Cutting Corners with Interactive Notebooks

Teachers never stop working.  I know we hear it all the time, but now I have proof!  I posted a blog a little over a week ago, about The 5 Changes I made that Saved My Sanity, and that blog that I dreamt up in the middle of an early-morning shower is now the second most viewed post in the history of my blog.  In the middle of summer!  A teacher's job is never truly done!

Enough about my shock and awe and more about a simple, but incredibly useful, idea from one of my Facebook fans.  It was featured in my previous blog post, but it was hidden amongst all the other brilliant ideas from my Facebook fans.  This one in particular got a lot of attention on the post I put on Facebook, so I contacted the teacher who wrote the idea, and she was kind enough to give me a lot more information!  Denise Goshert is starting her 29th year teaching (!!).  She's taught in 2 states, 3 districts, and 6 schools teaching 4th and 5th grades as well as a gifted pull out program.  Here is her original Facebook Post, in response to me asking what saved their sanity this year:

Does it drive you crazy to see your students shuffling through the notebooks trying to find their next empty page?  Do they constantly leave empty pages between entries?  Do YOU hate having to spend time finding the page you are looking to assess?  Then, the cutting corners method will save your sanity, in just SECONDS!

In Denise's words, here is how she has used the “Cutting Corners” method with her students with great success.  Thanks again, Denise!

Cutting Corners
By Denise Goshert

I've used the “Cutting Corners” method (my students chuckle at the pun) for years with writing/journal spirals, workbooks.

So this year since I decided to try Interactive Notebooks in Math with my 5th grade Honor Students & 5th grade Social Studies/Science I thought it would work just a great. I have students use spirals that are on their supply list.

First, when students are labeling (or decorating) their cover, it's important that they do NOT write name (or anything important or want saved) in the upper right corner. I have students write name in lower right corner – having to grade so many, it's easier if I am able to locate name easily. Likewise, if anything is glued on the inside cover they don't write on the upper left corner. I also teach students to keep the top right margin cleared on every page. This is the corner that will get cut. Yes, the cover gets cut too.

For my interactive notebooks for SS/Sci, students write what was Learned on the Left (ie vocab, questions, etc.) and Reflect on Right for each lesson. I collect spirals 1-2x a week. Since we give letter grades on report cards I grade each lesson.After the assignment is graded, I cut the upper right corner so it's ready for next lesson.

For Math since we do standard based scoring, I collect the notebooks prior to unit test to give a rubric score for effort. Corner gets cut ready for next unit.

I also cut corners in students Writing Rough Draft spirals at their last Informal Teacher Conference.

The cutting corners makes it so easy for students to find the next available page to use. Just put thumb on the upper corner (which is the next available page) & flip. They love when I show this trick. They are in awe it's so cool to see their faces when I say ta da & flip. Then they all try it. ?

It has even saved my most disorganized student. He/She may take moments to locate actual spiral (lol) but once found it's a cinch to get to the correct page.

For me, it's a lifesaver. Grading all those spirals – half the battle was locating the current assignment to grade. Now I just place my thumb on upper right corner, flip & ta da. 

I do the cutting as it also reminds me whose I've graded in case I get distracted in the middle – yes that happens. Lol!

It works so well that quite a few of my students use this organizational method on their Assignment Books. Love it!

I set all this up with my beginning of the year routine & procedures.

There are 2 Drawbacks:

1 – a great deal of little triangular scraps but I just make a pile & scoop in trash can.

2- & this one is important. There are some students who are actually dramatized when their pages get cut. It's not all students but it's happened with students who tend to be perfectionists as well as those on the spectrum.  For this reason, I start with my own spiral capturing them with the ta da. Then I do spend time explaining the reason. For my perfectionist they usually get hooked on the organizational piece if it. For my students who I know have IEPs or 504s I approach respectfully, give them a chance to try my ta da. Then ask if they are ready to try theirs. These helps ease in to it. I learned this the hard way when I first started and just showed then began clipping. We went to PE & when I returned I found one of my students (just diagnosed that summer) in the trash can taking out “his” corner to tape it back. My heart sank for him. So I helped him replace it (he didn't want new spiral) & then talked to him. He smiled & went off to PE. A week later he came up to me & asked if I could cut his corner. ?

When I contacted Denise, she was so gracious in sharing.  She says her motto is “Use, Adapt, Delete” and she encourages collaboration and sharing among teachers.  Denise, after our correspondence, I KNOW it would be an honor to be teammates with you.  Your students and colleagues are lucky to have you!

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