Binders and Spirals and Composition notebooks, oh my!

The first decision to make in starting Interactive Notebooks in your classroom is the type of notebook your students will use. The basic choices are binders, spirals, and composition notebooks. I have tried all three of these, and each format has pros and cons, and what you choose will depend on your teaching style, storage, and student population.

Binders

 Pros  Cons
  • Handouts – no changes need to be made to handouts, just hole-punch and go
  • Longevity – one binder will last the entire year, if it fills up, just clean it out
  • Adaptability – pages can be moved, added, and removed with easy
  • Portability – Pages can be turned in individually for grading, making them as easy to transport as any stack of papers
  • Consistency – If you put a binder on your supply list you could get a huge variance in size, quality, features – fortunately, with a binder, this only matters when it comes to storing them in your classroom.
  • Storage – If you teach more than one class, storage could easily become an issue. I’ve taught up to 100 students, and I don’t have the space to store that many binders. Of course, students could keep up with them and bring them to class daily.
  • Organization – pages can be moved easily, which means that they can easily be placed incorrectly. Pages tear or fall out. I find it more difficult to maintain the left/right orientation of the notebooks.
  • Expense – Could be pricey, especially if you wanted to provide them for your students.

 

Spirals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Pros  Cons
  • Expense – these can be incredibly inexpensive (5 cents during the summer)
  • Storage– these are easy to store inside the classroom, milk crates or yaffa blocks or even dishpans make great containers.
  • Organization – because it is a bound book, pages are consecutive allowing for more standardization.
  • Portability – it is possible to take a class set of these home in a dish pan. However, it is impractical to take home all of your notebooks if you teach multiple classes at the same time. I used to do this and don’t recommend it.
  • Handouts – may or may not need to be trimmed or reformatted, depending on the size of your students notebooks.
  • Consistency – If you put spiral notebooks on your supply list, you will get everything from the 5 cent spirals to the Mead Five Star. Some will be 70 pages, some will be 100 or more pages. Some will have pockets, some won’t.
  • Snagging– I have yet to see a spiral notebook that won’t catch on your clothes or onto other notebooks. Blech.
  • Longevity – will depend on the size and quality of the notebook. When I used spirals, the cheaper ones were in bad shape by the end of first quarter. The cover starts to tear off and the spiral gets bent and funky – sometimes aided by the students. I always asked for 4, one per quarter.
  • Adaptability – You are limited to the page number count of the notebook, and things cannot be moved around easily.

Composition Notebooks

 Pros  Cons
 

  • Consistency – You ask for a composition notebook on your supply list and your notebooks will all be the same size and page count. The only real variable is the cover material/design and the quality of the binding. Other than that they will be the same size, and 100 pages.
  • Expense – these are reasonable in cost, rougly 50 cents during the summer.
  • Storage– these are easy to store inside the classroom, milk crates or yaffa blocks or even dishpans make great containers. With composition notebooks, one or maybe two shelves of a bookcase could also work.
  • Organization – because it is a bound book, pages are consecutive allowing for more standardization.
  • Portability – it is possible to take a class set of these home in a dish pan. However, it is impractical to take home all of your notebooks if you teach multiple classes at the same time. I used to do this and don’t recommend it.
 

  • Handouts – will need to be reformatted or folded to fit
  • Longevity – you will probably want to plan on two per year, without reinforcing many of your students’ notebooks will be in need of replacing by January.
  • Adaptability – You are limited to the page number count of the notebook, and things cannot be moved around easily.

 

Personally, I prefer composition notebooks for their consistency, relative durability and inexpensiveness, and organizational properties.  I really like having all of my students “on the same page”, and it is very obvious during parent conferences when work is “missing” because of all the blank pages. In a binder, there aren’t blank pages for the missing work and the visual isn’t as apparent. I hope this has been helpful in making your decision and if you have any additional pros and cons please share!

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11 comments so far

  1. JPB on

    This section has been great for me. I am transitioning to this system after Thanksgiving break and need as much info as possible and have many questions. I hope to revolutionize my classroom… I’ll keep you posted JPB

  2. Nicole on

    Appreciate your posts so much!! Thank you for helping me (and my sanity) during this process of just starting out. There are so many options and you simplify the decisions. Thank you, Thank you!!

  3. Andrea on

    This was very helpful information. Thank you for being so organized!

  4. Christine on

    Thank you for taking the time to post and share information on interactive notebooks. I will be entering my second year of teaching 5th grade social studies this fall and plan to implement interactive notebooks. I have learned a lot from your website! Thank you!!

  5. Tanya E. Tenturier on

    This has been very helpful! Thank you so much!

  6. Aimee on

    I too loved the advice. Somewhere i saw what kids should have in their desks. It was a plastic pencil basket and I think it had scissors and a glue stick but I wasn’t sure. The person also recommended a mini trash can for each group. Do you know of anything else?

  7. mrsgannon on

    I use table supplies as needed. Personally, the less the kiddos have at their desks the happier I am!

  8. kandi on

    I happen to love composition notebooks, too. I read on another blog where the teacher just attaches an extra page to the notebook if the lesson took more pages than expected or for students who write bigger. Then, you can just fold that page over so nothing is sticking out!

  9. Melissa, Jeff, Raye, & Sean Leisure on

    Thanks this was great. I teach geometry and Alg I in high school. Several of the teachers think I mother my kids to much. But I don’t care! I get HW from kids who never turn it in to others.
    I’ve used spiral and presently using binders, I’d decided to go back to spiral but think ill try composition notebooks.

  10. Suzanne McKelvey on

    Thank you for the info! I can’t wait to strat this with my new 6th grade class!I’ve seen different page counts for composition books. Do you recommend 100 pages or would 70-80 be sufficient?

  11. mrsgannon on

    I always used the 100 pages, and found I could fit the entire year in there neatly.


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