Student Centered Decor: Tips and Ideas

Displaying student work can be a nightmare. OR maybe you love it! I'm a control freak . With little classroom space to display student work.... so I get stressed out about it! This is the struggle that goes on in my mind: Can I get every student's work on display? Does it look neat? Did they cut correctly? 

Read on to see how I deal with these voices in my head and hopeful you will gather some great ideas along the way.

As we approach Back To School season, teachers are slowly heading back to their classrooms. I always feel overwhelmed when I take those first steps into my classroom from summer break. The first thing I do, to combat the nauseousness that overwhelms me, is my bulletin boards! Sounds weird, right? Here is my theory.... it will look like I have accomplished A LOT once I get my boards up. I will feel like I have made progress and be able to come back to work over and over. I will be able to ignore the other mess.

BUT... then I realize something.... All of my boards and wall space are for my students' work. Sure, I have a few posters for scheduling, behavior etc. They are standard, but the actual board and wall space is BLANK until those kiddos create the work to display!

I want my students to have ownership of our room environment. It's not solely MY room. It's OUR room. If their work is valued and highlighted, it will encourage them to do their best work and take pride in it! 

Give your students activities they can succeed at! This will build their self confidence and they will want to show off their work! 

These kiddos are always a hit with my students and parents. I have my students complete these before Open House. This gives them the ability to share their accomplishments with their parents in a natural form. Nothing is forced. These are from My Future Is So Bright Craftivity packet.

Photo from Sailing Into Second
I have to get creative with space to display student work. I am able to hang some work from a wire across my ceiling. I know this isn't an option for everyone, but this is the best way for me to get the most out of the space. My students are always "ooing" and "aweing" at their work and each other's work. They try to guess who wrote what and which one is theirs. They also beam with pride when guests come in and admire their work.... hence, building SELF ESTEEM! 

Scarecrow Writing Craft
I also use the doors of my cupboards to display student generated work (Hey, a girl has got to get creative). This is one of my favorite character building/self esteem projects we do each year. I teach my students how to draw self portraits. Then, I walk them through the process of writing their own All About Me poems. The students LOVE sharing what they write with each other and having their parents read them at Back To School Night. Building each student up is SO important to do throughout the year.

Self  Portraits
This year I am going to create an Instagram display to highlight each of my students. This is a display I leave up all year! It makes every student feel special. It promotes their self esteem and there is always something for them to show off about themselves in our classroom. 

I have each parent email me their child's favorite picture of  himself or herself. It can be a picture of them doing their favorite activity (like the picture below) or a special family event etc. If I don't get a picture sent to me, I take one of them at school to use.

Next, students choose a simple caption and hashtag to go with their picture.

Finally, I will print them on white card stock and laminate them. I display each Instagram page with our class title. It makes my heart pitter-patter to highlight each student all year. 

Build your students' self esteem and grab your own Instaclass Bulletin Board set below:

I hope you were able to gather a few new ideas to highlight each student in your class, build their character, and self esteem throughout the year. 


Interactive Notebooks Tips & Tricks: Part 4

Welcome to Part 4 of my Interactive Notebooks Tips and Tricks blog series. This week I am discussing everything about rubrics and grading.

I have to admit, when I first started using interactive notebooks I didn't use a rubric. I modeled how the pages should be completed and explained my expectations, but there was no visual reference for the students to refer to besides my model page. Most of my classes were OK with that. However, this last year was a bit different. My students needed the rubric to be successful. 

I created this kid-friendly rubric for each of them to glue into the inside of the front cover of their notebook. I also post a copy of it on our math concept board for easy reference!

If you would like a copy of the rubric to use, you can grab it by clicking on the picture below. This FREEBIE also comes with sample math interactive notebook pages for you to use as well. 

Grading... this can be tricky and time consuming if you are using interactive notebooks during whole class time. Collecting and grading 24+ notebooks is just one more thing you do NOT need on your plate. If you are using interactive notebooks during small group time, it is a bit more manageable to grade. 

To solve this great dilemma in my classroom, I switch between whole group and small group time when using INB. This way I can focus on grading a small number of  student notebooks at a time. I use the rubric and then add constructive and meaningful comments. This allows the students to know what they are doing well, and how they can improve their work too.

Using a rubric and grading interactive notebooks looks different in every classroom. Check out these grading tips to help you get started.

But....let's be honest.... grading and commenting on all these notebook pages is difficult to keep up with. It is SO easy to fall behind and then you just throw your hands up in the air and give up trying to grade them. 

In order to tackle this problem, I would have my students "grade" themselves on all their pages they completed. Once a week, I would have them choose one page they wanted me to look at and comment on. Of course, I looked at all the pages, but I only commented on the one page they chose. This kept the kids honest about their work quality and grading. They knew I was going to look at it at some point!

Using a rubric and grading interactive notebooks looks different in every classroom. Check out these grading tips to help you get started.

Using a rubric and grading interactive notebooks looks different in every classroom. Check out these grading tips to help you get started.

I hope this blog series about Interactive Notebooks: Tips and Tricks gave you some new ideas and inspiration to get started using them with your students or at least a new idea to implement if you are already using them. Remember that it is an ever evolving process. Each class is different. Find what you love and make it work for you and your students! 


Did you miss any part of this blog series? No worries. Just click on the links below to the posts you missed and get started!

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.

Great ideas to help you manage your interactive notebooks.

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. 

Great ideas to help you manage your interactive notebooks.

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. 

Great ideas to help you manage your interactive notebooks.

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.

Great ideas to help you manage your interactive notebooks.

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. 

Great ideas to help you manage your interactive notebooks.

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.

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.

Setting up interactive notebooks is a breeze if you follow these easy steps.

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. 

Setting up interactive notebooks is a breeze if you follow these easy steps.

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.

Setting up interactive notebooks is a breeze if you follow these easy steps.

Setting up interactive notebooks is a breeze if you follow these easy steps.

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. 

Setting up interactive notebooks is a breeze if you follow these easy steps.

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.

Setting up interactive notebooks is a breeze if you follow these easy steps.

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. 

Setting up interactive notebooks is a breeze if you follow these easy steps.

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.

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!

Interactive notebooks serve many purposes in the classroom from review of skills, modeling thinking, mastering standards and more.

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.

Interactive notebooks serve many purposes in the classroom from review of skills, modeling thinking, mastering standards and more.

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.

Interactive notebooks serve many purposes in the classroom from review of skills, modeling thinking, mastering standards and more.

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!

Take a closer look with this FREEBIE:

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: