So you’ve taken the leap and want to begin using Interactive Student Notebooks… but you’re trying to figure out how to get started. Let me start by saying I am SOOO excited for you! ISNs are a rich and rewarding resource for your students, and usually once you have your system worked out, they make life so easy for you!
I have 5 tips that will help guide you as you venture down this new and exciting path:
1. Be excited.
Implementing ISNs isn’t necessarily easy, and one thing that will definitely get you through the hard-work days will be enthusiasm. There are lots of reasons to begin using ISNs in your classroom, so remember some of them to keep you pumped. (For example, my students LOVED them. So many would say ISNs helped them learn better and several kept them for when they moved up into other math classes! Keeping these things in perspective always kept me pumped to revise the ISN for next year.)
Also, students can see right through it if your heart isn’t in it, and they will follow! I would brag about my latest idea, foldable, activity, and students could tell I took pride in this little notebook. I really believe this made them take pride in it, too!
2. Be prepared.
You need to have a game-plan. Essentially you are making your own small textbook, so don’t think you can just wait till the morning of to come up with material. I don’t want you to be too hard on yourself though, the student output portion of the ISN was usually far less planned in my ISNs. What will really need your attention is the ‘teacher input’.
Think about ways to make the content you have always taught easily accessible to students. With some practice, you’ll be able to whip something up in no time, but I suggest always planning at least a day ahead. (I always planned a unit at a time, so that everything was ready to go!) If you need some inspiration, check out my post about designing foldables on your own!
3. Be flexible.
On the same token, DON’T be so organized that you have no room for flexibility. Like I said, I planned one unit at a time, but no further. What if students struggle with a lesson and you need to add more remedial material? What if something comes up at your school that keeps you for working ahead as planned? Most importantly, what if you come up with something more awesome in the mean time?
You don’t want to have to wait a whole year to change your ISN!!! Have your curriculum ready, but planning each page of your ISN for the year will most likely do more harm than good.
4. Be organized.
This tip is more about the ISN itself. Come up with a system of organization that fits YOUR needs. Brainstorm this in advance and put some thought into it. Some essentials (in my opinion!) are a table of contents (with page numbers, units, and lesson titles), a vocabulary section, and headers on each lesson.
Some other ideas include front/back pockets to hold resources, reference pages with important information, and sections for tracking progress on standards. Don’t limit yourself! If you discover or create other ideas, please share in the comments – I’d love to hear them!
5. Be consistent.
Be consistent in the way you organize the ISN (lesson headers, lesson layout).
Be consistent in using the ISN to record essential information.
Be consistent in referencing the ISN during times of practice.
Be consistent in your grading practices.
Be consistent in using other custom features of the ISN.
Being consistent in all these ways upholds the integrity of the ISN. If you value it and show that to your students, they will value it as well. Inconsistency and sloppiness with regards to the ISN shows students that it is not that important. Is there room for change mid-year? Of course, but explain the changes to your students and be consistent moving forward.
I truly hope these tips gave you some things to think about as you seek to enhance learning for your students with interactive notebooks. I know that when I first implemented ISNs, online resources were my lifeline! If you have any questions about things that I mentioned, feel free to comment below or email me. Also, if any veteran ISN users have tips to share, I’d love to read hear from you, too.