One of the factors contributing to the success of Riggs students is their use of graphic organizers. These student-made charts, which are introduced as needed and created in a student’s personal reference notebook, illustrate the key concepts that are being practiced and mastered. For example, the first chart to be made--immediately after teaching the first 26 spelling patterns of English--is one which organizes the alphabet into consonants and vowels (every written syllable must contain a vowel). A few weeks later, students will add words to this same chart, each of which will illustrate one of the multiple sounds represented by single vowels; to complete this chart, students will add words to illustrate the five reasons for adding a silent e to the end of a base word.
As students create the charts, they learn to follow a teacher’s explicit instructions, which is itself a learning exercise, and once the chart has been created, it becomes another kind of learning tool. Riggs teachers use these charts to help students master important content, and they train their students to turn to the appropriate chart to find answers to questions. Whenever a question can be answered by a chart, the teacher is able to say, “I think you can find the answer on page __ in your notebook,” and that is that. The student is off and running.
After being initially guided, students start to become independent, turning to the charts automatically to get answers to their questions about spelling and plural rules, pronunciation facts, punctuation rules, grammar concepts, sentence building tools, and more.
For kindergarten children, the graphic organizers in Level I are made by the teacher (students “help”) and placed on large wall charts which are then referenced throughout the day in the same manner as above. Kindergarten teachers use Riggs charts to review concepts, to help students practice reading unfamiliar words, and to condition their students to turn to these charts for answers to their questions. While even K children create a Riggs notebook, their classroom wall charts are used in place of reference pages, so the pages in their notebooks simply contain lists of common English words, which they are learning to spell and read (older students use the second half of their Reference Notebook for this purpose, putting all of their reference charts in the first half).
When used as designed--for daily practice and as reference tools--these student-made notebooks are extremely powerful learning instruments which allow students to practice independently and master key concepts much more quickly than would otherwise be possible. Since they are an indispensable part of the Riggs program, every Riggs student needs a blank notebook in which to create charts (K students need it to create a written-vocabulary list).
We often get calls from people who want to use store-bought composition notebooks in place of those produced for the Riggs Institute, and I always do my best to discourage them from doing that. Why? Because I know, from having done it "my way" and later being very sorry, that most store-bought notebooks are simply not appropriate. The Riggs notebooks:
- Have the correct number of lines on each page (Riggs charts will fit perfectly)
- Have dotted middle lines on each page (matches Riggs practice paper)
- Have the right spacing between each of the lines on the page (matches Riggs paper)
- Have high-quality paper (looks beautiful, feels wonderful, and won't easily tear)
- Are durable (they won't fall apart with heavy use)
Since each page in the student-made notebook is an illustration of the student’s best work, and since the notebook itself is a running-record of everything that the student has learned, teachers are always sorry when they begin with anything less than the very best product. This is not the place to save a few pennies. Since the Riggs Institute’s blank notebooks are used instead of workbooks, worksheets, and other consumable products to teach children the subject matter of English, they are an incredible bargain.
Using the official Riggs notebook is highly recommended; your students will love them, their parents will treasure them, and you will not regret having made the superior choice.