It’s been two months since I’ve been using interactive notebooks (INBs). They’re not just for elementary school students; they work amazingly well in secondary settings too! I’ve learned a few things, but I’m enjoying the ride!
- Page numbers: Most of the students glue their foldables and write notes on exactly the same pages as my INB. This makes it very convenient; if I have to refer to an idea, I can simply refer to the page number. Also, if a student has missed classes, it’s easy to figure out what needs to be done with a quick flip through their notebook. Try as I might, there are still a few that have messed up their page order; there’s not much else I can do but to tell them to paste it elsewhere in their book. It drives me crazy, but I just have to accept it!
- Connecting ideas: As my lessons are scaffolded, kids can easily see how each lesson connects to one another. When I used looseleaf pages, they never looked at their old notes as reference …. grrrr!!! Since keeping everything in order, I’ve noticed that they will actual refer back to yesterday’s lesson to see how it is connected with today’s work. When I taught a lesson on calculating charges of ions, I saw my Grade 10s flipping back to check the precious lesson on drawing ions. Yay! Organized notes help build independent behaviours, as well as developing metacognition.
- Definitions: I used to find that after a lesson, I’d have to repeat basic definitions. Obviously, your want to scream, “But I just explained what a neutron is!” Since using INBs, I’ve noticed that I receive fewer silly questions.
- Don’t give them all the answers: When I write my notes, I try to leave the last example incomplete. The students who aren’t paying attention will copy mindlessly line by line. At a quick glance, I can quickly see who is and who isn’t paying attention! I walk around to see who has finished the last example (which is usually simple to complete if they extrapolate from the initial examples). It also gives me a way of quickly assessing how well they understand as a class; I know whether I did a good job or whether I have to approach the concept a bit different next time. Next year, I will use the left page for notes and the right page will be completed by students to demonstrate their understanding. For now, going to stick with our current system.
- Be prepared with your teaching notes: A few times, I tried to teach my lesson without having my notes pre-written. Oops,that was a big mistake. If I try to plan it as I go along, any hesitation or second-guessing gets them confused. I end up making a terribly disorganized page in – not only my teacher INB – but everyone’s INB! If I’m properly prepped, I can flash them my page and they can see – in a quick glance – how I’ve laid out my notes. The ideas are clear in my mind as I am teaching and explaining too.
- INBs are for notes, not for assessment: I make it clear that I never mark anything in their INBs. Looseleaf handouts come to me! You don’t get marks for copying!