Tuesday, July 9, 2013

I {Heart} Notebooks

Are you tired, run-down, listless?  Do you poop out at the end of the school year?  Are your teacher rants making you unpopular?  Well the answer to all your problems is in this lil' ottle...just kidding...are in this little notebook.

For years, I've watched my science teacher friends glam up their interactive notebooks with envy.  Scissors, glue sticks, post-its, they seemed to be having all the fun.  I kept this idea in the back of my mind, unsure of what to do with it.

When I thought about my students that were not successful in class, the key contributing factor was that they turned little to nothing in.  I'm sure I'm alone in this, so thanks for sticking with me anyway.  ;)  Last summer, I decided that I wanted to give these notebooks a shot for the next school year.  I was talking about this idea with Lori, and she had been considering the same thing.  So we did what any crazy teachers would do.  We loaded up on Dollar Tree treasures, grabbed the nearest 1-subject spiral, and planned out our pages crouched around her kitchen table.  

Having used the notebooks for a year, I can definitely say that I LOVE, LOVE notebooks.  Students never had to beg, borrow or steal notebook paper.  Papers didn't get lost because anything of worth stayed tucked in our notebook which lived in my classroom.  And guess what...more work got turned it!  (Cue Hallelujah chorus!)  Students were equipped to be successful.  

Our sections where just a guess this year, but they worked pretty well.  We had four sections: Toolbox, Ideas, Close Reading, My Writing.  To make ghetto lovely tabs on the cheap, use Post-Its.

In our toolbox section, we stored helpful notes.  For example, early in the semester, students completed the grammar foldable shown below. (Cootie catcher, anyone?) It was a reminder of the four types of sentences and their structure.  On the inside flap, we found and recorded an example of the sentence type from something we were reading and from our own writing.  If they didn't have a _____ sentence in their own writing, guess what- they write one now so that they do!  Students would use this tool throughout the year to check their own sentences. *If you use the grammar foldable, I highly recommend that you break it up and do one sentence type per day.*

AAAWWWUUBBIS is our English class bad word.  It even helps us remember some of the rules: "AAAWWWUUBBIS, now I need a comma!"


Ideas was a section where we brainstormed things that we knew, liked, were interested in.  A.K.A.: All things we could write about.  Goodbye Writer's Block!  Ideas we included:
  • Books I Know Well- with a 25 word (exactly. on the dot. not 24. not 26.) gist statement
  • Movies/Events/Celebrities I Know Well- with a hashtag (sneaky way of getting a theme word)
  • 3 customs/habits/rules about ___(school, community, state, country, world)___you would change (Persuasion, anyone?)
  • GB's Gritty Life Quick List 
Close Reading was likely the most under-utilized section of our notebook.  Here we would practice and evaluate Short Answer Questions.  Lori came up with a fantabulous ideas to glue in excerpts of literature and annotate in this section.  (I am so stealing this!)


There is such an advantage to keeping student writing together in one spot! Students would post and deconstruct their prompt in their My Writing section of their notebook.  It makes it so easy to return to a piece to add on or revise.  We would talk and play with the organizational structure.  Most of their writing was done in Kernels (Gretch).  "Take about 7 minutes to explain how you used to feel about ____.  Remember to tell me why you thought this way."
Text Structure: Story of My Thinking (Bernabei)

This was a persuasive lesson that encouraged students to generate three distinctly different reasons why someone should do something by drawing pictures.  Again, prewriting and draft right there- together forever.

I had a separate teacher notebook for each class.  It is so much easier to keep up with where each class left off this way.  Also, I could model my authentic writing process and it was less like a cooking show. (Here I am mixing ingredients, I scoop it into the pan, pop it into the oven, wait about 20 seconds, and voila!)

I passed my Pre-AP notebook on to the AP 3 teacher so there was instant accountability.  You HAVE heard this word before.  You DID write an essay like this.  Your teacher last year TAUGHT you valuable lessons everyday.  Beautiful!  

I'm already excited about my notebooks next year!! Because I'm a nerd.

Check out our latest notebook ideas here: I {Heart} Notebooks 2.0.

20 comments:

  1. You're my hero. I'm a second year teacher trying to escape binders and I think you've just saved my sanity...and hopefully my failure list!

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    1. I have loved, loved interactive notebooks! And yes, it has a very positive effect on my students' averages.

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  2. I am trying interactive notebooks this year in sophomore English. We aren't using sections, though. How did you teach the sentence types notes?
    That is what we are doing next. :)

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    1. The sentence type notes are what we started the year off with. My students are working with sentence manipulatives of the different sentence types. We discuss traits that they notice about the sentences and then add the notes to our grammar foldable. My most important tip is to seperate the notes out over four days.

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  4. I love this! I've already started putting one together for "beta testing" in one of my block classes next semester. I'm loving the sentence types lessons. Do you have that lesson posted on your blog? Any help would be great! Thanks!

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    1. The Grammar Foldable probably should get it's own post. Thanks for the idea! Until then, we cover one sentence type per day. As a class discuss and record the basic parts that make up a simple (compound...) sentence. On the inside flap, students will find and record an example of that sentence type from their reading and from their writing. FANBOYS (conjunctions) and AAAWWWUUBBIS (subordinating conjunctions) are added to the four inner squares on compound and complex days. Let me know if you want any more info, and thanks for reading!

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  5. Do you have pictures of your actual notebook.i ma a college professor and I teach a developmental reading course and I think this would benefit my students so much. Do you have any suggestions on how to gear it towards the college level? I love the idea of an interactive Notebook.

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    1. I'm not sure what this would look like at the college level, but what a fun idea! Our first year of interactive notebooks, was a big guess. We change our categories each year. For additional pictures or information, feel free to email us at thecurlyclassroom@gmail.com.

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  6. Your idea is fantastic!! I have done something similar to this for years and it works well with the children. If you want more ideas on this concept across all core subjects, look at Dinah Zike Academy in Comfort, Texas. I live and teach here and we have the honor of attending when we want. There are many on Pinterest and also things you can order from the company. So tickled to see educators sticking together to make things better for children!!!

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    1. We love Dinah Zike! We just bought one of her books and would love to attend her training. Thank you for your encouragement!!

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  7. Did your students receive points for their notebooks? Were there regular checks? I have been tossing around the idea but need to work out the kinks still.

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    1. Katie,

      I try not to have things in their notebook that I then need to find and grade. If it's something I do want to look at and assign a grade for, I will make it a handout that student will trim and glue into their notebooks when I hand it back. On rare occasions when I really need to look at something specific in their notebook, I will have students flag that page with a sticky note. It saves me from having to flip through and find it, and I can place their grade on that sticky note. With over 100 students, I know that I could never stay on top of grading if I had to flip through 100+ notebooks on a regular basis. What I've mentioned above works for me. Thanks for your questions!

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  8. I just completed a long-term sub position in a 7th grade ELA class and not turning work was one of the main issues we had in class. Also, it was a pain that kids were always struggling to find paper. I originally was considering some form of a writer's notebook until I saw your blog. The interactive notebooks remind me of art journaling, which is something I am a HUGE fan of. I also plan on keeping some sort of notebook or folder in the room so it can't get lost.

    Anyway, I just accepted my first teaching job as a middle school ELA teacher. I will either be teaching 8th grade ELA or 6th grade SS/ELA. I have a few questions for you.

    How do you store the notebooks in your room? In a crate?

    Do the kids do the entire writing process in class so they can use their notebooks, or are they ever given writing assignments to complete at home? If they are, do they simply put their work in their notebook?

    Do you cart them home to grade them, or just skim through them at work?

    Any ideas of how I could adapt this idea for middle school?

    I would also love to see any other pictures or resources you have. Also, any advice for a first year teacher?!

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    1. Congratulations on your new position!

      I store notebooks in a crate for each class period. My kiddos sit in groups, and I will give each group a file-sized rubber band (can find at office supply store or Walmart) to put around all of their notebooks. This keeps them from having to sort through 30 notebooks. They look through the 6 or 7 groups to find theirs.

      Students do not take their notebooks home until the end of the school year. I try not to have things in their notebook that I then need to find and grade. If it's something I do want to look at and assign a grade for, I will make it a handout that student will trim and glue into their notebooks when I hand it back. On rare occasions when I really need to look at something specific in their notebook, I will have students flag that page with a sticky note. It saves me from having to flip through and find it, and I can place their grade on that sticky note.

      I think middle school students would be able to rock and roll with notebooks. When back to school sales start, pick up some spirals. Students that don't bring their own can buy one from you for a quarter. The most important thing is for every student to have their notebook on the day that you set them up.

      Good luck, and don't hesitate to contact us with any questions you have!

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  9. I would love more info on this notebook- I will be teaching 7/8 grade Reading Skills and 10-12 English. I feel that this would be great in my classroom- my email is erikahutchcraft@gmail.com

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  10. I love the ideas, but can I ask how you use the brainstormed lists for writing? I find that my students can make lists, but never get back to them. Do you have a deliberate use for them? And what is AAAWWWUUBBIS?

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    1. Dina,
      I'm not always the best at going back and using the idea lists in writing, but it is a goal for this next year. The easiest one to refer back to is the Hashtag list. We need to blog about it soon. Email me, and I'll get the info to you ASAP: thecurlyclassroom@gmail.com.

      AAAWWWUUBBIS is the acronym we use to remember subordinating conjunctions.

      Thanks for your questions!

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  11. How do you handle it when a new student appears at your door in the middle of the year? Do you just start in the middle of the book?

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    1. Haha! I keep the notebooks of students who leave and give them to those that move in. It's a weird suggestion, but I have yet to have a student protest. I think they appreciate not having to stay before/after school to set it up!

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