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What I’ve learned about interactive notebooks

Tips for interactive notebooks: Blog post is about using them in the music classroom, but tips could apply to any classroom!
This year, I embarked on the journey of trying out interactive notebooks with my students. (You can read about why I started the notebooks in this blog post.) So far, I've been able to try them out with my third graders, and because this is so different from anything else I've done with my students, I thought I'd share my initial thoughts. Here is what I've learned so far about interactive notebooks:

1. Be prepared.

Before your students can walk into your room and begin their interactive notebooks, you'll need to prepare your room. I had thought about how to store my notebooks; here is a picture of my bookshelves and magazine racks from IKEA:

Tips for interactive notebooks: Blog post is about using them in the music classroom, but tips could apply to any classroom!

Up until a few days before my students used the notebooks, though, I hadn't thought about how to store the scissors, glue sticks, and crayons. Thankfully, I had bought these jungle-themed bins from Target, having no idea how I'd use them (oh, Target dollar section, how I love you so!) Here is a picture of students working on their notebooks with the bins in sight.

Tips for interactive notebooks: Blog post is about using them in the music classroom, but tips could apply to any classroom!

You'll also want to think about how many bins you need, and how you'll hand them out. I had students work in small groups of 4-5 and share the scissors, glue sticks, and crayons.

Another note, as you can see from the picture above, is that the notebooks can get pretty messy. However, I was really impressed by how quickly students could clean up in a matter of minutes! Maybe they are used to doing this in their grade-level classrooms?

2. It's okay to spend time coloring.

I fretted about this a bit as I watched students color for twenty or so minutes. I'm selfish with my time with them, and a few thoughts ran through my mind, like “They could be singing right now!” and “They could be preparing ti-tika right now!” But then I watched how relaxed and happy they were as they colored, and I thought of the articles I'd read about how coloring can relieve stress, and I thought, “Maybe this isn't so bad.” The coloring doesn't last that long (it was mostly for the cover page) and aren't kids working ALL THE TIME in school? Is it so bad that they color for a little bit in my room and get to relax?
All right, guilt averted.

3. Have extension work available.

Some kids work faster than others, something I was reminded of as they worked. My third graders were working on the half note lift-a-flap page from my third grade interactive notebook set, so I quickly created another half note lift-a-flap page with different rhythm patterns, and those ready for students who got done sooner than others (and will soon be adding extra pages to my third and fourth grade interactive notebook sets for that very reason.) I also let those who finished both pages play their patterns on an instrument of their choice. It's good to have options for your early finishers so they are not twiddling their thumbs!

4. Be ready to take student suggestions!

Pretty soon after we began work on these, I had a student suggest that they were able to create their own songs and put them into their notebooks. Um…brilliant! So this is my next project with them. That way, they can glue down their work as they go, and I can easily see their progress!

5. It's different…but good!

Interactive notebooks are definitely a different kind of learning than my typical lessons. There is no whole-class singing, no games, no activity on the SMART board, etc. BUT they are still a valuable teaching tool. Students are making sense of what they've learned in an interactive and different way. I'm excited to continue this journey!

Looking for interactive notebooks for the music room? Try these:

Have you used notebooks in the music room? Feel free to comment below with what has worked for you!

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Hi, I'm Aileen

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