Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Month of Using Interactive Notebooks

We have spent a lot of time working on the Interactive Notebooks so far this year. I look back on previous years' and realize how much more I'm doing now. It's GREAT!!

Even though I teach Honors English 8 and regular English 9, I have found Erin Cobb's "Interactive Reading Informational Text Notebooks" such a fabulous resource!! (It's written for grades 4-8.)

Interactive Reading Notebooks Informational Text: Nonficti

I've followed along with her suggested lesson plans and my kids are really getting it! I think we assume they learned different things in previous years so we don't need to teach it. Or...we assume they remember what they were taught but they don't have any resource to refer to that will help jog their memory. This is it!!!

Throughout Erin's pages of information, I've added some of my own supplemental information. For example, I thought they needed more details on the "SUMMARIZING NON-FICTION" pages. I know I searched Pinterest and gathered the information but can't find it for the life of me! (So frustrating!! So...if you know where I might have found this, please leave me a comment so I can give credit where it's due. I don't want to be accused of plagiarizing or violating copyright!)

I also added more information to the TEXT STRUCTURES pages. I wanted some definitions and key words. For that page, I purchased Deb Hansen's "Nonfiction Text Structures" packet from TeachersPayTeachers and tweaked the graphics to fit what I needed. I LOVED coloring them with my many colored pens. (Don't you just hate seeing everyone using "adult coloring books" and/or "Colorfy" on their phones and you don't have time? I took a picture of the things I color at school and sent it to my daughters who all love to color. I captioned it with something to the effect that while they are making pretty pictures with Colorfy, I'm coloring school stuff. One daughter commented back that my stuff was "much more satisfying." I hadn't thought of it like made me feel a lot better!!) Anyway, here are the pages I put on the left side of my notebook then put Erin's practice page on the right page; the two pages created a "spread" of information for each structure.

This is on the left side...Deb's graphics added to a WORD document I created.

Erin's page from her packet.

We did quite a bit of simple practicing with Erin's examples which helped solidify the ideas in the kids' minds.

Then, I needed to figure out a way to teach NON-FICTION TEXT FEATURES. Erin has a little "toolbox" in her packet but I wanted something a little more detailed and more age appropriate for my kids. I couldn't find anything designed specifically for the Interactive Notebooks so I created my own by putting two different sources together with my own design. Here's what I came up with...

(Sorry...I couldn't get the stupid picture to rotate!)

First, I downloaded Tangstar Science's fabulous "Interactive Notebook Templates FREE Sampler Pack" from TeachersPayTeachers. I used the "Hexagon 7 panels" template. I enlarged it 155% on our copier and cut it in two sections: one section of four panels and one section of three panels. I added a tab at the top of the three panel section so they could glue them together. 

Then, I downloaded Deana Kahlenberg's FREE DOWNLOAD of "Non-Fiction Text Features Posters" from TpT. They're GREAT!! I printed them nine to a page and then reduced them another 85% on my copier. This made them the PERFECT size to glue on the panels foldable. I made the header using WordArt in Word and printed it all out. The kids had a fabulous time cutting, gluing, and singing to Pandora. (Whatever makes the little dumplings happy, right??)

Honestly, I don't know what we did before TeachersPayTeachers, Pinterest, and Google. I've only been teaching for 14 years but, seriously, how did we survive without being able to share ideas with anyone who cares to search? You all should get on TpT and check these talented ladies out! They have wonderful stuff to share. Even though a lot of it is written for lower grades, I'm able to adjust it to fit the needs of my junior high kids. They LOVE IT!!! (I've had some of my honors kids from last year come back and tell me how much they wish they had me again this year. Their friends in my regular 9th grade classes are showing them what we're doing and how much it's helping them. They're jealous!! makes my heart happy!!)

On to the practice activities now!! 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Main Idea & Supporting Details

You will need to get copies of the handouts for these two pages from the file folder on the counter in the room. Please be sure you follow the examples to complete your notebook. (Note: my copies are always available before or after school. Please see me if you have any questions!)

Thanks to Erin Cobb's packet, "Interactive Reading Informational Text Notebook," I have some great additions to our notebooks this year! I've found determining the TOPIC, MAIN IDEA, TOPIC SENTENCE, and SUPPORTING DETAILS is hard for some students. This is going to serve as a GREAT review!!


  • Color, cut out, and glue the page in as shown.

  • Underline the passage as shown. (This is helping you to identify the four items we are reviewing today.
  • Glue the passage in your notebook.
  • Then, add the information to the back side of the TOPIC/TOPIC SENTENCE/MAIN IDEA/SUPPORTING DETAILS page. Cut along the OUTSIDE edges of this section and glue the right and left sides to the passage. 
  • CAREFULLY cut up the middle of the top page only, as shown.


  1. Get a copy of the article, "She's Back!" located in the file folder.
  2. Identify the main idea and supporting details as taught on these two pages.
  3. Turn the assignment in for participation credit. (REMEMBER!! You only have ONE DAY for each day you were absent to make up the work for full credit!!)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Interactive Notebooks and Back to the Basics


There are so many GREAT resources out there for different pages and how to use them in your classroom. I still have kids come back and tell me how grateful they are for the notebook because they use them in high school! That, in itself, is a reason to do them! Yes...they may whine and complain while putting them together...but...if they USE them the way I intend, it becomes an amazing resource!!

This year, I plan on starting with them the second day of school. Rather than having the students purchase them and have to wait until everyone is prepared (or supply them out of my own funds), I asked the office to get one for every student. THEY SAID YES!!! So...we'll start the second day!

I'm going to do the first few pages just like I did last year. You can find the information about that HERE. I'm also going to post a copy of our school's plagiarism and cheating policy as I explained HERE. That takes me through the first nine pages and, I figure, two days.

Then...I'm taking them BACK TO THE BASICS!!!!! I'm really surprised at how many kids either don't know or don't remember how to find the main idea, supporting details, how to summarize, author's purpose, text structures, etc. So...we're going to HIT THOSE HARD!! I've got to pound these concepts into their heads to help with the "end-of-year-testing"!!

Last spring, I purchased the "Interactive Reading Informational Text Notebooks" packet from Erin Cobb ( through TeachersPayTeachers. I didn't do anything with it until this week. HOLY MOLY IT'S GREAT!!!'s written for grades 4-8 but I think it's going to work as a review/reference for their Interactive Notebooks. After we review, I'll start working them through more difficult texts and will refer back to these pages often.

Interactive Reading Notebooks Informational Text: Nonficti

My plan is to work on one concept per day which will include creating the page(s) in the Interactive Notebook and an easy practice.  Then, I've found some "age-appropriate/interest-level" articles on the Smithsonian TweenTribune website (for grades 7-8) and Smithsonian TeenTribune (for grades 9-12). What's great about this site is you can get the same article written in different Lexile levels! You can pass out the same article in a lower level for the ELL or struggling readers and they'll be able to work with the "at-level" or "advanced" kids using the more difficult version. I'm really excited about this find!! There are SO MANY different exercises you can do with each article...from main idea/supporting details to author's purpose to text structure. I can't wait to use them!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

"Can We Start the 'SUMMER' Over Again?? I Wasn't Ready..."


I know I say this every year,'s that time again! Time to start thinking of how I'm going to teach all my new little dumplings. (At this point in time, my rolls show I will have 203  204 students in six classes this year!!! Two of my Honors English 8 classes have 40 STUDENTS!!!!! HOW. DO. I. FIT. THE. DESKS. IN. MY. ROOM...not to mention THE. BODIES!!!!!)

A lot of things will be done the same (because, frankly, why change what has worked in the past???); but there will be some new additions.

Our Interactive Notebooks will be initially set up the same way I did last year. You can look at the pages, links to documents, and get more information HERE.

Last year, I had a lot of problems with plagiarism and cheating. This year, I'm going to add a page (notice it's printed in RED) that deals with the definition of plagiarism and cheating along with our school's consequences.

NOTE: I'm not going to link or share this page as it is tailored to our school. However, I hope it will give you some ideas of how to get the point across to your students. (I tell them over and over again...this is THE. WORST. PART. OF. MY. JOB!! I HATE dealing with this!!!)

More later...

Thursday, November 13, 2014


I don't know what the deal has been this year, but I don't remember feeling this overwhelmed and behind since the first few years of teaching! I've been using a lot of new lesson plans that have required a LOT of brain cells but I feel like I'm a "day late and a dollar short" EVERY. SINGLE. DAY!!

I'm going to set a goal to get caught up on my blog posts (there will be a LOT since it's been two months since I last posted!!). Hang in there with me!!