The Thinking Book

As some of you may know, I am what we in our district call a Learning Centre Classroom Teacher. In other words, ours is one of many open classrooms that accept visitors from stakeholders to come learn from and with our class as we venture through the landscape of contemporary pedagogy and learning. One of the things people are often struck by in my class is how we do ‘paperless’. My response has become a standard one:

We are paperless in the sense that students and I don’t use paper to submit and return assignments, but we use paper everyday in the process of learning, to collaborate and think. Paper is an absolutely essential tool for learning; we shouldn’t try to eliminate it just for the sake of it.

The most vital pieces of paper in our class are our individual sketchbooks, something I call the Thinking Book. Yes, we have smart phones; sure, we have iPad devices; and indeed, we have a few MacBook Pros. But, perhaps standing head and shoulders amongst the rest are our beautiful, hardcover sketchbooks.

Here are just a few pages from last year’s books. I find them so much more beautiful than ‘final product’ pieces of work.

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  1. I really enjoyed the post and your implementation. You seem to be striving a balance between paper and paperless. It’s an interesting thing to think about. Do you feel that you have the perfect balance? If not, where do you think you should head? If so, how do you encourage others to follow your examples?

  2. Royan, I’m intrigued by this. In fact, I LOVE your thinking books and am trying to figure out how I could do something similar this year. What a great way to have students show their thinking as they work towards a final product! How do you introduce these thinking books to your students? Do you model how to use them, or just let students figure out how they would use them? I can imagine they would each be quite unique. Thanks for sharing this fantastic idea!


    1. I model it heaps. Generally, I’m modeling examples and risk taking. And then we share our pages. I almost treat it like Math Congress, if you know what I mean. Thanks for the feedback!

  3. I love how simply & directly you conveyed the balance you espouse and support in your classroom between paperless and paper. As much as I love technology, as a learner and thinker I still rely on paper for my messier thinking. I am sure this serves your students well!

  4. Some questions:
    1) Do you provide the books? Students?
    2) How do you handle it if students lose their books?
    3) What is students forget, refuse to use them, etc.
    4) What system are you using for students to submit their work electronically? Edmodo?

    Thanks for unblocking me πŸ™‚

    1. 1) Do you provide the books? Students? I provide them. I blow my consumables budget on them:)
      2) How do you handle it if students lose their books? Give them a new one. Rarely happens BTW.
      3) What is students forget, refuse to use them, etc. Encourage, encourage, encourage. I get them to use it a lot in class at my provocation as well. For instance, “Everyone get out your thinking books and write one sentence about a question you have after our read-aloud.”
      4) What system are you using for students to submit their work electronically? Edmodo? Google Apps for Ed.

      Thanks, A-Dawg!

  5. I remember doing some action research with a teacher who used this idea from “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci” Being able to journal and draw to express our ideas and thinking seems far too undervalued in a “typical” classroom. While I’ve tried to draw on an iPad, nothing beats the feeling and freedom of sketching on some really good paper.

  6. I recommend the latest book by Ron Rittchhart (and others)called Making Thinking Visible too.This stuff changed the way I think about teaching and learning, when I first encountered it.

    1. I’m fascinated with the importance of making thinking visible. It makes assessment and evaluation so much more authentic.

  7. A friend of mine was looking through her old sketchbooks and journals from school – thank goodness they’re on paper, and not lost in the digital world! We’re working together on putting together a blog based on her childhood writings – it’s a great thing for kids to hold on to forever, and share.

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