see!!

      Also, Jessica, yes, I'd love to come and sift through your seven boxes of stuff and put it all in a scrap book the way it should go. THAT is what I should do with the kids' preschool stuff, though I don't know how I'd stuff a rain-stick into a scrap book.

      BTW, what do you both DO with your archived paperwork?

    2. No, I get what you mean. It's just at our house we NEVER use normal paper so ALL the pages would have something taped to them. Then I might as well use a binder. We have a REALLY nice hole puncher. I will mention that we use a lot of graph paper. So, if the note book were graph paper we could probably do it that way. I think a lot of European schools and M I tessori schools DO use squared paper notebooks as their standard notebooks.

    3. Ahhh, that would be a lot of "tape-dog" use, which my kids would probably not mind at all. What is the brand and make of your hole puncher? This could make a huge difference for the kids, when they do need to use a hole punch. Is this on your blog and I just haven't read that far yet? (I am up around the continent boxes stuck in 2010) I think, but don't totally remember, that our Montessori school required graph paper composition books for elementary. But I don't remember. I'll ask T the next time he comes up needing a new notebook if he'd prefer a graph paper one.

    4. I never blogged about the hole punch because it, like lots of things including really nice binders that work smoothly, are remnants of equipment from when I worked on my PhD. I did a lot of photocopying and hole punching in college back in those days before digital files. It's a Punchodex No. P-39.

      I pulled an Abbie Wednesday night and paid to have something spiral bound :) Art curriculum. I'll blog about it someday.That rollabind looks like it would work well. Pros of the spiral bind with the convenience of the binder. I wonder how easily the papers fall out of those books when you don't want them to.

  3. I like the notebooks : ) Just to throw ideas out, there are also the options of folders, treasury tags, or scrapbook rings.

    However, my favourite is rollabind/ circa-binding. I have the portable punch at home, and I really like it for applications like this. I used it a lot in university.

    Thanks for posting, I really enjoy reading about your adventures and methods!

    1. I used to write an organizing blog. :) My ears always perk up when someone is organizing something in a new way. :) Thanks for sharing! Are the rollabind/cira-binding punching something a child could do by themselves? That would be perfect!! Especially for the small booklets they make themselves.

      Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment!

  4. Abbie - our archived stuff is in binders on the shelves with our photo albums, taken out from time to time to see favorite work from years ago ;)

    1. Ah. And now you have more shelf space in your new place!! Perfect!

      I lay out our photo albums using the program Blurb. Then you upload the HUGE digital file to their site and you can have it published. I just do hard-cover bound and with specialty paper. They are somewhat pricey, but the number of photos we have for the kids when they were babies is just ENORMOUS. So printing out even half of them would have been about the same price. If you like digital layout, and photo post editing, you'll like this process. It takes hours, but so would putting all those print outs in an album.

      I think that a nice archival system instead of a notebook might be a nice way to save their work. I'll look into this.

    2. I've been thinking about taking selected blog posts, editing a bit for typos and maybe putting Legoboy's real name back in - and having those gathered into a book to have printed somewhere online. That could be neat!

      I should add - we still have notebooks ;) They either get tucked into the binders; or selected pages removed and put into sheet protectors (this is when he was younger).

      I have ONE small-to-average box from my schooling past; my grandmother and mother have a few more items. Legoboy will have far more; if I had more children, I would probably cull a bit more than we already do (which is a lot), simply because it DOES add up!