Setting up the Interactive Notebook

Every journey begins with a single step.

Notebooks begin with setting them up.

I always take a full class day to set up my notebooks. I buy extra composition books to have on hand so that I can provide them (at cost) for students who haven’t brought them in – I want everyone setting them up at the same time.

I usually start by having the students respond to a prompt – would anyone describe you as organized? why or why not? This sets the stage for today’s lesson. I then introduce the idea of the notebooks with a powerpoint. The powerpoint takes students through the idea of the left/right orientation and shows examples of assignments from previous students. Interactive Notebook Presentation

Now that the students have the idea, I teach them how to glue things in to the notebooks. You can see my earlier post on glue here. I started off my notebooks in the past with “starter pages”. Essentially it was my syllabus in kid friendly terms and instructions for all of those notebook assignments. This served two purposes – by the end of the day, students were really good at gluing and parents held the notebook in their hands at least once at the beginning of the year. One of my teacher friends, Mrs. Heaton, blogged about these starter pages and has a version of them posted on her science notebooking blog.

The drawback was it was a lot of paper, a lot of glue, and a lot of time. Since I was using at least two notebooks a year it meant having to do this twice. Last year another notebooking friend of mine created a booklet that went into an envelope. This was great because the booklet could simply transfer to the new notebook – no extra paper, no extra glue, and no extra class time.

This year, I decided that I would put all the notebook assignments in a table format that we would keep in a binder with their agenda. This way all of our teachers could use the same printed out assigmment instructions instead of having four completely different versions. Save a tree ;) .

 I actually really like the table format and I am interested to see how it will work out this year. The assignment ideas come from many sources, and I changed instructions to suit my needs and my students. It is impossible to recognize every source of each assignment – many started off as suggestions for assignments for the History Alive program which I then fleshed out and adapted, and over many years of notebooking ideas have been bounced around over the internet and over coffee and things have evolved and changed. I would like to give a shout out to  Mr. Roughton though, who so generously posted 50+ assignments on the internet, many of which are included and/or modified on this list.

Assignment Table

I usually close the set up the notebook lesson by having students create a personal title page. You can find the instructions under “Unit Title Page” on the Assignment Table. Instead of using the textbook they include six illustrations about themselves.

That’s the setup day. It’s lengthy, but I work with younger students and I feel like taking the day is an important first step.

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6 comments so far

  1. mrsbester on

    Great ideas! Thank you very much for sharing

  2. mmepolterPatricia on

    You’re a genius and awesome for sharing all this. I feel like I could think about trying this out now. Thanks for your step-by-step explanations.

  3. Natalie on

    Thank you so much for sharing! My interactive notebooks are similar, but not nearly as creative. I LOVE your ideas and the presentation to start the process! WOW!

  4. mrsgannon on

    Thank you – I hope it is helpful for you!

  5. Nicole on

    I’m definitely nervous about starting an interactive notebook, but you are certainly making me feel confident that I will be able to just “dive in” to them next week when we return from the holiday break. We’ll see!! I teach a lot of different subject areas in a small school, but I think i’ll give it a try with just one class for now :) Thanks again!

  6. Melissa on

    I teach 6th grade social studies at a low SES school. We have no text book for the class, so I went out and got notebooks for my kids and we started this yesterday. I am really hoping it will be rewarding and useful for them!


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