10 Interactive Notebook Tips for Your Social Studies Class
  • Michelle McDonald

10 Interactive Notebook Tips for Your Social Studies Class

Do you want to try interactive notebooks in your social studies classroom but are worried about the cutting and gluing getting out hand or wasting precious learning time? I want to share with you a 10 tips that will hopefully ease some of the stress and provide a smooth transition to INB's.

1. Create a Teacher Copy

I always create an example copy to show my students. I want my students to see exactly what is expected when they put together their interactive notebook. A messy, half-cut page foldable with no notes on it, is just not worth their time or yours. If you want students to really make the notebook their own, then its best to have a teacher copy that models how you personalized your notebook.

2. Explicitly Model

When introducing INB's I model how to fold and glue the foldables. It seems silly to talk to big kids about proper gluing techniques, but trust me, just model it. It will save you so much headache later, and you'll prevent unnecessary waste. If using stick glue (my preference), I model how to "frame" the foldable with glue. Or if using liquid glue, I model how "a dab of glue will do" and explicitly model the small dots of glue.

3. Print on Different Colored Paper

I like to give my students paper choices. I print the interactive notebook foldables on white paper, but also on several different colored paper choices too. I usually print on Astrobright paper as well as some light colored paper that I find at the dollar store. Let's face it, some students will love adding color and will want to add their own "extras" to their notebook. But other students will be happy to choose a colored paper, and cut and glue and be done. That's fine. The content is what really matters, but having a couple choices allows students to make this notebook more of their own.

4. Time Your Cutting & Gluing

If you feel like the cutting an gluing process is taking too long, then time your cutting and gluing process. So, if it takes me 45 seconds to cut out a foldable, then I triple that time for an estimate of how long it will take my students to cut it out. This also helps me gauge the time I have for my lesson as well as time given for INB prep because every minute of class time counts. Before students begin cutting, I tell my students how long it took me to cut out and glue each foldable. I usually give them a total rough estimate of time and set a countdown timer, if needed. If you have competitive kiddos, they will want to beat your cutting time. You also know the needs of each of your students, so if you think a timer will cause unnecessary stress, then just give a few verbal time reminders.

5. Use Mini Garbage Cans

This was a game changer for me! Add a mini garbage can to tables placed around the classroom. So much time is wasted when students are constantly getting up and walking over to the recycle bin. Or my students would throw away their scraps rather than recycle, and this just caused more work for me later. By adding a mini garbage can to the table, students can quickly clean up, and I noticed that the floor stayed so much cleaner. I just picked up a bunch of small dollar store bins and they have worked great!

6. Use Caddies with Supplies

Time is wasted when students come to class unprepared, or lose their supplies in their desk or locker. Maybe students don't have access to glue or scissors. I have found that providing caddies on each table group with supplies just saves time when a class period is only so long. I personally have my students use stick glue because its not as messy. Liquid glue causes pages to stick together and then it's just a hot mess. Again, this goes back to modeling proper gluing techniques. Supplies won't be wasted if students are gluing properly.

7. Store Notebooks in Class

I prefer to store notebooks in my classroom because sometimes the foldables have movable pieces that could easily get lost. I also have students write their names on the foldables if they don't finish and can't get something glued in on time. Students can come in any time during lunch or before or after school if they want to study or need to finish.

8. Switch it up

I recommend using a combination of interactive notebooks, cornell notes, and other note taking formats. Your students will get tired if they do the same thing every single day. Sometimes my students read a short one page passage and glue that into their notebook, or they complete a worksheet and glue that into their notebook for reference. You don't have to have an intricate foldable for every single lesson.

9. Add Tabs

I like to have my students add a tab to divide each section into units. You could use a post-it, and reinforce with some glue, but I find that cardstock tabs work better. Just have your students glue to the edge of the first page of each unit, and label. This will also save you tons of time when you flip through their notebooks to grade.

10. Grade Once a Quarter or End of Unit

I don't check notebooks every week--I just don't have time for that. Instead, I check notebooks at the end of the unit or end of quarter. I am really looking for completeness- that the notes are thorough and accurate. That's really what matters. The added embellishments are great, but it's the content that really matters.

I hope these tips will lead to success with interactive notebooks within your classroom!

You can check out some of my interactive notebooks in these social studies resources:

Ancient Civilizations Unit

Ancient Egypt Bundle

Seven Continents Globe

Roaring Twenties Webquest

Latitude & Longitude Demo

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