Saturday, July 13, 2013

Interactive Notebook Storage

I'm taking the plunge into interactive notebooks next year and I'm really pumped.  Bring on those composition books, kiddos!

I have decided to ask my students to keep a binder and a notebook.  That might sound repetitive, but I want to save the notebook for the cream-of-the-crop work and the essential ideas.  I teach a full block all year (yes, 85ish minutes a day all year), so I knew one composition books wouldn't be sufficient if we did everything there and frankly, not everything is important.  This is my biggest gripe when I look back at an interactive notebook I did in high school for AP U.S.- my teacher didn't help me make clear the distinctions between the important players and events from the minor ones.  I want the notebook to help my kids differentiate between the big concepts and the ancillary skills. 

I am still wrestling with the idea, but I'm pretty settled on the following: I'll give each student a gallon-size bag to keep their notebook and related supplies in.  There will be a set of 4 bins per class in which they'll always store that bag (so 7 kids on average will share the bin).  The notebooks can be taken home as required, but I'll encourage students to leave them in the room if they won't use them that night so as to minimize loss and we won't take them home for the first few weeks until we've established how useful they can be!  Once they do take them home, they'll have a little card (below) to place in their bag whenever they take it home.  That will help me if I need to check anything in the notebooks after school and it will serve as a reminder to them the next day of where their notebooks are.  I always tell my kids to use their resources, so I can't justify making them keep their notebooks in the room forever.  I also know I have students each year who take home the bare minimum.  In that case, I'd rather the notebook live in my room than get smashed in a locker!  

To be placed in the bag each time the notebook leaves the classroom.

Labels for the bags. Each child will be asked to provide the materials listed (just one or two colored pencils or highlighters, not entire packs).

The gallon-sized bags are perfect for composition books and a few accessories. 

Four bins per period.  At the beginning of the year, they'll seem empty, but I wanted to make sure the bins would still work after our notebooks grew throughout the year. 

The bins are honestly one of the sturdiest plastic purchases I've made in a while.  If you have a Big Lots, get yourself there ASAP if you need any baskets.  The size I bought is the "mini" size and was $3.50 (minus my 20% discount = $2.80!).  The toy box size with wheels was only $10 if I remember correctly.  The plastic is thick and rigid, clearly of a quality that will stand up to a lot of use.  They have the three colors shown and a dark blue, but I practically cleaned out my store of this size, so be quick if you want them.  They're with the dorm stuff in the seasonal area.  I bought a plastic shelving unit from Walmart that will hold all the bins nicely.  The bins and shelf cost me $80.  That's pricey for me, but I think both are of good quality and will last me many years; even if I decide to move away from notebooking they'll be useful. Another way to look at it is that I spent less than $1 per student to help them be successful this year. 

What are your thoughts on keeping notebooks in the classroom or sending them home?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B


  1. The short answer is "it depends".

    Situation 1: block schedule with 90 minute periods, 5 days a week, yearlong course. We didn't assign much homework in this class, so I kept all the books in the classroom. It was a rare kid who took the book home.

    Situation B: block schedule with 55 minute periods, alternating days, yearlong course. I assign a lot of homework in this class, so the kids take the books home. I like them to use the IN while completing homework because we rarely consult the textbook.

    Now that I've written it out, I realize the notebook "Should I Stay or Should I Go" question comes down to homework. Some teachers use a separate homework folder to their advantage, but I found that too much hassle and defeated the purpose of the IN as a student-created textbook.

    You're doing great things prepping for IN next year, I'm so glad I found your blog (through druinok's Made4Math Monday). Do you tweet? I'd love to follow you and continue stealing your great ideas.

    --Megan, @mgolding

    1. Part of the reason I'm jumping into this IN phenomenon is that my textbooks don't align well to my courses. A problem set here or there, sure, but that's about it. Unfortunately, it's also really confusing for kids to navigate textbooks. This should be a solution for sure!

      I give what I think is a moderate amount of homework. In an average week, there are three or four assignments that might each take 20 minutes. I'm leaning towards just making it optional but with an emphasis on leaving it in my room if it's not needed at home.

      I've got a Twitter account but I can't say I tweet much at all. Please follow; perhaps I'll figure it all out soon! (I'm @iisanumber)

  2. I just found these bins and think they'll work great for my classroom, too! Since teachers are always looking for ways to save, how do you get your 20% discount?

    1. Hi Kaitlin,
      Thanks for writing. Big Lots has a "Buzz Club" rewards program. Unfortunately, they changed their program last fall and what used to be a straightforward program is now somewhat mysterious. In the old system, once you made 10 purchases of $20 or more, you got a 20% off total purchase coupon which I cashed in on the tubs posted above. Now, they're supposed to send you deals via e-mail but I've yet to get anything other than ads since they started the new program. I do have some good news. They still offer "Friends and Family" discounts of 20% off your total purchase. Those sales are usually every few months on Saturday evenings or Sundays and are advertized in store and online in advance. They just had one this past weekend, so if you want these bins before school starts, you'll probably have to fork over full price. Even so, after a full year of use they look brand new, so I would consider them a bargain even at $5 or $6 each. I wish I had better news about getting a deal!

    2. Thanks for your response! I did join their rewards program today as I've found they have some of the better school supply prices of our small-ish town. I'm so incredibly lucky to have only one prep this year, so decided this is the time to dive into INBs! One more you think 15 books would be too much to fit into a box with the tape and highlighters also in a bag? (You organization seems to be the best I've found/can think of.) I have about 28 in each class and 5 classes, so trying to figure out if I can cut down on the number of bins I need. It may just be worth the investment for more bins (10 INBs in each) for more organization. Thinking out loud here... Thanks!

    3. I fit 8 kids per bin. At the beginning of the year, the bins seemed empty but as the year progressed our notebooks got thicker and the bins were full. I just eyeballed my notebook as almost 2" thick and I only used around 1/2 of the pages. You might get away with using 3 bins per class, but I don't think 2 will cut it. I did glue things onto almost every page, so I suppose if you're planning to write directly on the pages more often than not, your notebooks won't get so thick. Also keep in mind that if you have 15 kids going to the same bin that it will take longer for them to get their notebooks in/out than if the students are spread out to more bins.

      Did you notice what color bins they have this year? I need to buy another class set because I'm starting notebooks with French. I'm hoping for red!

      I like Big Lots store brand (Bridgeport?) glue sticks. They're a good deal at $2 for 12 or 15 and I felt like the glue held up.

  3. I'll plan on 10 per bin and maybe reevaluate later then. Maybe I can get away with 9 per bin... I was thinking the same thing about passing out time, too.

    According to the website, they have the same three colors you got and black. My store (in OK) had black in the small size and pink and blue in the large size. I'm going to go back the days they get new shipments in hopes of new colors since I'll have to double up one color anyway!

    And great on the gluesticks...I stocked up today and was planning on more next time!

    1. Sweet! I can make black work! I have a slightly obsessive coloring coding scheme per class period...

      Since you're in OK, any chance you're attending Twitter Math Camp in Jenks next week?

    2. No! I didn't know it was going on! But my family will be in town anyway. Are you coming all the way from Maryland?

      Oklahoma State is hosting an EduCamp in Stillwater in September, but that's the next out-of-district conference I've got.

  4. Yes, I'll be traveling to attend. I'm looking forward to it because I've never been to OK. I missed out on last year's in Philly (only 2 hours away by car) because of family obligations. I can't wait to hear where they'll host it next year!