Do you use interactive notebooks? Have you thought um nice idea but that's really a big kid thing? Does the teacher next door, down the hall, or upstairs use interactive notebooks? This post is going to have two purposes. The first is to share my experience with notebooks and why I like to use them with little kids. The second will be to share with you my thoughts and feelings about a Carson Dellosa product for note booking. Let's get down to it then!
I remember my first exposure to interactive anything. They were foldable and my 3rd grade child at the time brough home this hot mess that was supposed to help her review and be ready for the state benchmark exam. Hot mess DOES NOT adequately describe this "thing". I remember seeing it and thinking that it was a waste of her precious time and how dare the teach waste this time! Oh man did I eat some humble pie that year. I missed the whole point and only saw the product. I missed that my child had to use anchor charts from MONTHS ago to find her information. I missed that my child was actively engaged in something that most kids hate- studying for a test. I missed it completely because all I saw was a hot mess and got upset. Yep I got upset. Being a teacher doesn't make you the best parent, funny how we morph into a 3 headed monster when it's our own kid. So upset, disappointed me took a day off from my classroom and meet with her teacher. I wanted to see for myself how this folded hot mess was really going to be valuable and I was lucky enough that they would be making yet another one on that day, this time for math. Boy oh boy, I got 'um now! And I headed off to her classroom ready to "got ya" at every turn. I had a notebook and was ready to collect actual evidence that this was not the way to review children for the test.
I know what you are thinking, had I lost my mind? Really you went that crazy? Yep, not my finest moment but let me tell you what happened when I got to her room. All those little learners packed into a small carpet area were excited. I really thinking that it was taking all that they had not to be jumping up and down or running with wild excitement. Y'all I couldn't believe that every child, even the one my daughter said NEVER paid attention, was sitting up on their knees ready to learn how to make this hot mess and get started looking for the answers. The teacher (let's call her Ms. X) was softly speaking as she showed them how to fold and cut a green piece of construction paper. Then she explained that in a second they were going to return to their desk and they would fold and cut together. And before I knew it they were off, watching and doing until the green paper no longer looked like paper but resembled the hot mess that had come home a few days ago. But here is where it got good. Ms. X turned on a over head projector (and no this only happened in 2007 so it wasn't THAT long ago) with numbered sections. She explained that in each of the numbered section on their folded paper they would need to find the answer. She reminded them to use their brains, use their neighbors, use the text book, and use the anchor charts.
At this point, I braced myself. I just knew the got ya moment was about to happen! Chaos, crying, whining, yelling... everything I pictured happening did not! The kids quickly got started. They knew from before to label and write the "question" from the overhead into a section and start finding the answer. The child closest to me leaned over to the friend on his left and said " hey number 3 looks like what we did at halloween. Remember we had candy?" The child on the left answered back" yea and we had that anchor chart... let's go find it!" These two children hopped up and went to a clothes rack with charts on hangers and started looking through. When they found what they were looking for they found a spot on the carpet and started talking about it. They invited another child over to help them.
Oh my, humble pie... I was wrong. WAY WAY wrong and I knew it. Ms. X slid over while I was watching and asked if I had any questions. I think I stuttered out something about procedures and how I didn't think that my K kids could do this, and she whispered an answer that rocked my whole thinking. She said this isn't my idea. In a staff meeting the kindergarten team presented a project that they had just finished on life cycles and they had used foldables. Jaw on floor. Mouth catching flies! I couldn't believe my ears and since my face showed every thought, Ms X giggled and said something like that was my reaction too. And she glided away to help a group that appeared stuck.
That was my first exposure to interactive anything and after I picked my jaw up from the floor, I started looking for ways to incorporate interactive books, notebook, and foldables into my classroom. Lucky for me Dr. Jean came to my town and talked about making interactive pieces WITH kindergarten kids. And my love for them grew! Now I am constantly on the look out for things that could work in our notebooks. Things that hook the kids into learning. Things that I teach the procedure one and we use with all kinds of learning. That leads me to the second reason for the post, Carson Dellosa's Interactive Notebooks.
I am part of Carson Dellosa's Brand Ambassador team and we get to try out products and give our thoughts on them (two of my favorite activities by the way ;) ). So when I saw that one of the products that I could use and talk about was the kindergarten level interactive notebooks I jumped at the chance. These books come either as language arts or math. I have TONS of ideas for literacy so I opted for math. Let's talk about the facts first then I'll give you my thoughts.
There are 96 pages in this book. That are divided by common core state standards areas. That is one section is counting and cardinality and another is geometry. The table of contents also shows that there is a section called "reproducible". This section is the blank or editable section of templates. There are also several pages on getting started, what interactive notebooks are, and how to plan or organize these pages.
I use composition books as our interactive notebooks and this picture is to show how a page compares in size. There is a section in the front of the book that talks about choosing the right kind of notebook. In this information Carson Dellosa states that "the pages in the look are formatted for a standard one subject notebook" (page 5). The books lists pros and cons to spiral notebooks, composition books, and binders with loose leaf paper. They even list a tip or two for each kind of book so that you can better choose what works for you.
So I started this with a story, yep it really happened too. I mentioned that I had spent a TON of time searching for things to use in our interactive notebooks. What I didn't write about was the trial and epic failures that I had a long the way. In this book, there are some pages that would have made my life SO much easier! One example would be the whole pro and con section of what kind of notebook to use. Man would that have made things go better and the tips are great! For me to stay with my comp books, all I have to do is reduce the page size when copying AND the tip gives me a suggestion of what to set the copy machine too. There is a grading rubric in the front section that gives a standard format for grading your interactive notebook pages.
Let's talk about what I wish first and then end with what I loved. There are several things that I wished for as I was looking through and working with this book. The first was to have actual standards on the teacher page. I feel that most of the pages cover more than one skill and knowing the intended skills would have been great, rather than me guessing. Since most districts require us to put specific standards I wish that this book had done that too. The second wish that I had was I wanted more. I wanted several options for each skill. For example on the counting objects 1-5, I would have liked several pages that we could have used to build up to 5. Many of the pages felt more like a "chapter review" rather than learning pages. I wished for both! My last wish is one that probably only effects me, but here it is. I wish that all the cut lines were dotted. The book uses dotted lines for folding, big bold lines for cutting, and a medium weight line for separating sections. This was a huge confusion when we started because the pages we had done prior were all pages I had created and used dotted lines to cut.
Let's talk LOVE.... I love that this book is something that I could give to a partner teacher who had never notebooked in her classroom and she would know where to start. I love that this book answered most of the questions that I had when I started and you don't have to go hunting or fail to get the answers. I love that this book has a large number of blank or template pages. I think someone more advanced in note booking would see these as a huge resource. They are my favorite part of this book. I love the rubric and planning guides. The less prep work I have to do means I have more time for planning and being ready.
Final thought... while I think that this book will appeal more to beginning note booking teachers. There is value in this book being in every note booking classroom. Don't overlook it because it appears one way, it really has pieces that everyone can use.
** I am a Carson Dellosa Ambassador and the materials for this review were sent to me at no cost to myself. The ideas and opinions expressed on this blog are my own and are not necessarily the thoughts or opinions of Carson Dellosa.