These 6 tips will help you use interactive notebooks as a powerful teaching tool and keep you sane in the process.
ESTABLISH A ROUTINE
Without a good routine, all the chatting, cutting, coloring, and gluing can make you come unglued. Take some time to think about how you want things to run.
- Where do you want materials to be stored? How do you want students to access them?
- How/when do you want to give directions?
- When do you want students to begin cutting? Do you want them to wait until you are finished talking? Or, are you alright with them cutting while they listen to you?
- How/when will the students take care of their trash?
- What will students do if they finish early and have extra wait time? Do you want them to help others catch up?
Once you decide how you want to run your lessons, make sure you teach these procedures and routines to the students. When kids know what to anticipate, things run smoothly.
HAVE A PLAN
Interactive notebooks can be used in many fabulous ways, so you really need to think about the resource and how it can be used to help your students understand or practice a concept. Is it a good introduction with a definition of the skill/strategy? Can it be used as an activity to reinforce what your students are learning? Should it be used as an exit ticket or reflection after a lesson is taught? How you decide to use the interactive notebook is what makes it a powerful teaching tool. Below are some of my favorite ways to use them to in reading workshop.
Mini Anchor Charts
Engaging students in creating interactive mini anchor charts helps them zero in on the key ideas of the skills and strategies. I love having mini anchor charts in their interactive notebooks because it serves as a reference for them throughout the year.
Short Texts with Questions or Graphic Organizers
You can do this with any short passage you are using in class. I don’t do this with every passage we read, or even every skill. I pick and choose what I think would be most beneficial for the kids to keep at their finger tips. I find it especially helpful in modeling how to use text evidence to support their answers.
Practicing Skills/Strategies in Authentic Text
Have students practice the skills and strategies taught during your mini lessons while they read independently. Including a graphic organizer that you’ve used during instruction in your interactive notebook provides practice and gives students a reference for the skill/strategy. Recording their thinking in a graphic organizer while reading a text of their choice helps students understand how to employ these skills and strategies in their regular reading.
Sorts are great for helping students understand academic vocabulary. Have them practice identifying and distinguishing between categories such as first vs. third person point of view or fact vs. opinion.
MAKE SURE IT’S USEFUL
Keep the cute to crap ratio in mind at all times. A quality interactive notebook is a valuable tool in the classroom and shouldn’t become an art project that doesn’t add to your students’ understanding or full of cutesy, pointless clip art that has nothing to do with the targeted skill or. An interactive notebook page needs to do one of the following for it to be worth the time:
- The page itself is an activity that requires your students to use the targeted skill/strategy to complete it.
- The student fills in minimal blanks to create a small anchor chart for the skill/strategy that can be referenced later.
- The page serves as a tool for introducing or reinforcing a lesson that you are teaching.
Don’t waste your time with a resource if it doesn’t serve one of those purposes. Instead, find something that fits your purpose, engages your students, and adds to the lesson.
DON’T WRITE A NOVEL
If students are just copying what you write the entire time, they are not fully engaged in the discussion about the skill/strategy. They may not be paying attention at all. Think about how much you want your students to write ahead of time. You know your students and you know what is appropriate for their level(s). Keep in mind that what is appropriate for some may not be appropriate for others and modify as needed. Interactive notebooks are easy to modify ahead of time by writing, outlining, or cutting a few things before passing it out.
KEEP IT ORGANIZED
Years ago, one of my incredible teammates showed me an amazing, yet simple trick for keeping interactive notebook materials organized. I was having an issue with students losing small pieces that they didn’t have time to glue down (or that they weren’t supposed to cut yet – see tip #1), so she introduced me to the “parking lot.” It’s simple enough to have the kids create when they are setting up their interactive notebooks and it has saved me time and time again. All it takes is a regular envelope and a glue stick! Just glue the back of an envelope to the inside cover of the notebook. Make sure the kids don’t seal the envelope. This way all the items that have been cut, but don’t have a home yet can be safely stored in this little pocket.
USE IT AS A REFERENCE!
An interactive notebook is as useful as you allow it to be. If you are allowing time to create them, consider allowing time to reference them. Students get excited when they can use a tool that they created to find an answer. Plus, the more times they see it, the more likely they will remember it. My students love using the glossary in our poetry notebooks and the charts in our reading notebooks to help them answer questions during reading workshop. They know that if I see them take out their notebooks after I ask a question I will allow enough wait time for them to find the answer on their own. I love seeing students light up when they find their own answers!
Other great times to allow students to reference their notebooks are during review games at the end of a unit, group projects, or independent reading. I have reading response menus for my students to use during independent reading, so I like for them to brush up on the skill/strategy of their response choice before writing their responses. I find that they interact with the text on a deeper level and I get much more thorough responses this way.
Like the reading interactive notebook pages shown in the pictures? You can find the entire Reading Interactive Notebook by clicking here!
You can also find interactive notebook pages for specific skills & strategies here.