Investing in Notebooks

For years I wanted my students to have a great resource when they left my classroom.  I wanted to leave them with something that would prepare them for high school.  I also wanted them to be able to look back and see all of the information we had discussed throughout the year.  I used the summer to begin researching.  I found my answer in Interactive Notebooks.  Thank you Pinterest!  For my middle school classroom, they are perfect!   

I went to a conference a few years ago and saw a display from Dinah Zike.  She is the queen of foldables.  I found so many ideas there but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for.  This is where Pinterest saved the day.  I knew what I was looking for so I began searching.  Blogs were so helpful when I was looking for the perfect solution to my notebook dilemma.  

My students are not very organized in middle school so that was my first problem to tackle.  I knew I wanted a table of contents, page numbers and tabs.  The first year was a learning process.  We left extra pages in the beginning of their notebooks for the table of contents and we spent the first day of class numbering pages and getting everything ready to go.  Last year, I let students choose their notebook to bring in.  We had a variety of notebooks which was helpful for me.  The first of a few difficult lessons learned…composition notebooks it is.  We lost so many covers by the end of the year because students were actually using them.  The spiral notebooks were tearing up before Christmas break.  

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Lesson #2 was that we won’t number the pages at the beginning of the year again.  I thought it would be a time saver as the year progressed but I quickly learned that it is disastrous when students accidentally skip page 11 and they have numbered all the way to 150.  We also only use one page for the table of contents and we glue new pages on top so we don’t have to worry about running out of room.

This year, I took more time setting up the beginning pages of the notebook.  We have a pocket on the first page to collect flashcards or anything that may not be finished from the day before.  We also have class rules and information, a rubric that I use for the notebooks, and a table of contents on the first pages.

I do the same notebook as my students so they always have one to look at.  I always have someone using my notebook if I am not using it.  It is helpful for the students but I also use it to guide what I do the next year.  

Last year was the first year that I dedicated myself to using them consistently.  At the end of the year, I had my students do a reflection and end of class survey.  As much as they grumbled and complained throughout the process of making the notebooks, they were appreciative of them at the end of the year.  They actually enjoyed looking back at their work and what we had done during class.  I won’t say it was their favorite activity but they did see the value in all of their work after they were finished.  That alone made them worthwhile.  

For those of you who have parents complain that they can’t help their students because they don’t have a book, this could be your solution.  I allow students to keep them in my room (many of them do) but they are welcome to take them home at any time.  I always do examples and put important concepts and definitions in them.  They are a lot of work in the beginning.  Year two is much easier.  Most of my pages are already finished.  I have a changed and added a few things here and there but that is minimal compared to last year.  If you ever want to see a completed book or the students working on their notebooks, please stop by my room.  I can’t promise that they will be quiet but they do love to show off their work.  🙂

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