Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Interactive Notebooks Tips & Tricks: Part 3

Welcome to part three of my interactive notebook series! In this post, I am going to be discussing different ways to manage your notebooks in the classroom. If you missed the first two posts about why to use interactive notebooks and how to set them up, the links are at the end of this post.

At this point, you have committed to using interactive notebooks or at least giving them a try because you know all the awesome learning benefits of your students creating them. You also have some ideas on what you need to do to set up your notebooks, before you even put them into the hands of your little learners. Today, I want to help you conquer HOW TO MANAGE these bad boys. This can be tricky, so you may need to try a few different ideas before you get it "just right".

There are so many different ways to store your student notebooks. It really depends on your classroom set up. In my classroom, I have a table/desk for every 2 students with a place for them to keep their supplies and books. This picture will give you an idea of how I set up my desks. 

Each of my students has their own supply box with materials they will need throughout the school day. In this box they have crayons, pencils, erasers, a glue stick, dry erase marker, and correcting pens. I HATE, dislike greatly, the idea of communal supplies. As a kid, and even as an adult, I like my things "just so". I take care of my things. Not everybody has the same standards of taking care of their supplies. For this reason, I always have my students keep their own supplies in their desks. This is what their boxes look like. 

Why am I telling you all of this? What does it have to do with interactive notebook storage?  

The point is, my students always have the supplies they need to complete their notebook pages with them. I don't have to waste time passing out supplies. The only thing they have to get is scissors. I will not let them keep these in their desks. When we work in our notebooks, I dismiss the kids by table to get a pair of scissors to use. SIMPLE. EASY. TAKES 2 SECONDS.

All my students keep their interactive notebooks INSIDE their own desk! Yes, I know this is unheard of in many classrooms. I have NEVER had a problem with the notebooks being destroyed or damaged. In second grade, we have one textbook for reading. All of our other resources are consumable. The materials they need are stored in folders in their desks. The point is, they don't have a lot to keep in their desks, therefore their notebooks survive. 

Many teachers use bins or trays, such as these, to store their notebooks in also.

I suggest experimenting and seeing what works best for you. Don't give up!

Oh the dreaded "little pieces!" I solved this problem pretty easily by gluing an envelope to the back cover of the notebook. Tape does not work. It peels off too easily. A little white glue and you are all set. I suggest doing this when you are setting up your notebooks BEFORE they are in the students possession. 

There will ALWAYS be those students that don't finish in the allotted time frame. My students finish their notebooks during morning warm up the next day. Sometimes, I allow them to take it home as part of their homework. It really depends on the child and if I feel they are responsible enough to bring it back the next day. If we are doing center work, I integrate the notebooks at that time. Students need to finish any incomplete pages first, before starting a new one. These 3 options usually get the job done! 

I hope you were able to take away a few management tips and tricks. I hope you stop by next week for part four: Grading and Rubrics.


If you missed any of the posts in this series, be sure to check them out by clicking on the links below.

Part 4: Grading and Rubric

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Interactive Notebooks Tips and Tricks: Part 2

Welcome back for part two of my interactive notebook series! Through this series of blog posts, I will be sharing ways to use, manage, organize, and grade your INB (interactive notebooks). Today, I am going to discuss ways to set up your notebooks for easy use throughout the year.

I have received several emails about HOW to set up my interactive notebooks. This is a very personal decision, but I want to share how I do it with my kiddos. When you purchase one of my interactive notebooks, there are directions of how to personalize and set up the notebooks to work for you, as well as pictures of what it can look like as a finish product.

I use 70 page wide ruled spiral notebooks for each of my interactive notebooks. The pages fit perfectly in them. This notebook also has enough pages that if a student makes a large mistake, the page can be torn out and there are plenty of extra pages to accommodate it. I also use one spiral notebook for each subject. Each of my students have 3 notebooks: one for math, one for language, and one for reading. 

I have never had a problem with the pages ripping and tearing out. Also, my students keep their notebooks in their desks (more on this during the management part of this series). 

Many teachers prefer composition books because they feel they are more durable. They work great too! If you choose to use composition books, you will need to print the pages at a reduced size before you make a class set to fit into the books. Usually 90-95% works just fine. However, every copy machine is different, so I suggest testing a few pages first before you make an entire class set. 

Some teachers use three-ringed binders too. They hole punch the finished pages and insert them when complete. This is another choice that may work for you too. 

What is most important, is that you use what works best for you and your students.

Each of my interactive notebooks also comes with strand tabs and strand covers for each of the areas the notebook covers. I like to copy the strand tabs on different colored Astrobright paper. This helps the students easily identify the strand we are working on. If we are using our math notebooks I would say, "Take out your math INB and turn to the next page in the pink tab, Measurement and Data." They know exactly were to glue the next lesson we are working on. This leaves little to no confusion.

Since I am a control freak organized person, I set up my student notebooks with the strand tabs ahead of time. This is actually a very hard thing for kindergarten through third graders to do and leaves A LOT of room for error. I tried having my own fifth grade son help me, and it was a frustrating task for him. So, I recruited my mom to help me instead. I prefer to use the front and back of the notebook pages and add several extra pages to each section for any mistakes that my occur when they are used by the students. I count the number of activities in each strand and then add about 5 extra pages. 

Then, I have the STUDENTS color and glue the strand cover on top of the tab for reinforcement. Other people have laminated the tabs and stapled them into the notebooks instead of gluing them. Both work beautifully.

Finally, I glue the notebook cover (included) to the front of the notebook. I use clear packing tape to reinforce the top and bottom of the cover too. Some people like to laminate the covers and then tape them, as well. 

Each of my interactive notebooks comes with tabs, strand covers, and notebook covers. However, if you want to start organizing all your interactive notebooks now, you can grab the tabs and covers ONLY, by clicking HERE!

This is a HOT topic when it comes to INB! I HATE GLUE (and paint for that matter). It is a mess no matter how much training, directions, or type of glue you use. I have learned to slightly embrace the goo. I have tried it all folks: white glue, glue sponges, glue sticks....ALL OF THEM! After all my experiences, I have settled on using GLUE STICKS! As long as they are quality glue sticks, they do the job perfectly. Yes, the kids still get glue on the desks, but at least there are not gobs of it everywhere. It comes off easily with baby wipes or Clorox wipes. All I can say is experiment and find the method that works best for you. 

I hope you were able to take away a few tips and tricks from this post to help you set up your interactive notebooks. I hope you stop by next week for part three: Notebook Management.

Did you miss Part 1? No worries. Click the link below to read all about WHY you should use interactive notebooks with your students.

Part Three: Notebook Management
Part Four: Rubric & Grading

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Interactive Notebooks Tips & Tricks: Part 1

Interactive notebooks... What are they all about? Why would you want to use them in your classroom? Are they worth it? 

These were some of the questions I asked myself before I decided to start using interactive notebooks with my students several years ago. 

Interactive notebooks have become one of my favorite learning tools, as well as, one of my students favorite learning tools. I hope through this blog series. you will come away with a few new ideas, some more confidence to implement them fully in your classroom, or make the changes necessary to make using interactive notebooks in your classroom more realistic.

This interactive notebook blog series covers the following areas:
  • Part 1: Why Use Interactive Notebooks
  • Part 2: Notebook Set Up
  • Part 3: Notebook Management
  • Part 4: Rubric & Grading
Note: These are my own personal experiences that I will be sharing with you. The strategies I share may not work in every classroom. Please use this information to help you get started using interactive notebooks in your own classroom. Tweak and adapt the ideas so they work for YOU and YOUR STUDENTS!

Before we begin, please know that I struggled with starting to use interactive notebooks in my classroom. It took me a solid 2 years using them to finally feel comfortable and use them effectively. Each group of students is different, so I am always changing things up. The information I am going to share is what consistently works for me. I will also share a few suggestions I have received from other teachers who use interactive notebooks in their classrooms.

We all have a VARIETY of students with different learning types in our classrooms. Some of our students like to work independently and some like to work with a partner. Some of our students like to stand up or move around while they are working. Other students can sit in their seats, focused, for lengths of time most adults can't even compete with. The reason I love using interactive notebooks is because all my students are engaged. Not only are they working on demonstrating their academic skills and knowledge, but the activities are hands-on so they also get to work on those fine motor skills that often get left out. This is usually the time when I see natural use of academic language with peers too. WHAT? Yes, that is correct. They are using their math vocabulary or grammar knowledge NATURALLY with their peers. That makes this teacher smile, because I know they are owning their learning.

One of my favorite things about interactive notebooks is the evidence of learning it provides. At conferences with parents, it is one of the tools I pull out to show what skills have been learned. Parents can see the quality of work, higher level thinking skills, explanations of how the child solved the problem and so much more! AND... its is less prep on me for conferences! YES, PLEASE!

Our interactive notebooks become a large part of our learning. We use them all year on a consistent basis. My students give feedback to one another about how they solved a problem or the quality of work they produced (more on this during the Rubric and Grading part of this blog series). However, because their notebooks are something used on a weekly basis they become proud of the work they are producing. Every once in awhile, I also like to choose one or two students to share the way they complete an interactive notebook activity with the entire class. It may highlight HOW a math problem was solved or the quality of work and effort put into completing the assignment. This builds self confidence and encourages other students to do their best, as well.

Our interactive notebooks become a reference tool. Some teachers like to use interactive notebook to preteach concepts. I use them as a review of skills I have taught. By doing this, I am able to see who understands the skills that have been taught and who needs a mini lesson or small group work to continue development of a skill. What ends up happening most of the time, is my students forget how to do something or come to me with a question. Then, I refer them to their notebook for guidance. They become more proactive with their learning eventually and depend less on me giving them the answers. I also allow my students to take their notebooks home to study for a unit test. This method does not work in every classroom. It really depends on the students and parents and how responsible they are to return the notebooks to class when asked. I am not always able to do this with my own students.

Whenever I tell my students we will be working in our interactive notebooks, I usually hear a lot of hissing snakes saying YESSSSSSSS! This makes me so happy! They really don't even realize they are practicing their math skills. It's like a fun craft or project for them. They are eager and willing to get to work and they usually have giant smiles on their faces while doing it! What more can a teacher ask for?

If you are ready to jump in and get started, be sure to check out all my TOP SELLING Math, Language, and Reading INTERACTIVE NOTEBOOKS. Each notebook comes with sample pictures of every page, notebook covers, strand tabs and MORE!

I hope you were able to take away a few ideas, tips, and tricks to use with your classroom interactive notebooks. Be sure to check out the rest of the series:

Part Three {Notebook Management}
Part Four {Rubric & Grading}


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

End of the Year Prep Ideas

The end of the school year buzz has already begun. Whether you have a week or several weeks left of school, the warm, summer sun and lazy summer days are quickly approaching! And believe me, I am counting down the days until I can enjoy it!

I always like to spend some time, at the end of the year, prepping for the new school year that awaits. I know some of you are just surviving this year, however, I tend to enjoy my time off in the summer when I know some of the prep is already complete!

The following ideas are just a few suggestions of things that work for me. I hope you can take one or two of the ideas away with you and ease your way back into the classroom in the fall.

Copy School Forms 
I always take the time to copy all my Back To School forms, which I will send home the first week of school. I put them in my file cabinet and label a folder "First Week of School". This helps me find them easily and I spend less of my summer standing at the copy machine when school is headed back into session.

Bind Books
I also spend some time preparing my "what do I do when I am done?" books. These B.A.T. books from Lucky To Be In First are an awesome fast finisher resource. I take time at the end of the year to copy and bind a class set of books. I use her first grade book as review skills at the beginning of the year. Then I use the second grade book for the second semester until the end of the year as review of the second grade skills I have taught. I used a Book Creator heat binding machine to quickly seal the published books...into my closet they go for the new school year!

Create Labels
 I make sure to create as many of my generic labels ahead of time. I can't put the kids' names on anything just yet, but I can make my folder labels and stick them on. Here I have my unfinished work, writing folder, and warm up folder labels already printed and stuck on the front of a class set of folders. All I have to do in the fall is add their name stickers!

Prep Interactive Notebooks
I LOVE using interactive notebooks in my classroom. But my little second graders need lots of help learning how to organize themselves. I make sure to prep their interactive notebooks by putting on the cover and adding standards tabs so they know where to glue the pages they are working on. Everything is color coded and labeled so there is little room for error. I also glue an envelope to the inside cover for small pieces that may not get glued if time runs out.

Copy Morning Warm Up Pages
The first thing my students do in the morning, when they arrive to class, is to turn in their homework and put their personal items away. When they are done, they take out their warm up folder from their desk and complete one page in their printing/sight word packet and their daily review page. This gives me time to deal with morning business and my students are all engaged (for the most part). I like to have these pages copied and stapled ahead of time.

Prepare Supply Boxes
I like my students to have individual supply boxes. I know many of you feel otherwise or have a different system. BUT I like everyone to have their own supplies and take ownership and responsibility for them. There are some supplies we share such as glue and scissors. The basic items (crayons, pencils, glue stick, erasers etc.) are kept in their own boxes. I like to reinforce the boxes with our duck tape of our school colors and mascot's paws! I personalize the boxes in the fall with each student's name.

Create A Countdown Chain
This isn't really an idea to help you prep your classroom for the new school year. It is however, a really fun way to get your current students excited for the next grade. I created a paper cloud and attached color paper chains for each of the days we have left in school. I usually do this for the last 2 or 3 weeks of school. At the end of the day, one student gets to tear the bottom chain off. You can number the chains, write a memory from the year on each one and have a student read it at the end of the day....the ideas are endless. You can grab your grade level cloud HERE for FREE! 

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you can grab a few ideas to use to help you prepare ahead of time and give yourself some well deserved downtime during your summer break! 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Poetry Keepsakes

Are you looking for a great bulletin board display for the end of the year? A meaningful keepsake that will melt your parents' hearts and make them tear up a bit? Then this is the activity for you! Our self portraits and All About Me Poems are one of my most favorite activities I do all year! I love to have them on display for Open House if possible too, 

We start off by drawing self portraits of ourselves. I teach the children about proportions, spacing, using the entire piece of paper etc. We draw everything in pencil first. Then, we use oil pastels to add color to the drawings. My students learn to smudge and blend with the oil pastels to create a smooth skin tone. They love learning how to blend and mix colors to find the perfect blend.  

After we complete our self portraits, I introduce the kids to our poetry format. I give each student a copy of the template. We complete each line one at a time. This can be done as a whole group or small group. You know your students best. I complete it as a whole group. We brainstorm ideas for each line. This seems to get the ideas flowing and gives the kids inspiration to write about themselves. 

You can grab this FREEBIE template for the poems HERE.

Once the students complete the rough drafts of their poems, I type them and print them on bright colored paper. I mount them on black paper to make them POP and stand out.

I display them next to their self portraits and.... TA-DAH! A beautiful display is created. At the end of the year, I put these into each students' art portfolio and they take them home to their parents.