Interactive Notebooks: Tips and Tricks

Today, I want to share with you some of the tips and tricks to use interactive notebooks in your classroom.

I learn something new every year, so I'm going to impart that knowledge to you.  I've got ten suggestions that will help you out, so let's get started.

1. Extra work

I have a lot of people ask about how to fit interactive notebooks into their curriculum. Interactive notebooks aren't an addition part of the curriculum. It shouldn't be in addition to everything else your students are doing, it should be all that they're doing. That sounds weird, but what I'm saying is that we still do ALL of the regular lessons that I teach. I just make sure it's in notebook format. Everything that we do in class goes in the notebook. If it's a close reading assignment, we tape it in and write on it. If it's a chart, we tape it in. If it's a foldable, we tape it in. You're getting the idea right?

2. Storage

I don't allow my students to take their notebooks home every day. When I did allow this, it seems like notebooks were always being left at home or in the car. I do allow my students to take their notebooks home if they need to finish something or need to study for a test. Other than those situations, we keep our notebooks in the classroom. The easiest way that I've found to store notebooks is with a file crate and hanging file folders. It organizes them. It keeps them in good condition. It makes them easy to retrieve because each student has their own folder.

3. Model notebooks

I mentioned having a model notebook in my first post. I want to explain a couple of things about that here. It's imperative that you model for your students when using an INB (Interactive Notebook). I create model notebooks for each of my classes. This serves two purposes: it allows me to model for each class, not just the first one. It also gives me a "pre-made" notebook that is readily available if a new student shows up. This ensures that they have all the notes that I'm referencing throughout the year. Another thing I do is to use an absent student's notebook as a model notebook. This allows me to model and makes sure that they aren't behind when they return. (I only use student notebooks to model how to insert foldables and notes etc. I don't complete any activities for them. I just make sure that it's in his/her notebook for him/her when he/she comes back to class.)

4. Numbering pages

This should help keep you sane and save you a lot of time. If you don't want to number every. single. page, just number the odds or just the evens on the first day. Then number the opposite page when you use it. I number the odd pages first. Then, if I need to turn to page 90, I flip to page 91, and number 90 right before I use it.

5. Choosing foldables

Don't make life more complicated than it has to be. Work smarter, not harder. Here's what I'm saying. Choose your foldables wisely. At the beginning of the year, I always try to choose foldables with straight lines to cut (the picture on the top.). This makes it a lot easier on me and my students. As the year goes on, and students get better at cutting and gluing etc, you can throw in those more complicated shapes (like the one of the bottom). Also, if you have a student that seems to take FOREVER to cut each little piece, save yourself the frustration and cut it for them. I just take a couple of minutes before the day starts to cut out the handout for those students. The picture on the left comes from a very popular resource by Erin Cobb: Interactive Reading Literature Notebook. The one of the right comes from a Greek and Latin Roots interactive notebook by Got to Teach. Both of these resources are amazing by the way. They both have a lot of straight cuts that are great for starting out and a lot of more complicated cuts that are perfect for later in the year.

6. Page sizes

Anything can go in an interactive notebook. Well, almost anything. Here's a rule of thumb. If you want to put a full size sheet in your INB, either reduce the size to 80% on the copier or in Adobe Reader when you print. This will make sure that, after trimmed, the page will fit in your notebook. The other option is to insert it as a flap (more about that in a minute) and fold it in on itself so that it fits in the notebook without any overhang. The easiest way to prepare these is to print them at 80%, copy them, and use the paper cutter to quick trim the margins. You can see below how that works.

7. Flaps for days

You best bet is to always put things in as a flap, unless you're absolutely sure that nothing else is going on that page. Sometimes, I have up to 4 layers on one page. Pages are limited in composition notebooks, this method allows you to add content without using extra pages. All you do is lay your paper flat and tape the side closest to the spine down. Taping closest to the spine allows the pages to flip like a normal page. I like to put almost everything in as a flap, because I love to use the actual page underneath it for students to respond, brainstorm, and etc. You can put so much into an INB if you're smart about how to organize them. All of the materials in these four pictures are on the same page. All of the materials are about tone and mood, so I wanted them all in one place.


8. Glue

Choosing the right adhesive is of utter importance. I always use rubber cement and plain clear office tape. Tape is used on flaps, so that I don't have to create a margin for each page I tape in. Rubber cement is the best choice for glue. Check out the picture below. If you'll notice, the top one that was glued with Elmer's glue is very wrinkled. If you can convince your students to use dots to glue things then you might be ok. However, my students have gluing methods engrained in their brains that forces them to "toaster strudel" their glue. So, elmer's glue wasn't an option in my class. Rubber cement cleans up easily, dries fast, and doesn't cause wrinkles. Did you notice the glue stick spot is empty? That's because stick glue isn't usually permanent. It's way easier to use, but nothing seems to stay in. This forces us to use extra time to glue these back into our notebooks. Yuck. Wasted time is a big no no.

9. Rubrics

I use a quick rubric for almost everything. This allows me to give students feedback in their INBs without rewriting the same thing over and over again. It's super quick, easy, and relatively cheap. I just bought a huge package of 5160 labels (30 to a page) off of Amazon for around $10. Here's a link. I'm not affliated with amazon in any way. I'm just trying to help you save some money. :) Here are some examples of the rubrics I use in our INB. I just have students stick them on the right pages as we complete each assignment. It saves me so much time!

10. Booklets

If you're going to use booklets or flip books in your notebook, there's a certain way to attach them to your notebook that will save you a headache later.

1. print out all of your pages of your flap book or booklet.
2. cut them out and secure them with staples along the top or side depending on what type of book you're using.
3. to attach them to your notebook, create a crease near the staples first.
4. tape the crease to the notebook.
5. tape the very last page to the actual notebook page.







Wow! That was a lot of information. If you have questions about ANYTHING, please please please let me know. I absolutely love INBs and helping others to implement them. I hope you're enjoying this series and that you'll join me for the next post.

Coming up next: Interactive Notebooks: Personal Section

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