Monday, 23 January 2012

How to Keep Track of Great Ideas

During classes, a common query of many of my fellow pre-service teachers is along the lines of
'How will we remember all this?' or 'Can you upload this to [the online university system]?'
But, even if we received a handout on every idea or printed out the hundreds of powerpoints we view during university and PDs, totalling thousands of pages, how useful to your teaching practice would those be when you need to teach a specific topic or deal with a very specific parent communication or behavioural issue? Not very useful, I think.

So I thought it might be useful to share how I keep track of all the great ideas I gather from all sorts of channels including university, bloggers, twitter and word-of-mouth.
I use a single, relatively thin binder folder which has no cover
at the moment so please excuse it for being so boring.
My first page contains all the elements of what makes a great teacher.
On the back of this, I have recorded all the reasons that
teaching is a great career for me. This is and will be a
great reference point on tough days.
I have tabbed the rest of the folder into subjects: Literacy,
Maths, Humanities, Science, Health and PE.
In each tab, I start with pages of lesson ideas which are
summarised into 1-5 lines and often contain explanatory diagrams.
This is a close-up of a lesson idea summary in the Literacy Lessons page above.
After the lesson ideas pages, I have a 1-3 pages in each tab on the concepts
of that subject. These are not lesson ideas but are more general ideas, such as
the need to teach writing as a process of drafting and editing as above from my
Literacy Concepts page. They are done in a Wordle-type format.   
This is one of my Maths Lessons pages. If we receive a
handout that could be given to a class or if we do a worked
example in class, I sometimes include this in the tab after
the page where I have explained that lesson idea. 

This is a close up of one of my Maths Concepts pages.

After the subject tabs, I have about 20 pages on general topics,
including: Behaviour, Parents, Lessons, Thinking, Technology and the
Nature of Schools. These are similar to the concept pages of the subjects tabs
and contain general ideas on how to achieve, eg, good behaviour management.
They are also in a Wordle format.

This is a close-up of part of the Parents page.
This is the first part of my Technology page. I use it mainly to list my favourite
tools and some general tips on class/student blogging and net safety, etc.
This is my Thinking page on encouraging students to think
critically and creatively.
This system took a while to develop and perfect but it means I need to consciously vet all ideas and concepts I learn and pick only the best to include in my 'forever' folder. It also means when I'm stumped for ideas or confused about a subject, I am only a few flicks away from an idea or answer.

So, what did you think? Can you improve this?
How do you keep track of all the great ideas you collect as a teacher or pre-service teacher?


Beth Cregan said...

This will be a great resource Anna. I especially like your page that includes why teaching is the best job for you. This willingnes to reflect on your work will be a great strength out there in a school. Can I also suggest Pinterest? It's a social media site where you store ideas online by catching images on the net on virtual pin up boards. There are so many great teaching ideas, activities and classroom organisation tips and you can keep it all in one area.

Anna Kapnoullas said...

I'd seen Pinterest before via a twitter message link but hadn't understood how it worked until your explanation so will definitely give that a go to save online pictures, as that would be much easier than saving and printing them all out via MS Word which is what I was doing. Thanks for the tip!

Anonymous said...

That is the way I think too, Anna. I am a visual/written notes person. I even have a 'me as a great teacher' in an outline. It has been stuck on my wall for 2 years (I don't have a folder - I have a wall). I am going to scan it so we can compare. I have MSOneNote on my laptop too, which is a virtual 'wall' that I can stick notes, links and pictures on, which might be the digital version of your forever folder, but think that physically writing something is what makes it stick for me.
There are so many points on your notes that I am nodding at and thinking "yes, yes, totally" as I read them.
Thank you for sharing this.

Anna Kapnoullas said...

Those methods do sound very similar and effective Carolyn. I'd love to see your 'great teacher' outline. A wall is great for visual memory as well. I agree, I remember something much more when I write it, especially with a unique colour and under a category heading, than if I type it or simply listen to it.
Thanks for sharing as well,

BrotherBoku said...

Nice work Anna, I Find colour and visuals help me remember things. Have a look at my blog to see how I've been keeping track of it all!

Anna Kapnoullas said...

Hi Dan,
Yours is indeed very similar and a box is a great way to store all those resources that can't fit in a folder and you could create different boxes for each subject as it grows. We sound like such organisation freaks but I think it'll pay off.
Thanks for sharing your method,