I started using self-made booklets to support my teaching, and my students’ learning, around five years ago, principally with Leaving Certificate students and they’ve proved an effective and popular tool for my students in that time. The booklets are essentially a “notes pack” which contain the content I want my students to learn for a particular unit, in the structure I want them to learn it while allowing for customisation and self-practice of diagrams, key vocabulary, definitions and exam questions. In this post, I will outline how I use the booklets in the classroom, provide some examples of what works for me, discuss the advantages and disadvantages and reflect on how I might further improve them next year.
Firstly, I must say that my experience to date is that booklets can be a valuable tool for teachers looking to support their students’ learning in the classroom, specifically for my main subject Biology. They can be used to present information in an organised and concise format, serve as a reference tool for students, and be tailored to individual learning needs. However, there are also some potential drawbacks to using booklets that teachers should be aware of.
How they work?
For each learning unit (perhaps 2 weeks of work), I provide my students with an 8-12 pages A4 booklet (A3, folded into A4). The booklets outline the key learning objectives for the unit and I structure the content we will cover in the way that I think works best. There is an emphasis on key vocabulary, definitions and diagrams throughout the booklet. The booklets are not complete notes – there are gaps in the text, space for diagrams, answers to complete or graphs to sketch – and the objective is that they are an active part of the lesson and not simply a reference tool (although they serve that purpose too).
In class, I usually work on an interactive whiteboard (I’m pretty traditional) and the students complete the necessary tasks in the booklet. They much prefer having one booklet per unit of learning over having to reference the textbook or having a copy of my notes / PowerPoints for a particular topic. They have to and do take ownership and take pride in their notes pack, which they organise in their folders.
One of the key advantages of using booklets is that they can help to organise information in a clear and concise way. Biology is a complex subject with a lot of information to cover, and it can be difficult for students to keep track of all the concepts and terms they need to know. By structuring information in a booklet, teachers can help students better understand and remember important concepts. Textbooks have their place but they can be too detailed as a way of organising learning.
Another advantage of using booklets is that they can serve as a reference tool for students. Biology involves a lot of technical terms and processes that students may need to refer to throughout the course. By providing students with a comprehensive resource to refer to, teachers can support their learning and help to reinforce important concepts. This can be particularly helpful when studying for exams or completing homework assignments.
Booklets can also be easily customised to meet the needs of individual biology students. Biology is a subject that requires a lot of content knowledge and booklets provide teachers with the opportunity to organise the key information clearly and effectively. The booklets can be easily adapted for students with specific learning needs too. Teachers can create booklets that are tailored to skill levels, allowing students to work at their own pace and focus on areas where they need the most help.
Booklets can also incorporate interactive elements that help students better understand biology concepts. For example, teachers can include diagrams, flowcharts, or links to interactive quizzes in their booklets to help students visualise and engage with the material. My school uses an e-learning platform called FireFly Learning and I have a webpage on each unit with video content, PowerPoints, intercave quizzes and flashcards etc. My booklets include a QR code to the page in question, which allows students expand their knowledge and take ownership of their booklets. This can make the subject more interesting and accessible for students.
While there is some printing required of course, booklets can be a cost-effective tool for biology teachers. Compared to textbooks or other classroom materials, booklets can be created and distributed at a relatively low cost. This can be especially important for schools or teachers with limited budgets.
Creating the booklets does take time and requires significant time and effort to design and format booklets, which could take away from other classroom tasks; however, once they’re complete there is a great sense of satisfaction and some minor tweaking each year is all that is required. They ultimately make lesson planning quicker and easier.
In the early days, I found that the way I was using booklets limited interactivity. Using booklets all the time is certainly less interactive than other teaching tools. Many booklets are typically static and do not allow for much interaction or collaboration between students. This could limit student engagement and participation in the learning process. My booklets have evolved over the years and I now embed opportunities for peer reflection and collaboration within, to improve interactivity and encourage collaboration and discussion.
Using booklets may also limit the amount of feedback that teachers can provide to their students. Unlike other teaching tools such as quizzes or assignments, booklets do not provide teachers with a way to assess student understanding or provide targeted feedback. Again, this was an issue in my first couple of years but I tried this year to embed more assessment opportunities directly in the booklet and leave space for my feedback on the students’ input into the booklets.
Booklets can be a valuable tool for teachers looking to support their students’ learning in the classroom. They can help to organise information in a clear and concise way, serve as a reference tool for students, and be customised to meet the needs of individual learners. Interactive elements in booklets can make biology and other subjects more interesting and accessible for students. However, teachers should also be aware of potential drawbacks such as the time-consuming nature of booklet creation, limited interactivity, and limited feedback. They have worked for me … perhaps give them a go and see if they work for you and your students too.
If you want a copy of some of my booklets, please get in touch: email@example.com