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.
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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


18 comments

  1. What fun this is!!! :) Thank you so much for sharing! I think I might actually do some of this for interactive notebooks for my kiddos at home. Too stinkin' cute!

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    1. That's great! Thanks for stopping by. I hope you'll check out the rest of the series as it becomes available!

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  2. I'm loving this series. I tried interactive notebooks for the first time this year. I was afraid to divide into sections thinking I wouldn't have enough space but in the end i had a lot of pages left over. Help.. What goes into your decision about how many pages for each section?
    Thanks & please keep the series going.

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  3. I am a first year teacher teaching 8th grade English! I love the idea of using an interactive notebook. The district I am coming into uses an e-book for their curriculum and each student receives an iPad to work on. However, I have heard over and over again that by the 8th grade, students are tired of using the iPads and many of them ask to just use paper and pencil. I think that using interactive notebooks might be a great way to fill this void! Do you have any advice on how to start?!

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    1. Hi Whitney! Thanks for stopping by. You might check out my previous post about setting up your notebook to get started. I'm on vacation right now, but I'm working on my next post in the series. It will be up in the next day or so, and it should give you a little more info. I hope that the series will answer a lot of questions. If you have other questions, just let me know!

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  4. My big tip about using office tape is to teach the students to use a piece only as wide as their finger or thumb. Even if they use multiple pieces to hold down a foldable or printout, it is still WAY less than the long piece of tape that some of them think they need to hold it down. I mention it every time we tape something in. I even show them my notebook with tiny pieces of tape at the corners and occasionally in the middle to hold something in; I turn it upside down to prove that it won't fall out. As for my teacher version, I only use double-sided tape. If it weren't so darn expensive, I'd ask students to bring some in too.

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    1. This is a great tip! I've never really thought about it, but we go through a lot of tape! Thanks for the fantastic idea!

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  5. Thank you for great explanations and photos for using interactive notebooks! I do have a question though. How do you handle the physicality of grading? In other words, do you have to continually go through each class's crate, turn to the page you need to grade, put back, and move to the next? To physically have to pull out 100 students notebooks seems like it would take a lot if time. I guess I'm still used to taking a stack of papers home to grade. Suggestions?

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    1. This is a great question! I teach on a block schedule, so my grading looks a little different. I'm sure the same concept will work with a regular schedule with a few modifications.

      I only grade notebooks every other weekend. I have three classes per semester and take home all three crates on grading weekends. My students have a list on the board of all of the assignments that I'm grading that weekend. (I don't grade everything. Some things like notes aren't graded.) I write all my assignments out on a paper grade book printout. Then, I grade all of students 1's assignments for that time period. Next, all of student 2's assignments and so on. It is a lot easier to grade by student, instead of by assignment, when you're working with notebooks.

      You could modify by grading classes 1,3,5 on weeks 1 and 3 of the month and classes 2,4,6 on weeks 2 and 4 of the month. That might mean grading on the weekend or grading a couple of students per day, per class in order to be finished by the end of weeks 1 and 3. I hope that makes sense. If not, please email me, and I'll try to give more details to try and help.

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  6. My first year with INBs, I dragged notebooks home to grade. This was time consuming and more work than I wanted to do. Now, I usually call 4-5 students to my group table and ask them to show me a specific page or assignment. (They turn the pages and open the book.) They read the answers aloud, which helps my struggling students hear what a good answer sounds like and it sparks discussion, too. I quickly give them feedback and let them know if they need to make improvements/changes. I record the grades on a chart. I look for completion and certain points of information. If someone needs to make corrections or hasn't completed the work, they need to see me again to get a better grade.

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    1. That's a great idea. It also sets the expectation that you expect them to work hard until they've done their best! Great suggestion!

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  7. Some great ideas!! I started using INBs my 2nd year of teaching at had SUCH a positive response from students. I was terrified at first that we would be gluing everything into one comp book, because I just knew that the book would get lost and POOF! Everything gone. We used them so often and so diligently though, that I was pleasantly surprised to only have 2-3 students lose theirs throughout the year. Students appreciated the notebook because they said it really helped them be organized (some of them for the first time). I recently moved to a completely different school with a different population, and the response to INBs has not been as positive, however. They didn't keep up with them as well and many of them were lost or unorganized--part of the reason, I'm thinking, is that my fire for the INB may have dimmed a little since that 2nd year, and I didn't do as good of a job imparting the importance and necessity of keeping up with it. I didn't have a single notebook quiz last year, for example. This year I have big plans for modifying the notebook, and one of the main things is keeping it in class. My students rarely need it for HW, and will be welcome to take it home if they do, but otherwise I am going to keep them in the room for the first time.

    One of the best things I found about the INB as a 2nd year teacher was that it really forced me to condense the notes and info I was giving them into just what they absolutely needed. To fit in the comp books, all the guided notes I give are printed two to a page, which really forced me to give them just the gist. Coming from my first year, where as a history teacher I did wayyyy too much talking, it made a huge difference in making my classroom more student-focused rather than teacher-focused. We did more interactive activities and I learned not to talk so much :) Now I can't imagine NOT using the INB!

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    1. Yes! I absolutely love my INB. I started using them my third year of teaching and haven't looked back! It has changed the way I teach, the way my students learn, and the atmosphere of my classroom.

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  8. Hello! These pages are a great resource. I was wondering if you can describe the details of making the cover, or if you have students create covers. I have spent time with students making customized covers for their composition books and it tends to help them be more responsible for them. Thanks!

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    1. My students don't generally spend a lot of time on the cover. There are a variety of things you could do with the cover, but I just haven't done it before. If I come up with something new to use this semester, I'll check back in here and update you. Sorry that I couldn't be of more help in this situation.

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  10. Hey! I love the storage idea of providing them with folders to put their notebooks in with their names and everything. I'm wondering how many crates you have to use? Can you fit an entire classroom's notebooks in one crate? I see only a few in your picture above. Is that all you use for one crate?

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    1. I can usually fit 10-12 notebooks in each crate once our notebooks get pretty thick.

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