School starts tomorrow, and I’ve spent the last hour and a half burning CD’s. This is the second year that I have burned CD’s to hand out to my AP Environmental Science students. Last year, as I began handing out CD’s instead of the regular syllabus, students were excited to see something new. They liked that the CD’s came in colored envelopes, and the green ones became the big hit! Everyone wanted a green one, as they were fitting for the course.
I’ve mentioned a few times in the past that I hand out these CD’s, but I decided to write a whole post about them to describe what they contain. Let’s start at the beginning.
Three years ago, there was a big initiative to reduce paper usage and photocopying in our school. I have witnessed such creative ideas from my students, so I decided to let them brainstorm ways to reduce paper consumption for the AP Environmental Science class. I felt then, and still feel now, that it’s our responsibility to lead the way in paper conservation. My students came up with many ideas, from posting more assignments and links on my website to projecting assignments using the LCD projector and Walk&Talk (like a Smart Board) in my room instead of handouts. Then, someone came up with the idea to give CD’s instead of handouts. That, I thought, is a great idea! So I set to work.
Now, for those of you who are teachers, you know what a big undertaking it is to plan for a year’s worth of learning. It probably took me about six months to get the files ready. I made a folder on my desktop, and as I used documents that I thought would be appropriate for a CD, I saved them to this folder. By the next school year, I was ready to burn CD’s.
At this point, you’re probaby wondering what is actually on the CD. Here’s a general list, with a few specific examples.
- Articles: for example, The Tragedy of the Commons, which is an essential read if you’re interested in the environment. The articles are in PDF format, as everyone can download a free Adobe PDF reader. If I can’t find PDF versions online, I scan them. By putting important articles throughout the year on the CD, it saves both a lot of paper and a lot of time that I would have spent at the copy machine. Some students read the article right on the computer screen, while others are better able to read it on paper and will choose to print it. When it comes to how students learn best, sometimes they have to have paper. The choice is up to them.
- Study Guides: Study guides for each chapter of reading, complete with guiding questions and key terms, are on the CD. These will help students to better understand the reading.
- Review Sheets: When it comes time for a test or quiz, instead of copying a review sheet handout, students already have it on their CD. That means that students can refer to it at any time throughout the chapter, not just right before the assessment. For example, students will benefit from the review sheet for their summer reading test, on the first 5 chapters of the text and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.
- Lab Handouts: By reading the handout the night before, students are better prepared to do the lab in class. I will project important directions, so it is up to the student whether he or she prints the handout.
- Lecture Notes: All of my notes are in the form of a PowerPoint. Students have access to it, including the diagrams, on their CD’s. Some students choose to print the outline ahead of time and take notes on it, while others don’t print them and use the PowerPoint later to review.
- Project and Lab Report Rubrics: Ever have this experience? A project is due tomorrow, and the sheet that explains exactly what to do is lost! With a CD, it’s easy to find the directions again. Parents are especially appreciative!
- AP Exam Review Materials: Students can look over practice exam questions, along with the scoring information. This is a great way for students to practice for the AP Exam on their own.
If you’re going to do something like this, it’s essential that your files are organized. I have a folder for each unit, which makes it easy to find documents. Also, it’s important that the titles of documents are descriptive. For example, “Document 1” is NOT descriptive, and students will have a hard time finding what you want them to read if your titles are unclear.
It’s also important that all of your students have access to a computer. Most students do have access at home, but those that don’t need to be able to get to one at school or at a library. I’ve only tried this CD idea with my AP classes, as they tend to be highly motivated students that will go the extra mile to complete their assignments. I’m honestly not sure as to how this would work in other classes, but I’d like to try it in the future.
I’ve finally finished burning and labeling the CD’s and putting them in their colored paper envelopes. They’re all lined up like a rainbow on my coffee table right now, ready to be distributed tomorrow. No matter what colors the kids choose, they’re all GREEN.