When I was in high school I had a biology teacher that would let us cheat on every test. . . or at least so we thought. Each of his tests (even the finals) were "open note" which meant we could bring in as many pages of notes as we would like to the exam and use them throughout the process. No need to write the answers on the palm of your hand or sneak tiny pages crammed with notes under the sleeve of your jacket. You could bring in an encyclopedia's worth of information and, so long as it was in your own handwriting, you could use it.
Because of this most of the students would bring in page after page of handwritten notes, painfully organized into sections and subsections. They would be highlighted and even color-coded, because these tests, although "open note", were hard. Yet, the funny thing was, when it came time to use those notes barely anyone did. . . and therein lies the genius.
By creating a difficult test that could be on any number of yet to be determined biological subjects, the only way you could make sure you had the right information to help you in the exam was to actually read the textbook and process the material. In order to take advantage of the opportunity to "cheat" you had to do the homework. Brilliant.
Now, this was in a time long before high school students (or grade students for that matter) had laptops and tablets that came into the classroom, there was no "cut and paste" just "paper & pen" which is exactly where I believe many of the learning opportunities arose. Somewhere in the physical transcription of text, the facts and figures made their way into my brain for good.
School is starting again, and with it many young children will begin to process a lot of new material. It will come in books, in lectures, in computer programs, and in iPad apps. The methods for absorbing that information are equally diverse, each with their own individual merit. But for me. . .
. . .nothing can quite replace the tangible immediacy of pencil and paper. . .
. . . and the power of good old fashioned notes.
Old Fashioned Cheat Sheets:
In the spirit of that fantastic high school biology teacher, this case was made for notes. It was made to hold as many "cheat sheets" as your little learner can squeeze inside, precious information to reference any time they wish.
Depending on what subjects you happen to be focusing on at the moment, the contents could change or you could even have a different satchel for each subject. The main point is that children fill out the cards themselves, either by looking the answers up in books, on the computer, or by asking questions.
Parents can help out by typing or writing the subjects/topics on the sheets, but allowing children to add their own topics too can be a good way to encourage self directed study.
Once you have a collection going, find a good place to keep your notes safe. This can be an envelope, a jar, a box, or a bag like the one pictured above.* In any case, having a specific container to keep the notes in can help to encourage their creation. Soon you might have a beautiful handmade encyclopedia.
As a child, the school I attended had us make our own "textbooks" by writing essays about the subjects and drawing our own illustrations. Not only are these books beautiful things to have as an adult, they are invaluable portraits of who I was at various times in my life. And as an added bonus (because I processed the information by hand this way), I can still remember the essays I wrote in 3rd grade. I can see the characters I drew from Norse mythology when I was 10. I can remember learning about the Pythagorean theorem for the first time. . .
* I've always been fond of making things with a specific use in mind so I stitched this simple lined bag to hold the note cards, a small notebook and a few pencils and pens. The bag shown above was made with two small fabric scraps and a little ribbon (the applique leaves and the typed quote are optional, but fun, and could be a way to differentiate note satchels from one another).
*Last time in Crafts and Activities: August Air