What is the best decision you have made for your classroom? For me, this questions is EASY. Switching to an interactive notebook. Hands down. Putting all of my class handouts, notes, resources, articles, foldables, and vocabulary into one book has totally made my life as a teacher sooo much easier!
In this blog post, I’m going to give you the short and sweet guide to using an interactive notebook in your classroom. THIS METHOD IS FOR ANY GRADE OR ANY SUBJECT. I used an interactive notebook when I taught Environmental Science last year at the high school level and for 6th and 7th grade science. If I went down to elementary, I would teach using an interactive notebook for each subject. (Grammar notebook, Geography notebook, Creative Writing notebook, etc.) If you need help brainstorming for your subject area, shoot me a message! I would love to help in any way that I can.
OKAY. So for my class right now….. THIS IS HOW WE DO IT (yes, I just sang that in my head!)
On the first day of school, I let kids know that we will be creating an interactive science notebook in my class and it will be treated as if it were their textbook. They have to bring a fresh, new composition notebook by the first Friday of school. On that day, we start our notebooks together. PRO TIP- Chances are, you will not have every student bring a notebook. I have a stash in my room of fresh ones. I buy them when they are on sale for really cheap the year before!
DO NOT waste your time with a table of contents OR numbering all the pages. Girl, LET. THAT. GO. I spent so much time trying to make sure they numbered their pages right and labeled everything just like my OCD self- NAH!!! Doesn’t work. Save yourself the heart break. Jump right on in to the content. Here’s a look at how I kick off my year in science in our interactive notebook…
For the very first page, I have students write GUS (This stands for Guide to Understanding Science), their name, and science number. They also can decorate this page any way that they would like. If I find a notebook out of place, I just have to flip to the first page to figure out who’s it is and what box it goes in.
I always start with the basics of science. So, whether you’re creating an English notebook or social studies or even creative writing- you can still start with the basics! Even though my 7th graders have a foundation in science, I want the foundation to be in the notebook. I want to refresh their memory and get their minds refocused from the summer off.
The first thing I do is have students visualize a football player. Then I ask them to raise their hand and give me describing words that describe how the football player looks. We’ll discuss this for a little bit. Then, I have them visualize a scientist. Instead of discussing, I ask them to draw and color the scientist that they are visualizing in their head. On the inside of the folded paper I have some questions typed out just to further identify their scientist. Typically, students will visualize an older male in a white lab coat and goggles in a lab. The next day, we discuss types of scientists, what a true scientist does, and I give them a ton of visuals to see that there are scientists of both gender of all ethnicities. We talk about the different types of science.
Graphing Basics (types of graphs, parts of graphs, etc.)
Scientific Writing (comparing creative writing and scientific writing, less vs fewer, affect vs effect, opinion vs fact, etc. )
Next, I do a scientific article circle over the teenage brain. I will be doing a blog post on this soon! Since I don’t use a textbook in my class, I pull scientific articles to add literacy to my curriculum.
The Scientific Method + LAB – This year I did a lab over water bottle flipping (since that’s so popular right now!)
THEN we jump into our first unit. I will do a blog post over my units as well. Look for that coming soon!
If you haven’t already, check out my post over mind mapping! This is how I do note taking in my class. Mind Mapping Blog Post
The last two years that I have taught middle school, I have used the cardboard magazine boxes from IKEA- HERE! They have worked like a charm and makes organization so much easier. I assign each student a number at the beginning of the year. I labeled all the boxes with a number. Every student has a book box. Since I have 4 science classes, I have 4 notebooks per box, which fit perfectly. I use colored washing tape to identify each of my science classes for an easier way to grab and go.
The worst part! LOL! I always say if I could just create curriculum and teach without having to grade anything this job would be fabulous! I honestly hate grading. But seriously, is there any teacher that loves it?? I try to make grading as easy as possible for me, while being efficient. I really like to conference with my kids about their notebook, so I make time in my lesson plans for a day of down(-ish) time (video, assignment, working on projects, catch-up day, etc.) to conference with my students and grade their notebooks. This is typically one big grade per unit. I give each page of the notebook a number of points and then add them all up for a total unit notebook grade.
I tried to cover everything, but if you still have questions please do not hesitate to message me! I’m super passionate about interactive notebooking and think that every teacher would benefit from using one!