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Interactive Notebooks Assessment-based Individualized Instruction

Assessment-based Individualized Instruction INB

INB Assessment-based Individualized Instruction

Many teachers have found Interactive Notebooks (INBs) to be an excellent addition to their instructional repertoire to teach grade level Common Core Standards. Some teachers have gone “whole hog” with reading, vocabulary, history, science, and math INBs, while others have waded into the water with only one content area. Still others may or may not have dipped their toes into the INB pool and decided that a more traditional approach to content instruction works for them (without the mess and additional time of the INB) To each his or her own…

A number of years ago I decided to experiment with teaching interactive grammar notebooks to my seventh grade ELA students. Like many secondary ELA teachers, I, was skeptical about INBs simply being artsy-fartsy, “cute” projects to prop up teacher egos at Open House. Wrong!

As an author of quite a few grades 4 to high school grammar programs, I began to convert the program content to an INB format used by AVID: Cornell Notes. Cornell Notes is a natural fit in that is designed to be interactive: Students take notes and respond to the content. After the lesson students synthesize the learning.

My personal philosophy is to teach traditional grammar, usage, and mechanics in the reading and writing contexts, so I added on the grammar cartoons of my favorite illustrator, David Rickert with content related questions that required analysis and writing application. I added on simple sentence diagrams to help students practice the grammatical concepts in the context of sentence structure and created practice sentences. After all, practice makes perfect. I used the best foldables on the web (thanks Tangstar) and worked to create graphic organizers that would be less mess and less time-consuming. The foldables were designed to rehearse and synthesize the lesson components with some freedom of choice. I also created bi-weekly unit tests for all 56 lessons, which require students to define terms, identify concepts or skills, and apply their knowledge in original sentences. Done! A great grades 4-8 Common Core State Standards-aligned INB (if I do say so myself). But…

Something was missing: formative assessments for each lesson. How did I know and how would teachers know who would buy my Grades 4-8 Teaching Interactive Grammar Notebook if their students understood each lesson before they took the unit test? How would we know if we needed to go back and re-teach a certain aspect of the lesson? What if some students got it, and some did not? Rather than just move on to the next lesson, we had to know. After all, it’s really not about teaching… it’s about learning.

Like my traditional grammar programs, I added on two short mechanics and grammar formative assessments to each lesson. Now I knew if they got it or not, and who got it and who did not. Done! But…

Something was still missing: assessment-based individualized instruction. I’m always preaching, “Don’t assess if you don’t plan to teach to the assessment” to my ELA and reading intervention colleagues. Time to practice what I preach with my INB. Just like I have in my traditional grammar programs, I added on individualized instructional resources to my Grades 4-8 Teaching Interactive Grammar Notebook: worksheets (each with their own formative assessments), songs, posters, hand-outs, videos, you name it! Problem…

This INB was now a veritable tree-eating monster! With the additional hundreds of pages of resources to individualize instruction–many of which teachers would never use…

I figured it out. I created a section on the Cornell Notes for online links and resources.  Now INBs can help teachers individualize instruction so students can “catch up” while they “keep up” with grade level instruction. You’ll love it!

Grades 4-8 Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook Grades 4-8

Interested in checking out the author’s Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook? Click HERE.

Or check out the traditional style Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

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Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook

The Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook Grades 6, 7, 8 program will help your students master each of the Common Core grade-level grammar and mechanics Standards. This rigorous, fun, and easy-to-teach interactive notebook is neither a fact-filled collection of boring lecture notes, nor a time-wasting portfolio of art projects.

Check out the features of Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook Grades 6, 7, 8 programs here.

  • Grade-level 6, 7, and 8 lessons aligned to the Common Core (alignment documents included). This grade-level specific program is NOT a one volume grades 4-8 collection too rigorous for fourth graders but too juvenile for eighth graders.
  • Lessons designed in the interactive Cornell Notes format with plenty of online links to help students practice. Students are provided the full note-taking text and write only the examples from the teacher display. LESS time copying and MORE time learning.
  • Each of the 64 lessons focuses on one grammar and one mechanics concept or skill. Lessons take 40 minutes, twice per week.
  • Lessons 1−8 review the eight conventional spelling rules appropriate for the grade level program and the eight parts of speech.
  • In lessons 9−64, students practice both grammar and mechanics with sentence revisions. Check out the example at the end of the download. Students self-correct from answers on the display. Plenty of practice in this program.
  • In lessons 9−64, students complete brief grammar and mechanics sentence dictations to formatively assess whether they have achieved mastery.
  • Students read, laugh, and respond to 64 color grammar cartoons by master cartoonist, David Rickert. That’s teaching grammar in the reading context.
  • Students complete a brief writing application of the grammar skill or rule. No learning grammar in isolation.
  • Students use their grammar and mechanics notes to label, color, cut, and glue 3d graphic organizers from the creative Tangstar templates. These foldables are perfect for review or use as a resource on tests.
  • A color photo of the finished 3d graphic organizers for each lesson includes step-by-step directions to help students follow the model and work independently. No need to create a teacher INB; it’s done for you and for absent student make-up work.
  • Minimal preparation and correction. Just copy off two or three student pages and set out the materials. Students self-correct throughout every INB lesson and with the remedial worksheets to learn from their mistakes and save you time.
  • Biweekly unit tests with answers assess definition, identification, and application of the grammar and mechanics concepts and skills.
  • Over 100 targeted remedial worksheets and online resources to help your students “catch up while they keep up” with grade-level instruction. Students complete the worksheet practice, self-correct and edit from the answer booklets, take a brief formative assessment, and mini-conference with you to assess whether students have mastered the Standard.

Check out my blog article here on Ten Reasons to Use Interactive Notebooks. And please follow me for product updates.

Grammar Interactive Notebook

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook

Interactive notebooks are not for everyone. For a more systematic and comprehensive language curriculum, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Usage,

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

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10 Reasons to Use Interactive Notebooks

Interactive notebooks (INBs) have become increasingly popular in all subject areas: reading, science, math, history/social studies, language arts, art, and foreign language study. Homeschooling advocates have long favored learning portfolios and have been particularly engaged in the INB movement. Additionally, the exponential influence and use of Pinterest in education has propelled publication of many INBs on sites such as Teachers Pay Teachers. Whether you are an INB inquirer or practitioner, it’s it’s useful to analyze the pros and cons as to whether INBs should be used in your home or classroom. To provide fodder for a balanced discussion, I have written 10 Reasons Not to Use Interactive Notebooks.

My own experience with INBs? I used INBs in middle school ELA for years before developing and using a more traditional grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling and vocabulary program (See product promotion at end of article). I also taught with the Teachers’ Curriculum Institute (TCI) Interactive Student Notebooks in their History Alive! series. Moreover, I just completed a Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook series. Click HERE to check it out. If you do, I’m sure you will see why this classroom-tested INB is the best one available for your students.

Although teachers have valid reasons not to use INBs (1. Excessive class time 2. Too much prep 3. Too much correcting 4. Too messy 5. Not enough rigor and little critical thinking 6. Too teacher-centered and little focus on individual student needs 7. Not assessment-based instruction 8. Too supplemental and reductive (little focus on reading and writing) 9. Not real-world, career-based instruction  10. Some students dislike INBs), many teachers do see value in using interactive notebooks. To get past my own biases, I studied dozens of INBs and INB templates (most INBs use 3D graphic organizers such as pop-outs, flip pages, and foldables) in quite a few subject areas. I examined individual lessons found on Pinterest, teacher blogs, and Facebook. I also looked at partial and full-year published INB programs. In fact, I purchased the two best-selling INB programs: Erin Cobb’s Interactive Grammar Notebook for Common Core Grades 4-8 (over 30,000 sold with over 6,000 product reviews) and Nicole Shelby’s grades 2-5 Interactive Language Notebooks (14,531 product reviews at the time of this writing). Of course, it’s always good for writers to check out the best of the competition when developing their own alternative products 🙂 Both are great programs and certainly worth every penny.Product Review Quotes 1A

So, here’s the list of reasons to consider using INBs. But don’t take my word on it, check out the teacher comments as well.

10 Reasons to Use Interactive Notebooks

1. Interactive notebooks personalize learning. Teachers know that relevance matters. When students perceive content and skills as important to their “now and then” (immediate and future needs), they are more willing and capable of engaging in learning new content and skills. Education is a two-way process. Certainly students need input, but they also filter that input through prior knowledge and experiences and make personal meaning out of that input. INBs provide students with the connections they need between the outer world of ideas and their inner worlds of how they make sense of those ideas. When students own their interactive notebook lessons with learning goals, “I Can” statements, comments, opinions, and questions, they learn content and skills at a deeper level and retain more knowledge.

2. Interactive notebooks balance input, processing, and output. Teachers know the importance of direct instruction. Whether teachers initiate the learning as in a traditional classroom, or guide the learning as in a flipped classroom, we do serve as the “keepers of the keys” to learning. We know the Standards; we know what students know and don’t yet know; we know how students learn best. However, we don’t always provide the time or teach the process of learning. INBs provide the mechanisms teachers and students need to process new content and skills. To borrow Stephen Krashen’s expression: comprehensible input. After all, it’s all about learning, not teaching. When students add to or highlight key ideas in lecture notes, take marginal annotations on short INB articles, and summarize learning in 3D graphic organizers, they are processing information. We all know how much learning is lost when it is not immediately reinforced. Practice using the content and skills in the INB immediately after the lecture provides that reinforcement. The INBs stop the forgetting cycle and imprint learning into long-term memories.

3. Interactive notebooks help students learn and study at the same time. One real benefit of the INB is the focus on “killing two birds with one stone.” A key feature of INBs is test preparation. When a student cuts out a matchbook style foldable of M. A.I.N. (the main causes of World War I–Militarism, Alliances, Imperialism, and Nationalism), they are not only synthesizing information from lecture notes; they are also creating a study guide or essay pre-write for the upcoming unit test. Many teachers permit students to use their INBs on quizzes and tests to motivate proper notebook preparation and completion. Other teachers value the INB as a learning end in of itself as a performance-based assessment.

4. Interactive notebooks are a cross-curricular approach to instruction and learning. More and more schools have adopted INBs as the learning approach in all content-based and skill-based subject areas or classes: reading, science, math, history/social studies, language arts, art, and foreign language study. The authors of the Common Core emphasize the important of cross-curricular, interdependent instruction in the College and Career Readiness and Anchor Standards. Secondary schools in particular have embraced schoolwide AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) strategies such as Cornell Notes in their INB classrooms. INBs truly can serve the purpose of providing a similar user-friendly language of instruction, organization, and philosophy of learning. BTW, my recently completed INB provides both student and teacher lessons in Cornell Notes format.

Product Review Quotes 2A5. Interactive notebooks make sense of lecture and note-taking. The Common Core State Standards are indeed rigorous and require more, not less, input. The world knowledge base is compounding. Well-planned lectures still are viable and significant means of instructional delivery for both elementary and secondary classrooms. Rather than slowing the pace of instruction and causing day-dream boredom with elongated “interactive lectures,” INBs provide the interactivity within the notebooks themselves. Gone are the days of fifty minute didactic lecture-speeches with only a few question-answer interruptions. Teachers find that shorter 20 minute lectures with connected INB activities for the remaining 30 minutes get better results.

6. Interactive notebooks de-emphasize isolated practice. All too often in many classrooms, practice has been unrelated to instruction or student needs. INB teachers find that connected practice in the notebook serves students better than isolated drill and kill worksheets. Of course, targeted worksheets tied to an INB lecture or activity can certainly be added into the notebook itself. Glue is not for foldables alone.

7. Interactive notebooks provide “published” learning portfolios. In many respects, INBs have mimicked the writing process. Years ago, teachers began seeing the value of a step-by-step writing process in which the ultimate goal of publication for an authentic audience (not just the teacher-grader) was the end goal. Publication increases motivation and accountability, as well as the quality of work. In the case of the INB, the publication includes peer and parent review or presentation in class, parent-student-teacher-counselor conferences, and at Open House. Many teachers pass along INBs to the next grade level teacher as portfolios of student work for review or to continue the notebook. Publication provides concrete evidence of students’ learning. If they know it, they will show it becomes the mantra of an INB instructional approach.

8. Interactive notebooks teach the values of organization, neatness, and pride of work. “Since when did neatness and coloring become Standards?” complains one teacher. It’s true that some teachers go over the top in terms of time expended upon or concentration on neatness and appearance of the notebooks. Most INB teachers strike a workable balance between achievement and effort. Rafael will never produce the same level of artistic accomplishment as Janie. His lack of fine motor skills and her cool sets of high quality pastels and colored markers ensure their respective outcomes. However, it is certainly reasonable to expect Rafael to adhere to the organizational demands of the notebook and use the color coding to properly categorize the kingdoms and phyla for his science INB. Plus, his table of contents, numbered pages, and right-left orientation have to be accurate. Additionally, Janie’s INB has to have accurate content, insightful reflection, and properly annotated margin notes on her close readings and not just a Da Vinci quality INB. A little bit of peer pressure certainly does not hurt, nor does teacher affirmation of everyone showing pride of work and doing the best they can.Product Review Quotes 3A

9. Interactive notebooks provide a classroom management system for effective learning. One of the tenets of P.B.S. (Positive Behavior Support) is that an active and productive class setting with clear behavioral and academic expectations helps behaviorally challenged students stay engaged in the learning activities. Students are far less likely to cause class disruptions when they are invested in “hands-on” doing-style learning. Additionally, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Bored students create problems. The INB keeps students focused on the learning task, even when a social environment is permitted.

10. Many students love interactive notebooks. Students prefer INB over tradition instruction because the notebooks are personalized and interactive. Students enjoy the social nature of the INB process. The learn by doing philosophy has been a particularly American approach to learning ever since John Dewey advocated this practice over a century ago. Students rarely describe INB classes as “boring.” And let’s face it; almost everyone loves to color:)

Interested in checking out the author’s Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook? Check it out HERE.

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

Or check out the traditional style Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Grammar/Mechanics, Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 Reasons Not to Use Interactive Notebooks

Interactive notebooks are riding a crest of popularity in both elementary and secondary schools. A brief Google search finds 6,850,000 results for “interactive notebooks” (INBs) in all subject areas: math, science, reading, language arts, social studies/history, foreign language study, and art. Some schools are now completely cross-curricular INB instruction in all subject areas and homeschool education has especially latched onto this educational approach. Whether you are an INB aficionado or skeptic, veteran or noob, it’s helpful to take a step back to analyze the pros and cons as to whether INBs should have a place in your classroom. Let’s start with the cons and examine 10 Reasons Not to Use Interactive Notebooks. My article, 10 Reasons to Use Interactive Notebooks, will strike the pro and con balance. I’ve also compiled a helpful checklist of essential selection criteria for teachers and schools considering purchase of INB programs.

I certainly have no ax to grind regarding INBs. I sell my own Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook Grades 4-8 HERE. I also sell a more traditional grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling and vocabulary program (See product information at end of article). So, I am well-acquainted with the pros and cons of INBs in the ELA subject area. I have also used the Teachers’ Curriculum Institute (TCI) Interactive Student Notebooks to teach history/social studies and loved this instructional approach. However, INBs are not for everyone.

To get beyond my own biases, I checked out dozens of INBs and INB templates (most INBs use foldable, pop-out, 3D graphic organizers) in all subject areas: both products for sale and sharable lessons found on teacher blogs, Pinterest, and Facebook. I focused on reader comments to produce the following 10 Reasons Not to Use Interactive Notebooks list. On Teachers Pay Teachers I read over 5,000 individual comments on the INB products and purchased the two most popular (and wonderful) products for thorough review: Erin Cobb’s Interactive Grammar Notebook for Common Core Grades 4-8 (over 30,000 sold with more than 6,000 product reviews at the time of this writing) and Nicole Shelby’s grades 2-5 Interactive Language Notebooks (14,531 product reviews). About 98% of the product reviews for these two products were positive; however, because Teachers Pay Teachers offers incentives for reviews, the vast majority of the reviews are completed upon first glance at the materials and not after using the materials in the classroom. Most reviews are extremely brief, such as “Great!” “Thanks for sharing,” etc. For the following list of 10 con reasons, I’ve included actual comments from all INB product reviews, staff room, conference workshops/webinars, and a few of my own. I’ve intentionally decided not to cite names or products referred to in the reviews. My goal is not to offend, but to inform.

After posting this article last year, I’ve updated it (in blue text) to show how I addressed the following concerns as I field-tested my new Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook Grades 4, 5, 6.

10 Reasons Not to Use Interactive NotebooksInteractive Notebooks

1. Interactive notebooks waste too much class time. Because INBs involve copying, coloring, writing, cutting and pasting graphic organizers (plus many other activities), many teachers find that this instructional approach takes up too many classroom minutes. Plus, some students just take much more time than others. INBs may be more conducive to elementary teachers or secondary teachers on a block schedule, rather than to secondary teachers on a traditional five or six period per day schedule. BTW… through field-testing in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade classes, I was able to get my INB lessons down to 40 minutes per lesson, twice a week… primarily by cutting out wasted student copying time and printing the front side text of the graphic organizers. Students focus on writing the examples, annotating the Cornell Notes lesson text, and writing on the back of their 3D graphic organizers. More time learning and less wasted class time. I also designed the lessons so that teachers can choose to teach all or part of the lesson and use all, some, or none of the online links and resources and still cover the focus standards and allow students to succeed on the biweekly unit tests.

2. Interactive notebooks require too much prep time. Creating both teacher input and student response activities is extremely time-consuming. Many teachers have purchased published INBs to save time, only to find that the advanced preparation required to complete complicated INB activities is much more than expected. Most INBs require voluminous copying (and copy expense), pre-cutting (to save paper costs), sorting, and distribution of the copies, markers, glue, scissors, and the notebooks themselves. Plus, most INB publisher programs require teachers to create their own notebooks as models and as reference for absent student make-ups. For my INB, I opted to create a completely no-prep design to enable teachers to “teach on the fly.” Perfect for new teachers, veteran grammarians, and even substitutes! I created the teacher pages to provide a completed INB with all examples, answers, and notes so that absent students will be able to use these resources to catch up upon their return to class. Simple, but effective.

3. Interactive notebooks require too much correcting time. Every Friday afternoon, I help one of my favorite seventh grade history teachers out to the parking lot with her two folding crate carts full of 115 INBs. She actually has 230 students, so she staggers the bi-weekly grading (She sees each class every other day). Yes, she uses peer grading, some self-grading, and only grades selective work, but even with these work smarter, not harder techniques, it takes her all Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I experimented for an entire year on this. I found that students can accurately self-correct and self-edit the practice exercises, sentence dictation formative assessments, grammar cartoon responses, and writing applications from the display of the teacher pages. Students earn a maximum of 10 points per lesson (6 for the practice exercise; 2 for the sentence dictations; 1 for the grammar cartoon response; and 1 for the writing application (plus 1 point if the student shares his or her writing application with the class). Students learn best from correcting their own mistakes. I collect the INBs after 8 lessons (monthly) and skim grade for completeness, grading accuracy, and neatness. It takes about a minute per student and I award 50 points. Problem solved! Spend more time teaching and less time correcting.

4. Interactive notebooks are a mess. It doesn’t take a neat freak to abandon the INB instructional approach. You may be a great housekeeper at home and in your classroom, but even well-trained students do no always share your values. Despite the best classroom management skills, glue spills, tiny paper scraps, ruined INB covers (or lost INBs) will be headaches for any teacher using INBs and for every custodian. At my school custodians vacuum only once per week. The last period of the day gets clean-up duty, but it’s not perfect. Plus, INB clean-up takes up more class and prep time. I’m not going to lie; even my INB can be messy; however, I learned from field testing with the more artsy, complicated foldables in the two products mentioned above, that students prefer simpler 3D graphic organizers with less complicated cutting, coloring, and folding. They use the 3D graphic organizer templates from Tangstar (the best on the web) much more as study aids than the other art project foldables. The also focus more on the classification and matching by color that make the graphic organizers essential components of the INB. You can overdo a good thing. Many teachers give up on the INB because of the wasted class time and mess. Less complicated graphic organizers with fewer intricate cuts, folds, and gluing means the same consistent directions each time. So less confusion, less problems for students with poor hand-eye coordination, less tears, and less wasted class time. You can still be cute and stylish without being a complete mess.

5. Interactive notebooks can dumb-down content instruction. The Common Core State Standards have “upped the rigor” for most Interactive Notebookssubject areas. The high stakes PAARC and Smarter Balanced tests do not assess the way that most INB programs approach teaching and learning. The simple fact is that many times content and practice is limited to what will fit in the “cool flower petal” foldable. The graphics lend themselves to Depth of Knowledge, or Costa’s Levels, or Bloom’s Taxonomy lowest levels. The “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” (math order of operations), “King Henry Doesn’t Usually Drink Chocolate Milk (science metric units), or F.A.N.B.O.Y.S. (ELA coordinating conjunctions) work great for 3D graphics, but not so great for higher level thinking skills. I chose to include analytical and inferential responses to the grammar cartoons and provide a writing application for each grammar lesson. Nothing is wrong with defining and identifying; however, higher order application is also important. Each unit test requires these skills for every lesson component.

6. Interactive notebooks focus on teacher-centered instruction. The design of INBs is centered on teacher input (traditionally the right side of the page, but others go left) and student response (on the opposite page). The rudder steers the boat; the boat does not steer the rudder. Although some teachers in flipped or inquiry-based classrooms still use INBs, this is uncommon. Yes, students can personalize their responses and extend their learning with INBs, but time and resources are limitations. Additionally, INBs focus on grade-level instruction; the focus is on the content or skills (the Standards), not the individual student’s needs. None of the INBs I have seen do a decent job of individualizing instruction or helping students (remedial, EL, special ed) catch up while they keep up with grade level instruction. However, my INB is different. I’ve included over 100 online resources, including remedial worksheets for dozens of key spelling, mechanics, and grammar content and skills. Each has a formative assessment to determine student mastery. Teachers can individualize instruction without tearing their hair out. These printable resources are perfect for learning centers, writers workshop mini-lessons, homework, or classwork.

7. Interactive notebooks do a poor job of assessment-based instruction or learning. Rarely do INBs include formative assessments of the focus Standards or teacher’s behavioral objectives. Some would argue that INBs use embedded assessments in the application and response to teacher input found on the foldables; however, most of this is copying or done in pairs or small groups. Students get no immediate feedback and teachers don’t usually adjust instruction or re-teach according to the student work. I have not seen formative assessments incorporated into INB programs. Therefore, individualized or differentiated instruction is precluded without access to student performance data. Most teachers do allow students to use INBs on unit tests. The latter is a good idea. My INB has one mechanics and one grammar sentence dictation for each lesson. Students use the lesson content to write or revise a sentence dictated by their teacher.

Mechanics Dictation Example: “John and Carla loaded green beans, salad, and fruit on their plates.” Serial Comma Standard

Grammar Dictation Example: Revise the following sentence, placing the adverbial clause at the beginning of the sentence– “The girl stops playing, whenever I ask her, and listens to me. Answer for Students to Self-Correct and Self-edit: “Whenever I ask her, the girl stops playing and listens to me.” Adverbial (Subordinating) Clause Standard

The teacher uses the sense of the class to formatively assess whether additional individualized practice is needed (see #6 above for resources) or re-teaching. Learning is the goal in my INB, not teaching.

8. Interactive notebooks instruction is supplemental and reductive. Most teachers and publishers use INBs as supplemental anchor Standards instruction. This is particularly true with Standards-based INB programs. For example, many of the ELA language (grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary) programs restrict instruction to the listed Language Standards, ignoring the grade to grade Progressive Skills Review and other key content and skills in the subject matter which is foundational for instruction (and assumed by the Common Core authors). Any supplemental (or core) program is reductive. Time and energy focused on one instructional or learning task takes away time from another. (As an author aside, for years I have railed against spending valuable class time babysitting students while they do sustained-silent reading for this very reason. Click to read). As an example of the reductive nature of INBs, the inordinate amount of time and energy expended with these notebooks on some Standards takes away from the purported purpose of the INBs: to prepare students for reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Plenty of preparation, but little practice. It’s like appetizers without the main course. Teachers certainly do modify INB instruction by picking and choosing which lessons to do or not do, but this tends to foster hodgepodge instruction with little fidelity to a published program. My INB is designed for core content instruction. The twice-per-week lessons take 40 minutes per. I do offer separate grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 spelling and vocabulary programs. Each is designed to not take up excessive class time.

Interactive Notebooks

What Teachers Have to Say About Interactive Notebooks

9. Interactive notebooks are not “real world” instruction. Most of our students will not attend universities in which professors will use INB instruction. Most of our students will not wind up in workplaces in which they create learning or product portfolios (Certainly there will be exceptions). Additionally, though some teachers and publishers have integrated online resources into INB instruction, the focus is paper. I am intrigued with notion of a digital INB and am in the process of integrating that learning platform into the traditional INB I am working on… you can cut, past, color, and copy on computers 🙂 Over 100 links and resources, including the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL) resources are a click away in my INB. And all have express permission from the publishers, unlike many other INBs with unauthorized YouTube videos or songs.

10. Many students hate interactive notebooks. My mom worked as a “soda jerk” during her high school years in a small Texas town drugstore. After her shift she was allowed to make herself one treat. Her favorite treat was a pineapple sundae. After two weeks of pineapple sundaes, my mom never ate one again. Due to the trending popularity of INBs, your students have “been there and done that.” They are tired of the same pineapple sundae, even if you are not. It is certainly not true that every upper elementary, and especially every middle school student, loves to copy, color, cut, and paste. Some students, like my youngest son, are not artsy fartsy, even if their teacher spends hours on Pinterest daily. Instead of building a medieval castle, we begged his seventh grade teacher to let him write a report of medieval castles. Instead of coloring everything in the INB, we begged his eighth grade teacher to let him produce a collage of computer images. Some students just learn differently and prefer other means of acquiring and processing knowledge. The most useful revisions in terms of format, style, grading, and lesson components for my INB came from students in the classroom. They are ruthless editors and demanding consumers, but they are our learners. The success of my INB will largely be credited to kids from my classrooms and from those of my colleagues. Thank you.

To order my Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook Grades 4-8, click HERE and enter discount code 3716 to receive 10% off the lowest price on the web.

Interactive notebooks are not for everyone. For a more systematic and comprehensive language curriculum, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)
Grades 4-8 Programs

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) program.

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