Notebook Nitty Gritty

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Interactive notebooks in our English classrooms were born--like so many of our hair-brained ideas--out of a conversation that Suzanne and I had during our conference period. I had been in a science room as part of some testing schedule mayhem and was seething with envy over the beautiful interactive notebook that I rifled through while living in that teacher's room ALL DAY. Suzanne had been envious for a while too, and she helped me to really just take that first step and make it happen. Again, like so many new things she and I try, we knew it would be a singing success or a fabulous flop. Let me tell you, folks...we are now singing the praises of our interactive notebooks.

Read it all, or simply read for the sections that interest you. Here's how I use interactive notebooks:

MY BIGGEST TIP--One per class period.
  • Keep a separate notebook for each class period that you teach. You can take new notes right along with the kids. You can create a set of notes that applies just to those kids. You can keep your own sanity, for crying out loud!
SECTIONS--Tabs made with the almighty post-it note. 

  • Toolbox--This is really just a fancy place to call our "notes." Below, you'll see an example of some of my favorite things my students and I housed here:
    • "Where Have You Been?"--Visual roadmap of the non-linear plot structure from The Odyssey.
    • "Romeo, O Romeo! You're such an oxymoron"--Color-coded list of oxymorons used in Juliet's monologue after she learns of Tybalt's murder. [Good stuff!]
    • "Jolliffe's Rhetorical Framework"--Framework for teaching argument; typically used with Pre-AP or AP students. 
    • "Grammar Foldable"--4 part foldable containing rules and examples for different parts of sentences. [LO-OVE!]
    • These are a few of my favorite things...there is so much more you could do!
    • Shakespeare Notes in the Toolbox
  • Reading Response--I personally believe that annotation is a major skill that students MUST master if they are going to be close and careful readers. I am also a HUGE fan of teaching with excerpts in order to target a skill. To facilitate this, my students and I filled our Reading Response pages with multitudes of excerpts from pieces like The Old Man and the Sea, Into the Wild,  Romeo and Juliet, I Have a Dream, The House on Mango Street, and much, much more. 
    • Each annotation lesson was explicit and specific. We might have focused on diction, a rhetorical device, or perhaps we were simply working to understand what a particular literary device looks like and functions like within a quality piece of literature. Undoubtedly, that literary device was explicitly pre-taught via the visual dictionary prior to close reading the excerpt.
    • Next year, I will title this same section, "Close Reading." After using it for a year, I've learned that my personal style is to use it as less of a response journal and more of a system for directly teaching annotation and close reading. 
  • My Writing--This was by far the most used section in my students' notebooks. In fact, some kids ran out of pages and had to begin "borrowing" from other sections in their notebooks.
    • This is a good place to glue down or tape in as many STAAR prompts as possible. 
    • I used this section to teach one of my favorite Barry Lane-inspired strategies for the literary essay: Moment Mapping.
    • We also used post-its to discuss expository essay structures, move them around, and determine the best possible structure.
    The "P" page of my Visual Dictionary. This, of course, is after a year's worth of work.
  • Visual Dictionary--Suzanne and I have quite the affinity for these bad boys. Visit her post titled "Words You Can See." I like taking 7 sheets of paper, stapling them together, and then storing it in a manila envelope glued to the back of the notebook. If you want to know a sure-fire way to pre-teach academic vocabulary in a meaningful way, this is it!
  • Since I used these notebooks with Pre-AP I, I passed one copy on to the Pre-AP II teacher. Bam. Instant accountability. I can just predict the conversations that might happen next year in her room:
    • "Yes you DID learn all about anaphora. is an entry in your visual dictionary. Plus, there is an annotated excerpt from Dr. King's speech. On top of that, you tried your own hand at using anaphora in an expository essay. See there? Be quiet. Go produce something genius..."
  • Yes these notebooks were born and tested with my Pre-AP students. However, at the second semester, Suzanne and I began co-teaching an acceleration class called Hybrid English. These are retesting kids who are struggling readers and writers. Some have not passed a state assessment since 5th grade. The notebooks are just as powerful with acceleration students. 
  • PS--As the instructional specialist, it is frowned upon for me to continue teaching Pre-AP. Next year, I'll teach on-level 10th. And you can bet my kids will use a notebook.

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