The MFL Class Notebook

I have been getting a lot of questions about how to set up a Microsoft OneNote ClassNotebook for the MFL classroom.  So this blogpost aims to respond to these requests and give an idea of how a Class Notebook for the MFL classroom might look.

September will see the third iteration of my Class Notebook for my students and I daresay that at some point during the year I will reflect and still consider that I could have done things differently.  Nevertheless, my three years experience will hopefully count for something.

In my humble opinion it is important not to overcrowd the sections and group sections.  Here is an example of what I mean by this:

Some of these sections have just one page in them and some have nothing at all and have been created by the student themself.  Do not get me wrong, I have nothing against students creating their own sections but they do need to learn how to do this in a meaningful and useful way that allows them to know where to access their work when they need to.  The more pages created the more unwieldy the OneNote Class Notebook becomes. I will come back to this and consider ways we can ensure that our students are organised.

What I do suggest is that you lay out your students' library in a similar way to your library, which is the content library.  This makes life a great deal easier for your students to know where to find work and to understand how the course is laid out and progresses as in this picture here.  Due to distribution issues I will in future be creating three group sections (Theme 1, Theme 2 and Theme 3) which will thus mirror exactly what my students have. 
If students had a normal folder for the year's work, it would have sections such as:

  1. topics or units 
  2. grammar
  3. oral work
  4. homework
  5. classwork

Make the most of Group Sections & Sections 
OneNote Class Notebook provides even more granular possibilities where group sections can really come into their own.   For example:

  1. Group Section Theme 1 Identity & Culture
    1. Section: Me, my family & friends.
    2. Technology in everyday life
    3. Free time & activities
    4. Customs & Festivals

This makes finding work easier as it means that a student's set of tabs across the top of the page (I'm in the OneNote 2016 app here) are limited to a few and like the old lever arch file or simple folder, students know to click on the group section tab and find therein a section and then pages.  If my students click on the group section called Theme 1 they then see a set of tabs (sections) as follows: 

Within each of these sections there is a list of pages.  The title of the pages becomes really important when you consider that the student needs to be able to refer back to their work and seek out previous work with ease.  After many iterations for titles for pages, I have settled on the date and the title of the topic in the target language. The title is then repeated within the body of the page but this time with its English translation. Students are thus able to access with ease the relevant work. 

Contrast this lay out with the following and I think it is clear to see why the nomenclature and indeed the content of a page is really important.  In this example here, the sheer number of pages makes it more difficult to scroll through and pinpoint exactly what is needed.  Add to this, pages which simply contain a link to an activity or one exercise, then students can become confused and perhaps feel that they do not have the detail they need to make progress.  Although, clearly there is work here for the students, I can see how a student may feel that they are not being supported in their learning.

As I approach the third year of putting together my Class Notebooks I am happy with my Group Sections which for all year groups will be as follows:

  1. Themes/Topics: 
    1. Sections per theme or topic
  2. Grammar & Impressive Structures: 
    1. Grammar Group Section with sections per grammar point, eg:
      1. passé composé
      2. le futur simple
      3. la négation 
    2. Impressive Structures - will contain a selection of pages with useful linguistic information such as Vocab mats, complex structures, how to guides and many more.  
  3. Oral: Sections per area of the oral exam. For example
    1. discussion
    2. photo card
    3. role play 
  4. Independent Study & Extension: Further Group Sections: 
    1. Independent Study for their own work.  Refer back to my comment above about students creating their own pages.  This is where they should do it. 
    2. Extension activities provided by the teacher: Sections split into the four skills.
      1. Listening
      2. Reading
      3. Speaking
      4. Writing
  5. Test & Exam Specific: Further Sections:
    1. Quizzes
    2. Exam Feedback.
    3. Model essays
Finally I will set up a Group Section called Important Information which will  contain Important Informaion with individual pages as follows.

Class & Class Notebook RulesWe all know that it is important to lay out our expectations.  This is also true for how we expect our students to manage their Notebook in a way that will benefit them most of all.

Feedback code

Log-ins: It is great for students to keep a note of their log-in details for the various online tools that we use.  No more, 'what's my password for this site...'

Revision Lists

GCSE handbook & mark schemes (if relevant)

In total they will have six tabs which will be clearly laid out across the top and will enable students to have a clear idea of where their work is and where to find the tools and information they need to make good progress.  

Every year I reflect on how the Notebook has been put together and make slight changes. As I say, what I have listed here is the outcome of two full years of experience of using Class Notebook.  It is more than likely that I will make more changes again next year.  Time will tell.  

What I have not listed here is the lay out of pages but this is something for another blogpost.  

So this is what works for me and my students and of course this might not be right for other schools and other students so I would be interested to hear how others are doing it.  Please let me know in the comments below.