Interactive Notebooks: Setup

Can I just say how much I love interactive notebooks? If you haven't jumped on the bandwagon, you're missing out! There are so many positives to interactive notebooks: it's a student portfolio, it's perfect for parent teacher conferences, it's engaging, it becomes a big personalized reference book, no need to hand back loose papers that end up in the floor, assignments don't get lost, and so on and so on. I could go on for days.

Our interactive notebooks are divided into 9 sections: personal, skills, content, article of the week, reading responses, literature, writing, vocabulary, and grammar. I know that seems like a lot, but after using theses notebooks for three years, this is what works best for me and my students. We set these up on the first day of school, but there's a lot of work that I have to get done before these are ready for my students.

During this series of blog posts, I want to cover how we handle each of those sections. I'll be posting pictures, giving details about best practices, providing links to resources that I use for my notebook, and answering any questions you might have!

Let's talk about how we set our notebooks up first!

When it comes to supplies, three years of trial and error goes a long way. :) I have found that composition notebooks work best for me and my crew. Spiral notebooks tend to end up with crushed spirals and torn out pages. Binder tend to end up with rings that don't quite meet and with random papers shoved into pockets. Needless to say composition notebooks are my best friend because pages don't get torn out, spirals don't get crushed, everyone's notebook is the same size (Have you ever listed a notebook on your supplies list and counted the number of different ones that get brought in. Eeeek!), and many other perks.

I always want to start my notebooks on day one, so I buy them in the summer. This is a personal choice. Here's how I handle this. I buy approximately 100 notebooks every summer. I buy them when they are 50 cents each, so I spend about $50. Then when school starts, I let each student take a notebook and drop 50 cents into a jar. This solves multiple problems. If I put a notebook on their supply list, it might take weeks to get it to school. I want to start promptly, so this allows them to have a notebook on the first day. Surprisingly, students are generally pretty honest and you don't have to worry about them repaying you for the notebook. It also takes care of another problem: the students that can't buy supplies. This allows them to get a notebook without having to worry about it, and I'm usually not out more than a couple of dollars in the end.

This box is what was left over for the year. 

Now to the fun part: setup. On the first day of class, I have my students number every page in their notebook: all 200. Yep. It's totally worth it. We number in the upper left and right corners. Odds on the right. Evens on the left. While they're doing this, I'm usually walking around and talking to them. This gives me a little bit of time to see them interact with one another. Sometimes, I sit with one of the groups and number a notebook as well. It seems like there's always a student that comes in a couple of days after we do this, so it's nice to have a backup on hand.

I provide each of my students with a variety of setup materials. This includes pre-typed and laminated tabs (what a life saver), a table of contents, a syllabus, different data charts and reading logs, and other odds and ends.


     These are just charts that my students use to log their independent reading and assessment score.                        
Once we're taping/gluing stuff in, I walk my students through the process of how I want each item attached to the notebook. Sometimes we glue things down, sometimes we make flaps, and sometimes it's a book attachment. In my opinion, clear office tape is the best tape to use, and rubber cement is the best glue. I have found that students use way too may elmer's glue, and everything becomes a wrinkled mess. Eww. I know that rubber cement can be expensive, so use what you can afford. I buy my rubber cement by the gallon from my educational cooperative, and I get a great deal on it.

It is alway best to have a model notebook of your own. This allows you to show students how to assemble their notebook and gives you a way to allow absent students to replicate the assignment. All of the pictures that you will see in this series are pictures from my model notebook. This will give you a better idea of what that will look like

Did I miss something? There's so much information to cover that I quite possibly forgot something. Maybe even something big. If you have questions about how to set your notebooks up, please let me know, and I'll do my best to answer them. If not, I hope you'll join me for the rest of the series that will cover information about each different section in the notebook.

Want to try out interactive notebooks. Here's something to get you started. Click HERE or on the picture below to get a copy of the file that I use to set up my notebooks. It has a set of dividers, an index, two different logs, and labeled tabs. (If you like the font pictured below and want to use it in your file, it is KG Sorry not Sorry. It's free for personal use. Click here to get it. I can't embed fonts on my mac, so that's the only way you'll be able to use it. Sorry)

Up next: Interactive Notebooks: Tips and Tricks