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.
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!
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