Friday, May 8, 2015

Interactive Notebooks: IN Wrap Up

Here we are, at the last post of my Interactive Notebook series.
Thanks for your patience in these last few months, as I've worked through, wrote, and rewrote these posts to be as clear and concise as I could be. I hope that you've had a few "aha" moments throughout this series, and that you've taken away some ideas to use your classroom.

Here are some take aways I'm hoping you've discovered:
Our ultimate goal is to teach students to be independent notetakers and thinkers. Will they be able to do this at the primary level? Most likely not. I'm talking middle school, high school, and even college level. Let's start them young!

The purpose of an interactive notebook is for students to interact with the CONTENT at a high level. Foldables and lift-the-flap tabs are one way you can interact with the new information being taught, but it's not the only way.

The notebook should be a reference tool (input) as well as a place for students to demonstrate their understanding of the new information (output). We are teaching our kids how to take notes from a variety of sources and then apply their learning in a way that makes sense for them to help the new information "stick." This is true engagement!!

You can make your own interactive notebook lessons! Even if you claim to not be tech savvy! You don't even need to create anything. Take a look at this mammals lesson my kiddos did the other day:
Our objective was to learn the characteristics of mammals. First they wrote a few mammals they knew on the Thinking Side. Then, with a partner, they read some pages in our textbook. Next, we worked together to make the list of characteristics on the Learning Side. Then, we watched a video about mammals. While the video was playing, they wrote down the important information from the video. And yes, everyone did this without my prompting. My kids were even asking me to stop the video so they could write down the important vocabulary words. They shared their notes with their neighbor and added more mammals to their "Mammals I Know" lists. Finally, students chose one mammal from the video and wrote at least two reasons why they knew that animal was a mammal.

Could I have created some cutesy foldable? Sure, absolutely! Would it have been necessary? HECK NO!

OK, so I want to try interactive notebooks in my classroom. Where do I start???
My suggestion is to start small. As enthusiastic as you might be about starting to use interactive notebooks, they can get super overwhelming if you don't have a plan. I want you to stick with it for the long haul! When I started using INs in 2012, I chose one subject: science. I picked science because I only have 5 units. I also alternate teaching science and social studies, so when I wasn't teaching science, I had time to plan and prepare for my next unit. If you're thinking math, maybe choose a unit or two to try out the notebooks. Don't pressure yourself into feeling like you need to be using notebooks all day, every day. Once you get the hang of it, then add more units/subjects. I went from just science that first year to using INs in 5 subjects the following year, and I wasn't overwhelmed in the least.

Do you have interactive notebook products in your TpT store?
Yes I do! :) You can find them here! I have a year's worth of phonics INs and a few math units. Currently, my science and social studies units are not for sale, as most of them were created with my teaching teammates during school hours. I have received a few requests for science/social studies units, and I so have them on my "to do" list. A few of you also showed interest in my phases of the moon wheel from a previous post... click HERE to grab it for free :)
Please know that I personally don't use every single component that's in each unit in my classroom. I want my students to write as much as possible, in order for them to have ownership of their notes/notebooks. However, as a TpT seller, I want my units to be "the complete, whole package," so people who've bought my units aren't guessing what my intentions were when I was creating each unit. My interactive notebook units are set up with the Learning Side and the Thinking Side that I've referred through during the entire series. You will NOT find a bazillion little foldables and lift-the-flap tabs in my units.

You've probably seen many other sellers with IN products in their stores. My suggestion is to decide what your learning objectives for your lessons/units are, and then see if those products are a good fit for you. I've noticed that many IN products for sale don't include the Input/Learning Side, so you might have to add that part yourself. Again, remember that the ultimate goal is for our students to learn HOW to take notes and how to interact the new information at a high level to make it their own.

READ: Not just cutesy cut-and-paste projects.

Thank you for coming along on this journey with me! I hope that my interactive notebooks series has inspired you to give them a try in your classroom. Interactive notebooks are a powerful tool in increasing student engagement and accountability in your classroom. As you're working to develop your own lessons and units, if you have a questions, please get in touch with me! I'm happy to help you along the way as you discover the potential of these amazing tools!
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Friday, April 17, 2015

Interactive Notebooks: Why I Don't Grade My Notebooks

Hi everyone! In today's interactive notebook post, we're going to talk about grading the notebooks. Or for me, the lack thereof...
In the traditional sense, I don't grade my notebooks. I don't think it's right to assign students an academic grade for formatting the notebook, cutting on the lines, or coloring/writing neatly. In my district, we score to the standards. If the goal of my lesson is for students to identify characteristics of mammals, then that's what I'm looking for when I'm assessing my students' notebooks.

We are BIG on formative assessments in my district. As my students are working, I'm walking around my classroom and checking out the thinking side of the notebooks. I keep a checklist of the standards we're working on, and I score my students on a 3, 2, 1 scale; the same scale they use to self-assess themselves before and after the lesson. Actually, I don't record the 3s; just the 2s and the 1s, so I know who needs extra practice or reteaching. If the box is blank on my checklist, I know that they've earned a 3.

At the end of a unit, I have multiple formative grades, both from the notebook and from other sources. We take a summative assessment, usually in the form of a test. After the tests are graded, I look at the scores. Anything 80% and above is a 3. If a student's score is below 80%, then I look at the formative scores throughout the grading period and use a trend grading approach. If I notice that the student has mostly 3s, then I would give the student the benefit of the doubt and give a 3 as the final grade for the standard. We all have bad days every now and then, right? If I'm seeing lots of 2s and 1s, along with a low score on the summative assessment, then I give 2 or a 1 for that standard. Students who get 2s and 1s as final score rarely come as a surprise to me due to my formative assessments.

So if I'm not grading my students on neatness, how can I ensure my students put forth their best effort when working in their notebooks? It's simple. My kids need their notebooks. I let my students take their notebooks home a few days before the test to study. If they don't write neatly or have all of the information in their notebooks, then they can't prepare for the test. I do send a note home to families outlining what will be on the test (don't forget, we are second graders after all!), so they have some guidance from me, but the rest is on my students.

I also let my kids use their notebooks when they take tests.


Yes, it's true. My kids can use their notebooks on the test. So there's even more motivation to make sure their notebooks are in tip-top shape.

Here are a few photos of my kids using their notebooks on the test:
Do you see what I see? Yep, they're not even using the notebooks! Why not??? Because they don't need them! Through the learning and application activities, my students have a strong grasp of the skills and standards we've learned. I have seen a few kids paging through their notebooks to confirm their answers, but for the most part, the notebooks don't even get opened.

"Isn't that cheating?" you ask.

I don't think so. My kids worked hard to learn and apply the new information. Why not get rid of that added stress and pressure of taking a test? After all, they are second graders :) And honestly, since I've been formatively assessing my students every step of the way, I already know who's mastered the standards and who hasn't before I even pass out the test.

So what do you think? Let me know in the comments section!
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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Interactive Notebooks: Teaching with INs

Our amazing lessons are planned. Our notebooks are set up and ready to go. Now it's time to TEACH! 
I have a SMARTBoard in my room, and I create a lesson for each interactive notebook lesson I teach. These SMARTBoard lessons not only guide me during my teaching, but they show the students what their notebooks should look like.

I am required to use a lesson plan format called GANAG. Having used this format for 5+ years, I will admit that it has made me a more focused, goal-driven teacher (as opposed to a-bunch-of-activities-strung-together teacher), and even though I'm required to use it, I do actually enjoy it.


Here's what a typical lesson would look like in my class. This is a math lesson on triangles from my Geometry IN unit. I took screen shots of my actual SMARTBoard lesson for you to see what my kids see.

First we read through the goal/objective for the lesson on our table of contents. We look for key words. Sometimes we underline them or highlight them. We talk about if we know what the key words mean. Then my kids give themselves a "Before Learning Score." They rate their knowledge of the goal. I use a 3-point scale:
   1 = I know nothing about the goal
   2 = I know a few things about the goal
   3 = I know many things about the goal.
I know many people use a 4-point scale, with 4=I know many things about the goal AND I could teach it to someone. I use the 3-point scale to maintain consistency with my grading system.
Then they flip to the next open page in their notebook and write the heading for the lesson in the top margin of the Learning/Information page. This is usually the topic of the lesson or maybe a few of the key words from the goal.

My next step is a quick 1-3 minute activity to jump start their brains. I talked about this a bit in the application activities post. It may or may not include writing in the notebook, but if it does, we do this writing/drawing on the Thinking Side of the notebook.
After that, we dig into the new information. I gave tons of examples on the learning activities post of ways I present the new information. We work on the Learning/Information side of the notebook during this step. A lot of this is guided by me. As a second grade teacher, my ultimate goal is to teach my students how to take notes to prepare them for the upper grades. We discuss what we want to write in our notebooks (with a lot of guiding from me to make sure we get the important info), I write it on the SMARTBoard, and they all copy it down. I would say that 90% of the time, all of my students' notebooks all look the same on the Learning/Information side. Keep in mind, though, that since I'm a primary teacher, my kids don't have experience taking their own notes. So we do it together :) If you teach the intermediate/upper grades, you would adjust your involvement according to your students' ability.
The fourth step is when the true "interaction" of Interactive Notebooks happen. It's when the students take what was learned and apply it in a way that makes sense to them and makes the information stick. This post was all about strategies and activities we use to apply the new information.
For this activity, students were also supposed to draw their own example of each kind of triangle, but those directions are not written on the slides.
I mentioned in a previous post that I will oftentimes give new information in small doses and then we complete the application activity. Then more new info, then more application. Rinse and repeat as often as necessary :) That way I don't find myself lecturing for 20-30 minutes and my kiddos falling asleep on me!

The last part of my lesson is when we go back to review the goal. Think of it like wrapping up a present and putting a bow on it. We go back to the table of contents, read the goal, write the page number that has the information on it, and students give themselves an After Learning Score. While they are doing this, I am circulating the room and checking to see who thinks they still need more practice with the goal. My students self-score every day, several times a day. At this point in the school year, I don't really have to worry about kids who are generous with their self-score; they tend to be pretty honest if they don't understand. We also have lots of discussions about how if they tell me they understand a concept, but they really don't, then I can't help them because I don't know they need help. Other ways I check in with my kiddos are exit slips, pair/share with your neighbor: 2 things you learned, one question you still have, etc.
Is it a lot of work to create these SMARTBoard lessons? You bet! Thankfully I have an awesome team, and we all work together to divide and conquer the work. And the nice thing is that we have these lessons for the next year too, so it makes our job a lot easier.

In my next post, I'm going to talk about why I don't grade my interactive notebooks. I know that it's a hot topic, but it's something I believe in very strongly. So stay tuned!
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Monday, April 6, 2015

Interactive Notebooks: Setting Up the Notebook

Now that we have AMAZING lessons all planned out, it's time to start teaching. First we need to set up our notebooks.

Materials Needed: notebooks, red and green card stock or construction paper, sticky notes, clear packaging tape.

My kids bring in 3-one subject spiral notebooks and 1-three subject notebooks at Open House before school starts. We use the one subject notebooks for math, science, and social studies. The three subject notebook is our literacy notebook. One subject for reading, phonics, and writing. I choose to use spiral notebooks rather than composition notebooks because they're bigger and cheaper.

I get to work right away labeling the Thinking Side and the Learning Side of the notebook. I use card stock or construction paper to make tabs that stick up out of the notebook. That way, no matter what page my students are working on, they can see the Thinking/Information tabs at the top of the page. I use red paper to label the thinking side and green paper to label the learning side. I chose these colors for a reason: Green means Go… Go ahead and write down the new information. Red means Stop…. Stop and think about what you just learned. This year I typed them onto the paper, but last year I hand-wrote them all. Yes, you can imagine how long that took me… Then I "laminated" the tabs with clear packaging tape. I covered the front and back of the tabs with the tape so that they are sturdy.
I choose to put my Learning/Information Side on the right and the Thinking Side on the left. Yes, I know that seems a little backwards, since we typically write on the information side first; however, I always tell my students we need to stop and think about what we've learned, and I like the physical "going back" to the left side to write down our thoughts. 

On the back cover I also put an envelope to store small pieces. This year, I had a parent make me some out of construction paper and staple them to the back cover. You could also buy real envelopes if you wanted to. I don't put envelopes on my three subject notebooks because those have folders inside the notebooks, so we just use that to store our odds and ends.
I've also seen people attach a piece of yard or ribbon to the back cover for students to use as a bookmark to keep track of what page they're on. I tried that two years ago, but I found it to be more of a hassle than something helpful.

Before I start each unit, I take a day to set up the notebook. It's slow and painful at first, but once they've done it a few times, it takes 10-15 minutes to set up our notebook. We use sticky notes to label each unit. My students write the name of the unit on the edge of the sticky note, opposite the side that's sticky. Then they put the sticky note so it hangs off the side a little bit, like a tab. A parent helper covers the entire sticky note with clear packaging tape. I think I need to buy stock in clear packaging tape...
At the front of my science, social studies, and math notebooks (not the literacy notebook), we glue in a notebook Table of Contents. As we start a new unit, we write the color of the unit sticky note on the Table of Contents:
We are working hard to stagger our sticky notes on the side :)
Each unit gets a table of contents, which includes the lesson goals, and spots to write the page number and rate their before and after learning understanding of each lesson goal. You can also see that this is the page the unit sticky note goes on. We put it underneath the unit table of contents, so that when we glue the TOC down, the sticky note gets glued down too. Just be careful when you're covering the sticky note with the tape to NOT cover the boxes where the kids are supposed to write :)
This Little Love is awfully tough on herself when she gave her After Learning ratings!
The next step in notebook set up is numbering the pages. Each lesson needs two pages, so I just count the lessons and double it. Students write the page numbers in the upper corner of each page. Students just use the red margin lines to guide where they write their numbers.
I also have cover sheets that students can decorate. And you guessed it… when they're done, my parent helpers cover them with clear packaging tape. I love my parent helpers!!! Not sure if they love me...
Click here if you'd like a copy of my interactive notebook covers!

So you might be thinking… if you don't use a book mark, then how do your students know what page they're on? I've seen people cut the bottom corners of their used notebook pages, but I haven't tried that. It seems like a good idea in theory, but if we don't have our scissors out, then it seems like an extra step. I also don't want 21 little paper triangles all over my floor. Honestly, my kids just know what page they're on. Even the slow pokes. We start every lesson on the table of contents page, and with the sticky notes, they can get there very quickly. My literacy notebook doesn't have a table of contents because it's more of a mishmash of skills and strategies, rather than whole units. So when we're working in our literacy notebook, I'll just say "Open up to the next clean page of the _______ section (reading, phonics, writing) in your Big Literacy Notebook." Then I circulate the classroom and help those that need it to get to the right page.

I think that's it? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments section below if you have any questions!

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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Interactive Notebooks: Application Activities

In today's Interactive Notebook post, we're going to focus on how students will apply what they've learned to help the information stick.
Please see the previous post to learn about how we've taught students the information they need for the lesson. 

The left side of my notebook is the Thinking Side. I know it seems a little backwards that I organize my notebooks this way-- with the information on the right and the application on the left, but I love it! I like the physical-ness of stopping and going back to reflect on the previous page.
I use the Thinking Side of the notebook for two purposes: to activate prior knowledge before my teaching, and to apply/interact with the new information. 

Activating Prior Knowledge
Before we dive into the new information, I always "jump start" my lesson with a quick, 1-3 minute activity to fire up my students' brains. It can be as simple as watching a short video clip, talking with their neighbor about what we learned the day before or what they already know about the learning goal, or using our interactive notebooks to write or draw pictures.

Here are some ways I've used the Thinking Side of the IN to activate my students' prior knowledge.
  • math lesson about measurement: make a list of some units we use to measure.
  • social studies lesson about geography: draw a map of your bedroom (make sure you set a timer or else they're drawing for 5, 10, 15 minutes! I usually give 2-3 minutes to draw a quick sketch).
  • writing lesson about adjectives: draw a quick sketch of your favorite animal. Again, set a timer for 1 minute! When the timer goes off, write 3 words that describe your picture.
  • science lesson about the moon: write three words that describe the moon (this is my ultimate favorite! Students are so careful and thoughtful about choosing the best 3 words!)
Here are a few examples from my students' notebooks:
Please note that I don't always use my notebooks to access prior knowledge, but it is an option to vary my lessons.

Application of New Information
OK friends. This is IT! This is where the interactive magic happens!! Remember when I shared this?
How are you going to take the new information you presented and give it to your students to take ownership of their learning? Jane Pollock said something during one of her trainings that has always "stuck" with me (no pun intended): 
How are the kids going to cement their learning? 

It depends on what kind of information you've presented. Is the new information procedural (a step by step process) or declarative (facts)? 

Procedural Information
If the new information is procedural, the best way to apply the new information is practice, practice, practice! An example would be teaching 2-digit addition in math. As boring as it is, students would benefit the most by solving many 2-digit addition problems. But instead of giving your students worksheet after worksheet of problems, maybe they're solving them on their whiteboards, solving task cards, or playing a math game that focuses on the skill being taught.

Declarative Information
There are so, so, SO many things you can do if your new information is declarative-- it requires your students to just "know" it. You want your application activities to require deep thinking. Here are some thinking skills you could use and examples of how I've used them:
  • Compare/Contrast: Tell similarities and differences between maps and globes. Venn Diagrams work; I typically make my Venn Diagrams with rounded squares so the kids can easily write in them.
  • Classify: Sort animal names into animal categories (mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, insects, etc.)
  • Analyze Different Points of View/Perspectives: If you're learning about westward expansion, how did the explorers feel about taking over Native American land? How did the Native Americans feel when the explorers took over? Write about it in your notebook!
  • Create an Argument: When learning about Native American regions, which region do you think would be the best one to live in and why?
  • Make a Decision/Choice: We were learning about who studies space, and students wrote a few sentences telling if they'd rather be an astronaut or an astronomer and why.
  • Conduct an Experiment: When learning about electricity, we tested different materials to see if they were conductors or insulators. In our notebook, we made a T-Chart to sort our materials into the two categories.
  • Invent Something: After learning about magnets, students invented something that used magnets that would make their lives easier. I gave them 3 minutes to draw a quick sketch and 3-5 minutes to write about it.
  • Create: We were learning about pentagons, hexagons, and other many-sided shapes. Students created examples of each type of polygon on geoboards (actually we used the geoboard iPad app) and drew pictures of their creations in their notebooks.
We do a lot of writing and drawing on the thinking side of our notebooks, especially with vocabulary words. Here are several examples from my students' notebooks. Sorry for the photo overload! I had a hard time narrowing it down :)

A great way to help new information stick is to give it to kids in small doses. Example: We were learning about 3 confusing vocabulary words in our solar system unit: rotate, revolve, and orbit. Instead of throwing all three definitions at them at the same time, we did one word at a time. 
New Info: define "rotate"
Application: draw a picture of what it means
New Info: define "revolve"
Application: draw a picture of what it means
New Info: define "orbit"
Application: draw a picture of what it means

Now that we've learned about setting goals/objectives for our lessons, ways to present new information, and how to apply that information, we're ready to get started TEACHING! In my next post, I'll share how I set up my notebooks for learning. 

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Monday, March 16, 2015

St. Patrick's Day Math FREEBIE

I come up with my best ideas at 10:00PM, and this one is no exception :)

We've been working on measurement for the last week, and my kiddos had a hard time with measuring to the nearest half-inch and half-centimeter. They were really struggling with the concept of whole units plus the half of a unit. So, to go along with St. Patrick's Day, I whipped up this little activity. 

I cut lengths of yarn of each color of the rainbow. I also included pink, per my girls' requests. Then to prevent the ends from fraying, I put some clear packaging tape on each end, so they kind of looked like shoelaces.
I should really buy stock in clear packaging tape!
We reviewed and practiced measuring to the nearest half-inch and half-centimeter with snap cubes. Then, with a partner, they measured each piece of yarn.

I cute-ed this worksheet up for you and added some comparison questions at the bottom. The file includes measuring to the nearest whole inch/centimeter as well as half-inch/centimeter.

Click HERE to get a copy!

ENJOY!! :)

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