Tiny pieces of paper are all over the floor, students are still gluing frantically, and your partner teacher is waiting with the next class at the door. Even worse, you’re questioning whether the students learned anything at all. Nothing is more agonizing than realizing an interactive reading notebook activity wasted time and made you run late.
I used to hate my reading interactive notebook.
And if you’re here, you’re probably questioning whether all the cutting and gluing is worth it. Why should we use interactive notebooks for reading and how do we get the most out of them without the mess and the wasted time?
The 5 Benefits That Will Take You from Dumpster Fire to Full on Love Affair
I hate wasted time in the classroom and that interactive reading notebook had a special way of stealing my time and patience. I almost gave up on using the horrid thing altogether. After dismissal on particularly messy days, I’d return to the tumbleweeds of crumpled paper scraps and daydream about lighting all our notebooks on fire in the trash can.
But, arson isn’t really my thing.
So, I decided to ask around and research the reasons behind my team’s use of the interactive notebook. As it turns out, they are excellent tools that, when used properly, make a big impact on student learning.
1. Interactive Reading Notebooks Increase Student Engagement and Make Learning Fun
Kids love these hands-on activities, keeping them engaged in the lesson. Foldables and interactive pages are welcome alternatives to worksheets and get the kids actively involved. Plus, they lend a huge hand in engaging your kinesthetic and visual learners.
2. It’s a Valuable Resource for Students to Keep at Their Fingertips
Ran out of room on the walls for all your anchor charts? No problem. With interactive notebooks for reading, students are creating their own resources they can reference throughout the year.
Interactive reading notebooks mean so much more to the students than printable handouts and posters because they had a hand in creating them. It allows them to take ownership of their learning and makes them more likely to reference the materials.
3. They Help Reinforce Reading Skills and Strategies with Authentic Practice
Reading interactive notebooks are incredible tools for practicing putting the skills and strategies from our reading lessons to use. You can do this as independent, partner, or even group practice.
See tip #2 below for ideas on choosing activities for this.
4. A Quick Peek in Their Interactive Reading Notebooks Helps You Assess
You can easily assess get inside their heads by taking a look inside their notebooks. This quick and easy assessment midweek lets you know who needs reteaching or further practice before grades suffer. A win-win for everyone.
5. Class Has Varying Abilities? Notebooks Help You Differentiate with Ease!
Struggling students can use reading interactive notebooks as support while completing assignments or even working on tests. Simple, yet effective. And it requires no extra effort from you!
You can also provide differentiation while creating interactive notebook pages by filling in more or less for students beforehand. I like to minimize copying for students when necessary by providing more of a fill-in-the-blank version.
Or, pair an interactive notebook page with varying levels of text to provide differentiation while practicing the same skills.
Keeping the Love Alive: How to Avoid Breaking Up with Your Interactive Reading Notebook
All the benefits outlined above helped me fall in love with the idea of using reading interactive notebooks, but the tips below are what kept them in my classroom (and out of the dumpster fire).
1. Cut the Fluff & Treat Time as a Precious Commodity
This was priority #1 for me. I realized wasted time was a much bigger deal-breaker for me than a mess will ever be. I had to fix it immediately.
The first thing I cut from my notebooks were activities requiring intricate cutting. And, of course, any involving cutting and gluing random pieces of clip art that had nothing to do with the lesson.
This solved a lot of my problems.
The next thing I reassessed was how much copying I was requiring my students to do. I liked having the students create mini anchor charts with me, but did they really need to write everything word for word? I opted to provide a fill-in-the-blank framework that allowed more engagement in the conversation and less copying from the board.
The bottom line: Reading interactive notebook pages should be easy to cut, only include pieces that add value, and don’t require students to mindlessly copy a novel from the board.
2. Choose Quality Activities That Provide Valuable Information and Practice
When I do a good job of choosing quality activities, there isn’t any fluff I need to worry about cutting. Instead, I focus on choosing interactive notebook pages that create valuable visual representations and involve memorable activities. Most importantly, I choose rigorous, standards-based activities that align with the focus of our reading lessons.
I use interactive reading notebooks in two main ways: mini anchor charts and practice pages.
Mini Anchor Charts
I almost always have the students create a mini anchor chart with me because I want them to have that valuable resource at their fingertips. I keep them simple by only requiring them to add keywords to a framework I provide and limiting cutting to one to three pieces.
I use these pages mid-week to give the students practice with the skill and assess their understanding. I always select interactive pages that focus on the single skill or strategy being taught. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Sorting activitites – These hands-on activities help students understand certain academic vocabulary and highlight the differences between types of things such as facts and opinions or different points of veiw.
- Short texts w/ text dependent questions and graphic organizers – Placing text inside the notebook next to the questions and organizers makes locating text evidence a lot easier. This is perfect for partner work and makes informal assessment a breeze.
- Interactive pages with authentic text – Qualitiy interactive notebook pages that can be used with any text allow students to apply and internalize the skills and strategies they learn in class in authentic reading.
The bottom line: Choose rigorous, standards-based activities that allow your students to practice the skills and strategies taught during reading lessons.
This FREEBIE has both mini anchor charts & practice pages!
3. Help Your Students Know What’s Expected and How to Do It
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.
The bottom line: Establish a routine and set expectations to keep your class running like a well-oiled machine.
4. Keep All Those Little Pieces from Getting Lost with a Parking Lot
Years ago, one of my incredible teammates showed me an amazing, yet simple trick for keeping interactive notebook materials organized.
My students kept losing the small pieces they didn’t have time to glue down (or that they weren’t supposed to cut yet), 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.) Now your students have a safe place to store all those little pieces until they’re ready to be glued down.
The bottom line: Hold loose pieces in an envelope so they don’t get lost or end up on the floor.
5. Keep Your Interactive Reading Notebooks Organized with These FREE Table of Contents and Divider Pages
Tired of constantly hearing, “I can’t find it!” shouted at you when you tell your students to open their notebooks to a specific page? Or worse yet, watching a student flop their notebook open to a random page and begin their work wherever the fates landed that day? How fantastic would it be to have everything in their notebooks kept in a nice, neat order?
Having my students keep a table of contents was a game-changer for me. They suddenly took pride in numbering the pages so they knew exactly where things were. And it was spectacular when they realized how much this helped them when I let them use it as a reference during assignments and review games.
The dividers help students quickly flip through their reading notebooks to the correct pages. Just glue them onto the notebook page when you’re ready to create a new section.
(These were made to fit a 9.75 in x 7.5 in composition notebook perfectly but can work in a spiral notebook as well. Just make sure to glue the pages far enough to the edge of the page so the divider tab sticks out.)
The bottom line: Using a table of contents and dividers helps students keep the pages organized.
6. Avoid Messy Glue Disasters with This Amazing Trick
Liquid glue is one of my worst enemies. The eternity it takes to dry, the massive blockages in the caps, and the uncontrollable speed at which it is squeezed out by those 12 kids that have somehow not yet learned that a little goes a long way. Lord, help me. I lose my mind every time I see it out instead of a glue stick.
Well, Stephanie DeLussey from Mrs. D’s Corner has solved our problems. Check out her video tutorial on creating glue sponges:
The bottom line: Glue sponges are the perfect teacher hack for gluing small pieces easily and avoiding large messes.
7. Make Sure Students Have Easy Access to Them
You don’t want to wait forever for your students to retrieve their notebooks from across the room before you can even get started. Nor do you want to deal with 1,000 interruptions from students asking to get their notebooks when they want to use them as a reference.
Think about where you can have your students store their notebooks with minimal distraction and maximum access.
The bottom line: Make sure your students have easy access to their notebooks so they can use them as a reference.
8. Need to bounce back and forth between in-person and distance learning?
Go digital! Using a digital interactive reading notebook helps you move seamlessly between in-person and virtual learning or provide both simultaneously. Google Slides is a great option for digital reading interactive notebooks. You can easily add to the notebook throughout the year with a free plug-in.
The bottom line: Consider using a digital notebook in case distance learning makes a comeback.
Easily Increase Engagement and Add Value with an Interactive Reading Notebook
Reading interactive notebooks have become my go-to tool for engagement, practice, and informal assessment. And now that I know the tricks of the trade on using them without the mess or the wasted time, I’m always ready when my partner teacher arrives with the next class.
Want an Interactive Reading Notebook You and Your Third Graders Will Love?
This Common Core and TEKS-aligned reading interactive notebook is ready to go and will save you massive amounts of time while planning. It offers more than the average interactive notebook by providing lesson ideas, activities with short texts, and book lists!
A digital option for Google Slides™ is now included to help with distance learning and synchronous teaching!
Focus on learning the concepts, reading, thinking, and responding, not on intricate cutting and gluing.
- Mini Anchor Charts
- Pages for Use with Any Text
- Activities and Lessons with Short Texts
- “I will…” Statements for Students to Understand Learning Objectives
- Lesson Ideas and Links for Reference
- Editable Versions of Graphic Organizers (when necessary)
- Book Lists with DRA and Reading Levels for Your Convenience While Planning