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Why do you use spirals for Interactive Notebooks?

Interactive Notebook Cover Page

It never fails each week I get the question asked of me, “Why did you choose spirals for your Interactive Notebooks?” The answer is fairly simple… I didn’t, they chose me.

How you ask?

I started using Interactive Notebooks in 2010 with my students and that year it was really whatever the kids had was what they would use. I was very liberal since we were starting in the Spring Semester and I wanted them to just have a place to put everything. Well, it worked for some and for most it didn’t. I knew something had to change when we made our school supply list for the following year.

Next we were all about binders. One binder all for math and using 5 dividers to sort things (warm-ups, practice sheets, notes, graded papers, extra). I took a lot of time each week to make sure that my students had their materials in the right places. It made me feel like things were finally starting to work. I still have students who are now Juniors in high school who have kept these because they were organized.

Moving onto the next school year we decided to use graph paper spirals and/or composition books (yes, I had one class of each- crazy but that’s another story) because we were limited to one binder for all subjects. We thought the graphing spirals would be perfect because it would allow students to line things up as well provide the needed room for graphs. Well that is all fine and dandy if you plan to use it that way. I started researching more about Interactive Notebooks and used more interactive things in them rather than just notes. Yes, these spirals were GREAT when we needed to graph things but for the most part when you are writing with pencil the dark blue lines can get in the way.

The class that used composition books went well. Because I was using both a spiral and a composition book I was always either having to shrink things down (65% is the magic amount) or fold them it was just getting to me. Not only was it more work for me as a teacher but it began to get frustrating keeping up with two different copies of everything. I loved composition books for their size and that they laid flat for the most part. The major thing that got to me over time was that students were notorious for tearing out a page from the back when they needed a piece of scrap paper not matter than warnings I gave and then pages started to fall out. DOH!

Moving onto year number 4 (2012-2013), I switched grades and they had already made the supply list to be two GREEN 100 page spirals. The students brought them in the first week, kept one for the second semester on a shelf in my classroom and we used the other. This is where spirals chose me, I had to make them work because I couldn’t change it.

I started planning during the summer how I would use them and really took time to look into what other teachers had done with their notebooks and I set up that structure I wanted from Day 1. Spiral notebooks allowed me to have more room not only for flippables and notes that we would glue in but also just to get everything in on the pages. I was finally in a groove and loving it. I took time to make it work and loved that my students were doing the same.

Now that I have continued to create Interactive Notebooks as samples for my products I still use spirals for the majority of them. I have also used three-prong folders that I can separate units with and I really like how portable they are. I definitely would have used these in my Resource Math classroom so that students weren’t overwhelmed by all the massive amount of notes over time.

So you can see that I have used just about all there is to use in the way of creating Interactive Notebooks. In the end you really need to determine not what only will work for you as a teacher but also for your students because in THEY are the ones who matter.

A few months back I created a video about the various different forms of Interactive Notebooks and talked about the pros and cons of each.

So now my question to you is… What are you using for Interactive Notebooks in your classroom? Are they working for you and your students? What could you do differently?

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