Saturday, November 12, 2016

Interactive Notebooks: Year 3 and Lessons Learned

This is my third year using interactive-ish notebooks and I still love them.  The way I use them has not evolved a great deal from my first blog post, but the way I ask my students to use them has.

I realized that a) I really don't believe in any homework other than comprehensible reading, and b) I better give them the resources to do that reading if I want them to do it.

So my notebooks continue to be the place where everything- target structures, translation activities, song lyrics, stories, readings, and assessments gets glued in.  I do let my kids take a tiny handful of notes- usually just when introducing target structures, and at the end of class in a vocabulary organizer of their choice.  But there are a lot more readings.

The biggest changes that I have made are:
1) I ask students to write down the day of the week and the date at least once a day when we put something in their notebook.  I HATE doing "calendar" type of activities in middle school, so this takes care of that.

2) I have increased the number of comprehensible readings I give them.  This includes my attempt to create a reading (embedded or traditional) for every movietalk we do.  They are really time consuming to write but I am getting faster and the payoff is...more comprehensible readings! I also almost always include a comprehensible reading (short and sweet) with every song activity, and if we are doing discussion questions that I know ahead of time, I often have them glued in as well- because re-reading questions is still input, even if they answer them as output.

3) I moved the index to the first three pages, and included a bunch of class procedural stuff in the front of the notebook.  Everything from "what do I do if I am absent" to my office hours to my grading policy to reading, writing, and general level of proficiency rubrics are now glued into the front few pages.  (Not that anyone reads it, but at least I can respond with "Why don't you look that up?" in a friendly tone of voice rather than my "I have told you that 10 million times already!" screetch that any teacher is familiar with.)

Grading the notebooks continues to be super fast and easy.  Students can make up work and notes if they need to, but I do not allow them to make up any of the points on the "Visual appearance and organization" part, as I explain to them that the work is what is important for them to do and for me to spend time looking at; the other stuff is important but not Spanish related.  For my 8th graders, I use a rubric that I created in my on-line grade book (Canvas, if anyone cares)  and I just click click click through to be finished in minutes!


  1. I'm so glad I came across this post!! I have been using interactive-ish notebooks for the past 3 years and I am always looking for ways to improve. How do you do the song lyrics? I typically shrink a page to 85% to make it fit but then I worry about the text being too small.
    I also use Canvas and I've never thought about creating a rubric there! We have ours glued into the front cover. In our district Canvas and our grade book are 2 separate entities.
    My middle schoolers loved their notebook and used it as a resource in throughout the year and for Spanish 2. My high schoolers rarely open it up and will make all sorts of terrible guesses when I ask questions that their notebook would answer. I need to get them to buy into it as a resource and take more ownership of it.

    1. Hi, I am glad to help! I don't worry about text being to small...they have young eyes! (Unless there is an IEP or similar accommodation, then we just use foldies or flippies!) For song lyrics, I do exactly the same thing- type them (create an activity) and print them half size (2-up on most print programs). I use Martina Bex's SOMOS curriculum and the song activities are fantastic!

  2. Thank you so much! I've been using an interactive-ish notebook but with 3 sections: para empezar, vocabulario y actividades. It's a bit cumbersome for the students and they still ask, "Where does this go?" I think I'm going to switch to no sections, how you do it. A couple questions.

    You mention an index...can you tell me more about this? Do you leave a bunch of pages open at the front and they fill it in as they add stuff throughout the year?

    I haven't figured out how to do vocab in such a way they can find it easily. You mention a vocab organizer. What is this? How do you handle vocab?