Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Cure for Interactive Notebook Chaos

Ok, so 'chaos' might be a strong word, but it took me an entire year to realize the classroom could be calm and orderly when working on Interactive Reading Notebooks (IRNs). Hello! Susie here, from Anchored in Reading, ready to talk about strategies to smoothly implement Interactive Notebooks in the classroom. 

Picture it: you have a fantastic lesson planned on prefixes. You are excited and your students are excited because they get to work in their interactive notebooks. The class starts with a short task card bell ringer which leads to an interesting discussion. Next thing you know, you're 20 minutes into class and have yet to start the IRN lesson. "Quick, I need this group and this group to grab three markers!" "Hailey, can you give everyone a pair of scissors, please?!" "Hurry, we have less than half an hour to get this done." "Mrs. Kline, you forgot to call our group to get markers." "Do we need tape for this?" "I hope we don't need highlighters because I didn't grab one." 

Yes, I'm embarrassed to admit, these are factual statements that were uttered in my classroom the past couple of years. Then, after we were finally settled with all of our supplies, we begin the lesson just in time to hear the bell ring. Markers are scattered about, scissors lie on several desks, and tape dispensers could be found all over the place across various areas of the classroom. The next class coming in has to tip-toe very carefully to their seats. Oh boy! On top of that madness, wouldn't you know it, since I teach two different grades, the next class didn't need any of these supplies littering the classroom! "Emma, Jake, someone, can you please collect all of the IRN supplies on the floor, and desks, and ledges, and . . . " Yes, another statement uttered many, many, many times last year. I knew there had to be a better way.

I tried various methods: this row first, this bucket belongs to this group, the class helper will pass out all supplies, and so on. None were really successful. Then, something magical happened. I thought, why not pencil pouches to hold all materials. Ah ha! That's it! Oh, wait, what about pencil pouches located in one specific area of the classroom where students will always know where to find them! Keep going, keep going . . . ok, how about pencil pouches in one area so students will always know where to find them AND some sort of visual to let students know if they will need IRN supplies that day. Oh. My. Goodness. Did I just really come up with a method that works?! Why yes, yes I did. My students now check the IRN board upon entering the room. If they see the red side of the sign, they know to just have a seat and start reading quietly. If the visual is green, they proceed to the pouch holder, grab a pouch, then head to their seats to read quietly.

FINALLY! This Interactive Organization just might work!

At the end of class, students then return pouches by rows (how I currently have my seats set-up now.) The last student in each row collects all pouches and puts them back in the pouch holder. 

The only two cons to this method involve clean-up and consistent use of the visuals. After the IRN lesson, right before the bell rings, things can still get a bit hectic. Also, you have to be vigilant with turning the signs to the correct side every day. These two cons are greatly outweighed by the instructional time I have now gained from the start of class. These interactive notebook visuals can be found in my store, Anchored In Reading.

Here are the pouches I use. I found these super cheap at Five Below. I found the containers at the At Home store. If students need supplies for their IRNs, they grab a pouch from this holder on the counter right below the IRN supply board. 

Thanks for reading! Here's to less time wasted!

One more tip . . . I use cheese ball containers to collect scraps during IRN lessons! Put some fancy duct tape over the label and you have yourself a cheap and efficient scrap collector! I only have two and my students know to pass them around as we are working on lessons to minimize the mess. 

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  1. Wow, I love the idea of using those pouches for supplies! This is so much easier than me having to pass out/collect glue and scissors every day! I believe there's a Five Below right by my house... :) Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Absolutely! I hear ya. I was exhausted some days just from distributing and collecting markers and scissors to all of my classes!