So you’ve decided to try interactive notebooks with your students. Great! But now what? Here are some thoughts to get you started…
- Notebooks – I prefer composition books because the pages don’t fall out.
- Colored paper – the brighter, the better
- Glue – your choice here, my preference is glue sticks. They cause fewer headaches.
- Tape – for those students who will refuse to use glue
- Scissors – everyone needs a pair
- Markers/Colored Pencils/ Highlighters
- Big rubber band – we put them through a hole punched in the back of our notebooks and use them to keep them closed and secure.
- Ribbon – stapled to back of notebook and used as a bookmark
- Document Camera/Projector – I build mine with the class under the document camera so everyone can see what they need to do.
- Flair Pens – these colored felt tip pens are my favorite
- Tabs – some way to mark the start of a new unit so it is easily found
- Organize your supplies. I have a different plastic container for everything and they sit on the filing cabinets in the back of the room.
- Decide how you want to set up your notebooks. Often the right side is for foldables and notes, and the left side is for students to process their learning, but do whatever works best for you and your students.
- Where do get your foldables? If you are uber-creative, you can make your own. I’m not so I do a lot of searching online. Just google whatever topic you need and add the word foldable at the end. If you click on the images link on Google, you can scroll through the pictures pretty quickly. I also use the same type of search in Pinterest.
- Make students write. While the foldables that are already filled out are easier, I find students retain the information much better when they have to write the words.
- Once you choose a foldable, build it before you teach it! My most spectacular failures have been when I found something cool right before class and tried to run with it.
- Build your own notebook with your students. I have created mine under the document camera so everyone can see what I am doing, but if my class is really small, I have also pushed the desks together and sat in a group to build them. Not only will you have a notebook to refer to next year, but you become part of the class when you join your students. The best conversations happen when we are all at the same level.
- Create a table of contents for each unit and mark that page with a tab so it is easy to find. My students found a full table of contents at the beginning of each notebook too overwhelming.
- Make extra copies!! Someone will cut something wrong, despite your repeated explanations. My favorite? Don’t cut the tabs off your table of contents foldable. Someone does, every single time.
- Make your copies the right size. The magic number for composition notebooks is 85%. Reduce a full-size foldable to 85% and it will fit perfectly.
- Take a couple of minutes at the end of the day and jot down notes on a Post-It and put it right in your notebook to refer to next year. Did something work really well? Or not at all? An idea to make it even better? Write it down. Trust me; you won’t remember next year until you are halfway through the lesson.
- Make your students use their notebooks. Every time a student asks me a question about something they have a foldable for, I tell them to look in their notebook.
- Don’t assume students will understand how to use their notebooks. Model it! I refer to mine during every class and talk my way through finding the resource I need. Then model actually using the foldable.
- Check their notebooks! Create a quick rubric or find one online. USE IT!! I admit, I get lazy and don’t check them often enough. If I let them use their notebooks on a test, I end up spending hours helping kids rebuild their entire notebooks the week before. My goal is to check them at the end of each unit.
- Plan for absent students. I have a crate with folders for each day of the month. Extra copies are filed in the folder on the date they were handed out. Students must come in on their own time and use my notebook to complete the foldable they missed. I also take pictures of every page and upload them to our Google Classroom page. I never let my notebook leave my classroom!
- Save your scrap paper. I toss mine in a basket, and we use the pieces if we want to add emphasis to something or if I have them create their own foldable.