Dr. Baros is a dedicated researcher, educator, and LGBTQ advocate. Her areas of expertise are proficiency-based language teaching and creating inclusive environments for LGBTQ students and people.
I first learned about interactive notebooks during my pre-service training and loved the idea. However, I never quite figured out how to make it work for me as a teacher or for Comprehensible Input instruction, where I don't want my students writing down notebooks all the time. However, with my new plan to end everything we do with a Write and Discuss (coming by way of suggestion from Mike Peto), a clear and purposeful plan clicked. Just in time, too - my new school is an AVID school so interactive notebooks are a regular part of instruction. I've been working on an example notebook complete with all of the supporting documents, and I'm ready to share my draft* with you!!
Please note that my interactive notebook design is slightly modified from what a "true" interactive notebook is, but maintains many of the principals particularly for our daily documentation of learning (the Write and Discuss section). I am also attending a Jump Start conference for National Board certification as well as meeting with my colleagues in the upcoming weeks, so it may undergo additional revisions as things get fine-tuned for the 2018-2019 school year.
Why and When we will use the IN
I mainly want their notebook to be a resource which answers the question "What did I learn?". It will show the material for a particular day and their mastery of it as well as their progress over time. Any other activities they are welcome to keep in their notebook in the back, but I am only concerned about the items I want them to come back to throughout the year, including reviewing their progress and accomplishments.
This means there are only certain times which I allow students to use their notebooks or even have them out. For the vast majority of class, I want them to focus on being present and comprehending input. However, I hope that by routinely dedicating the last 10 minutes of class to write and discuss with our Interactive Notebooks, students also know they will have plenty of time to write down any notes they wish. The only other times they will need their notebooks are when they are evaluating and documenting their learning, which will usually happen during specific proficiency activities.
With that being said, the main items in my notebooks (with a more detailed break down below) include:
I have 30% of my gradebook set aside for "Classwork and Activities", most of which will come from items in their IN. Everything in the IN is going to be graded on completion as part of students' daily formative assessments - this means it's information for me to adjust instruction before the summative assessment of what they achieved. I want students to get comfortable doing their best and honestly evaluating and discussing their progress. If they know that items in the IN are graded on quality of completion, it will send a signal that lowers their affective filter and gives them permission to just do their best and not worry about anything else for a moment. I am going to review their progress each day (see the procedure in the next paragraph) to see what adjustments need to be made or conversations need to be had in order to get them where they need to be.
This policy fits in with the least amount of work for me as well. As students are working in their IN, I can easily move around the room and stamp/check off pages that have received full credit (or that are done enough that I trust will be worthy of full credit). I plan to check off the items on my student tracker and grading sheet as well as give them a stamp on their notebook page so they know it was checked and recorded as full credit. Anything that is less than full credit, I write a small score in the top left corner of the page so they know they still have some work to do if they want more points, but I did check it. Anything that doesn't get recorded in class, they leave open to the page that needs to be check and turn their notebooks in to the basket. I finish recording them and put them in their hand-back folder for them to retrieve the following day.
Students are going to give themselves a self-evaluation each day to let me know what's going on.
Items included in my IN
The spiral notebook will go in the front pocket or clipped into the front if students prefer. However, unless you get a large binder (which I don't want), having the notebook clipped in makes turning pages impossible, so I prefer it to be in the front pocket.
Do you use interactive notebooks in your comprehensible input classes? What do you include and why? Are there things you choose not to include? Share your thoughts below!
These two supplies have been essential and we've used them at least a few times per week. Sure, it takes a week or two for students to get the RIGHT notebook (even with being specific, people still brought in the wrong size of notebook) and sometimes kids don't have their glue sticks, but they figure it out. Keep checking supplies the first two weeks of schools and reminding students they need to get these!
I encourage students to keep their notebooks at school and provide study materials online in place of their notebooks. This way, they always have their notebooks when they need them. So. I needed a storage system that allowed easy access to the notebooks but wouldn't create a mess. I am also using personal white-boards this year, so whatever I figured out had to store them, too. My solution came in the form of the plastic hanging file folder boxes - they were perfectly sized to fit the white boards AND the notebooks for all of my periods! Keep in mind, I have my desks in groups of four, so with three periods of Beginning Spanish I had to fit 5 white boards (I always keep an extra), an eraser or two, and 12 notebooks. The crates are quite big to put on the desks - I have them sit on the floor next to the group, but out of any traffic. The system is working beautifully - I can quickly move everything out of the way if needed, students have quick access to everything that they need, and there's minimal mess as students *attempt* to keep their basket semi-organized.
Rather than taking a day to set up notebooks, we did it as we went. On the first day of school, I had students number their notebook to page 20 as soon as they walked in to the class and then start doing the warm-up on page 4. The students without notebooks simply completed the activity on a separate sheet of paper, but were also put on notice that they NEED their notebooks! For homework, students had to number the rest of their pages by the end of the week. On the third day of school, we were working on pages 21-24, so students who had not yet numbered their pages quickly did so through the pages we needed and continued working. Nearly everyone had their pages numbered by Friday, when we did a culture activity on page 153. We added section dividers (Vocabulary and Culture) as we used them rather than all at once. It worked out well and didn't use up a lot of time.
Students glued in pages as we talked about them - I handed out the syllabus in half-sheet form toward the end of the week since most students had their notebooks by then (I posted the syllabus online as well so most parents had already read and sent in the signature page by Friday). Plus, we'd already gone over most of the information throughout the week, so students didn't need to sit and read the syllabus - they just needed to put it in their notebooks. I think I will do this a little earlier in the future (probably mid-week) so we don't' just forget about the syllabus in their notebook.
When I hand out a worksheet, I first tell students which page it goes on (and how to glue it in if it's a foldable) and what to title the page. Then, as I'm handing out the paper, students are already gluing the paper into their notebooks and are looking over it. The entire glue-in process takes about 2 minutes and students are very good about sharing glue sticks when needed. For other notes, I simply tell them which page to take notes on and begin. Students are very good now about asking which page they need to put information on (and getting better at looking at the board to see which page) - they know information can't go just "anywhere"
Keeping Notebooks Updated
I do a notebook check about once every 2-3 weeks. Basically, I wait until there is enough new information since the last check to merit a new check. I may throw on a few items from previous notebook checks that I notice aren't completely done and then check every new item we've added that students should have completed. I also do not check the notebooks myself - I give students a simple rubric and they check one another's notebooks, then turn in the rubric to me! They are pretty honest and very quick about completing these notebook checks - usually I can have my fastest quiz/test-takers check all the notebooks by the time the entire class is done with the test. Other times, I just have them swap notebooks and the whole process is done within 3-4 minutes.
In order to facilitate keeping the notebooks updated, I update a Google Doc with the pages students should have, pictures of what the completed pages look like (courtesy of an excellent student's notebook), and links to any hand outs that students may need to print out. Absent students can check the online notebook to get their notebooks caught up AND students can check the notebook at home if they feel the need to look at the notes. It all works nicely as long as I do my part to keep it all updated!
In summary, I'm very pleased with how the notebooks worked out this year. I know we will continue to use them consistently throughout the year (which hasn't happened in the past) as we use them basically every day. I don't use them in my higher classes at the moment, but they are definitely a valuable resource for my middle school students still learning to organize materials and who must have ready access to their notes.
(Click here for my previous posts on Interactive notebooks, including my plans and experiences from last year.)
After giving Interactive Notebooks a shot last year and considering how they failed, I've decided to have another go at them. However, I've made some strategic changes to avoid the problems we encountered next year. The biggest issue was inserting materials into the notebook. As long as students were simply copying down information, they worked great and never had to search for notes since I could tell them exactly where to find them. However, I have a lot of handouts for reference, and that's where I ran into troubles. After some experimenting, here's what I've decided to do:
Students will have a combination of a 1" Binder (with a pocket in the front and back) and Interactive Notebook composition book. Handouts and loose leaf paper (for quizzes) will be organized into the binder, while notes will go into the notebook. The composition book will go into the pocket of the binder (this is why I want a 1" binder instead of 1/2"). Thus, the binder is a kind of "Appendix" for the notebook and I know exactly where students should be looking for items without either of them getting too crammed. They can even write references on worksheets (see page so-and-so in IN) and annotate notes to refer to handouts.
I will specify this year that the comp book MUST be 100 sheets and standard size (this was an issue last year, especially when you're trying to tell students to put certain items on certain pages). Because this notebook is strictly for notes, and the binder is for the items that are handed in/out, the set-up will be simple. I'm trying to decide whether I should even take class time to have them do it or just assign the set-up as homework (I'm leaning toward the latter and making it due at the end of the first week):
Sometimes I wonder if this is too much and if I should just stick to a binder, but then I remember what it was like trying to keep track of notes that I took and getting them mixed in (or never put in) with all the paper in my own binder. Hopefully, this will at least make it possible to keep all the notes they take organized and, in the worst case scenario, students will only lose the handouts that I make available online for them to print anyway. I will be checking their reading journals at the end of each semester, so I may as well go ahead and flip through the entire notebook and make that part of their grade (one of my class goals is for students to prepare themselves for their futures by taking accurate notes and keeping materials organized, so it's justified!). I'll post pictures and reactions as we get to it. I'm feeling fairly confident this will work for us!
Many of you liked my ideas for using Interactive Notebooks last year. I did give them a shot this year, and learned a lot about implementation, especially about WHEN they're appropriate. Unfortunately, they didn't work out as I'd hoped for one main reason: my class is more handout-heavy than it is note-heavy. Let me elaborate.
In my class, we don't do a lot of note taking. For the most part, some key vocabulary is introduced and students write down that vocabulary and anything I point out that might help them. I don't emphasize grammar. If I did, there would be a lot more notes to take and the Interactive Notebooks would have worked better. Indeed, when we did take notes, it worked like a charm. However, we do a lot of learning through discussion and songs. Discussion doesn't lend itself to notes (obviously), while it's just not efficient for students to copy down lyrics to songs and translate them. Instead, I provide handouts with the lyrics, a CLOZE activity, etc. The trouble with all these handouts is that they have to go somewhere. When using an Interactive Notebook, especially when utilizing a composition book, the only way to get the handouts in there is with tape or glue, which resulted in a number of problems. Tape is the best since it's least likely for the papers to fall out - that is, of course, assuming that students realize that the tape needs to be positioned in such a way that about half of it is on each paper (some students would tape with 99% of the tap on the handout out and the tiniest sliver of tape actually connecting it to the notebook. Moreover, students didn't have tape, didn't take the time to actually tape things in, and things fell out. Not good in a handout-heavy class.
My last complaint is that, while IN's offer so many cool opportunities with foldable, foldable frankly eat up time in a secondary classroom. Often, there's so much time spent creating the foldable that could be better spent simply instructing and moving on. Thus, foldables in my classroom were more or less eliminated in order to make sure I had enough teaching time. At this age, I could very easily provide the information online and ask students to make the foldables at home if I felt they were necessary (I don't - students often find equal or better ways of studying). I'd like to revisit foldable at another time (and possibly their application in another subject as I can see how it would better organize certain information, but I don't have anything that calls for that just now), but they just weren't efficient in this class.
I also ran into issues with students who never created their notebook for one reason or another. This is likely a first-year teacher symptom, but a small number of students either joined the class late or simply didn't have their notebook on the days we put them together, so they ended up just taking notes on random pages of their notebook or didn't take notes in a notebook at all. This was a bit frustrating, especially since these were the students that may have benefitted the most from the structure of an IN.
I guess the moral of the story is that, while IN's can work well in some situations, they're aren't necessarily the best option in others. If I had a note-taking heavy class where I could title pages and have students take relevant notes (my high school economics class comes to mind), this would be a wonderful tool that would fit the job well. On the other extreme, if you have a class where note taking is minimum and your class calls for more organization of handouts, IN's are not the answer (this is where I fall). If you fall somewhere in the middle where you have a lot of note taking, but you also have handouts, I might suggest (and am considering, given some changes to my curriculum) having students combine a folder/binder with an IN - have students put their handouts in the folder/binder and keep the IN for notes in the pocket. I'm still toying around with what I want to do for next year. I think I have too many handouts for a folder to suffice (if you do go the handout route, I would suggest using one with the brackets in the middle to keep things more secure), but a small binder with a limited number of tabs to organize the handouts may just be the trick and I've already checked that a composition book will fit nicely in the pockets of said binder. Plus, binders are more sturdy than folders anyway.
As a final note, here are some things to specify to students about getting their composition book that I didn't anticipate: I didn't realize different composition books had different numbers of pages. Thus, when I told students to put things on page 95, but they only had 80 pages, we ran into some troubles. Also, somehow students assumed that all IN's were equal and showed up with these itty bitty notebooks (wha...?). Moreover, some assumed a spiral notebook would work just as well (they don't). So, be VERY specific about what notebook students should be getting.
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