There's no question about the most useful technological marvel that my students and I use to grow in mastery of my discipline: the spiral notebook.
These little 70-page beauties can be had for $1.50 at our local grocery store, and during back-to-school season, I've bought cases of them for as little as a dime a piece. They require no charging. I've never had a student complain of a log-in issue. No one forgets their password. They've yet to be disrupted by ChatGPT. And so far, I've not caught a kid using one to play a game in a separate tab.
But what they DO enable is marvelous.
- If I want students to elaborate on key concepts, we can do it on a fresh page of our spirals.
- If I want students to write down a new set of vocabulary words, we can do it in our spirals.
- Notes to help us learn from texts, videos, or direct instruction? Spiral notebooks.
- An impromptu low-stakes quiz? We can use our spirals.
- Memorizing a list of important facts? Spirals.
We love them so much that we've developed our own name for them: spirachis. As a bonus, when I type spirachi into our daily slide, Google tries to autocorrect it into sriracha — the most delicious of condiments.
If it seems like I'm being a little silly, there is a little bit of that going on here. But a big part of that silliness comes from the joy I have at knowing that these simple tools form the logistical backbone of the work of learning I facilitate in my room each day.
But that learning isn't powerful just because it's happening in spiral notebooks. It's powerful because it's informed by 10 key principles of learning that I've taken away from cognitive science over the years:
- Learning is hard.
- Working memory is finite.
- Knowledge is a superpower.
- You remember what you think about.
- Tests (and quizzes) are the best.
- Elaboration deepens understanding.
- Concrete examples are essential.
- Practice yields proficiency.
- Motivation is malleable.
- Myths abound.
In my new Principles of Learning Course, I'll be unpacking these principles for the first time ever. There's no place on or off the Internet where you can access my comprehensive take on how cognitive science can empower a teacher.
- I don't lead in-person workshops on these topics.
- I don't have any books on them.
- I've written about them here and there on the blog, but never in an organized or deep manner.
And yet, they absolutely undergird each decision I make in my classroom — including my decision to lean so heavily on high-tech solutions like spiral notebooks.
If you'd like first dibs on getting one of the 250 spots I'm opening up for the first cohort, enter your email here.
Until next time, colleague,
DSJR (the Spirachi Fan)
P.S. These are the course details. Let me know if you have any other questions.
How and When to Sign Up
- The course will open on November 14 for folks on the “first dibs” email list. You have to be signed up on that list to get first dibs.
- The course will open to my general email list (about 20,000 people) on November 15. You'll be notified in my regular blog post that day.
- Registering for the course gives you lifetime, asynchronous access to all the lessons.
- All lessons will be posted by January 2024; sign up in November, plan for time to take the course in the new year.
How Many Spots There Are and How Much It Costs
- The first cohort will be open to only 250 folks, and those folks will receive an exclusive discount on the course's price.
- The list price of the course will be $249 per person, but folks in the first cohort will only pay $199.
- I've taken all the science and reduced it into the 10 timeless principles that help me most as an educator.
- For each principle, I'll unpack three practical and powerful classroom applications that are useful across the content areas.
- As always, it's made by a teacher — me — for colleagues like you.