Thursday, July 31, 2014

Smash Books

This year one of my biggest changes will be the implementation of interactive student notebooks. For those of you unfamiliar with this, the ISN is a classroom tool that is used for recording classroom notes, but it is also used to help students process new information. The idea is that it encourages students to be creative, independent thinkers while they practice new class skills.

My ultimate goal for our interactive notebooks is that the students will see them as a valuable reference guide and a tool they can use to be successful in English class.

I think calling them "interactive student notebooks" is a bit cumbersome, and I kind of thought that "ISN" was just another acronym to deal with (and God knows we don't have enough of those in education), so I've nicknamed our notebooks "Smash Books" named for these books used for storing mementos and ideas. I want my students' Smash Books to be both extremely useful and personalized.

I want to clarify that very few (if any) of these ideas are new or my own. I've done a LOT of research this summer and I've found loads of amazing resources online. Pinterest is amazing. One of my greatest resources was Sarah over at Everybody is a Genius so a lot of the ideas I'm implementing (and quite a bit of the wording!) are from her site.

What materials are we using for our Smash Books?
Each student is being asked to supply a composition book. I like these instead of spiral bound notebooks because I think they'll last a lot longer. They're hardier. There is a bit of a drawback in using the comp book because they are smaller than standard paper, so I'm having to learn some tricks to resize printables that I want in the Smash Book. More on that later.

To encourage the creativity of the Smash Book, I've brought some class supplies to the table. Remember these cute little bins I talked about briefly in yesterday's post?

Each pod's supplies bin is geared specifically towards maintaining the Smash Book. Each bin contains:

  • scissors (hopefully I'll obtain enough for each person at a pod eventually)
  • glue sticks
  • tape (which we'll probably use more than the glue)
  • a mini-stapler with extra staples
  • a couple of regular pencils
  • highlighters in multiple colors
  • colored pencils
  • fine-tipped markers
  • a ruler
  • a calculator (crazy how often we need these in English class)
  • hand sanitizer because germs
Each pod also has a larger empty bin under the desks for collecting scrap paper for recycling.

How are we using our Smash Books?
The Smash Book will be used for recording our regular classroom notes, but it will also be used to practice skills and work with new information.

For example, one of my early lessons is about how to annotate text while reading. The students will be putting a foldable on the left side that is a chart of annotation symbols, so that is new information. Then they will get a print-out of my Writer's Workshop guidelines to stick on the right side and they will annotate that text while reading it to practice the skill. Left side = reference. Right side = practice. I have a larger version of the above picture hanging in a prominent place in my classroom so the kids can reference back to it early on while we're still getting used to these notebooks.

How do we set up our Smash Books?
During the first full week of school (which I am totally calling "Boot Camp," a term I brazenly stole from Sarah at Kovescence of the Mind) we will be dedicating some time to getting to know our Smash Books. The basic set-up is pretty much identical to what Sarah from Everybody is a Genius does.

  • First page = title page with the student's name, my name beneath that, followed by the class, the period, and the date we began the book (08/11 this year). (Bonus: this is the heading for all of the papers they turn in for my class because it's MLA so they will even be able to use the title page as a reference.)
  • The next four pages = the table of contents. Students will keep track of the topics and the page #. Again, it's supposed to be a reference item!
  • The next six pages = Words Worth Knowning. These are new words we learn that we will actually use throughout the entire school year. (Not to be confused with vocab terms that we learn long enough to pass a test and then blow off... gah...)
  • Inside of the back cover = another reference place. The students will glue in their Depth of Knowledge word chart and their writing rubric.
  • Last two pages = grade record sheets. With my new grading system, I want students to keep track of how they are doing on each skill they learn. They will record those there.
After the Words Worth Knowing section is when the actual page numbers and content begin.

So, that's pretty much where I'm at with our Smash Books right now. I'm really excited to give these a try!

What's your note-keeping method in class?


  1. I use interactive notebooks too and have a left and a right side. I am not organized enough to remember to have my students keep a table of contents though, so I took another tactic with it. I have my students use sticky notes to separate their notebooks into sections: bell work (this is where they journal--it keeps students from losing their bell work sheets from day to day since I only collect them on Fridays); article of the week (where I have them tape in an article on the one side and answer the questions about the article on the other); notes section (self-explanatory; I also use a left and right side). Since I know how many weeks are in a semester, I have the students count out that many pages for their bell work section and again for the article of the week section.

    I love them because the students can do so much with them and they tend not to lose their work or notes since it's all in one place. It's pretty devastating to the handful of students who lose their notebooks at some point though--EVERYTHING is in there! I do let the students store their notebooks in my classroom to cut down on this though. They just take them home if they need them to study/do homework.

  2. I used ISN's in my 8th grade science class for the first time last year and I absolutely LOVE them! I don't think you'll be disappointed in your decision to implement them in your class. :) I really like that it gives the students a chance to reflect on what they've learned, and they like that everything is together in one place with no loose papers falling out of folders!

  3. I really like how you have reframed many classroom items in this post! I'm going to borrow your "words worth knowing" in place of "vocabulary". I'm also going to call the first three days of school "bootcamp". Thanks for the great ideas!!

  4. I just found your blog last night and have proceeded to read every single entry you've posted! THANK YOU for sharing all of your amazing resources (they provide organizational solutions to so many of my teaching demons) and for showing us (me!) that it's okay to struggle--as long as you keep trying and pick yourself up after you stumble. Keep on, keeping on. It makes our struggles easier seeing that someone else has faced them, too, and has emerged victorious. :)

  5. Missing your posts, but I love this one. I am starting ISN in Civics because it is a new class to me with no curriculum. I'm not ready for ELA just yet. I am going to borrow Smash Books because it sounds so much better.

    Kovescence of the Mind

  6. As a preservice teacher, I absolutely am inspired by your blog! Please keep updating Eat. Write. Teach.

  7. Waaw..!!! Really helpful post. 99% of the teachers surveyed say that "effective and engaged" teachers are absolutely essential or very important to ensuring student academic achievement. I am new to this field of teaching. So, I have lot of confusion and stress while thinking about this. This post realized me some real facts of teaching. Some recommended essay writing services are also provided me some guidelines to success in teaching. Thank you so much for sharing the valuable informations.

  8. I've nominated you for a Liebster Award! Visit my blog at to find out what to do next!

  9. I noticed you haven't posted awhile but I would just like to say thank you. I just read your ENTIRE blog in one night (yes, I have no life.) I'm a high schooler whose dream is to be a biology teacher. I've noticed that you go through so much, but still are happy. Your life (sorry that sounds creepy) has inspired me!!! Thank you so so much. Good luck with your little baby turkey and the upcoming standardized testing! -Anna:)

  10. Do you have any feedback on how these have worked for you? I'm a middle school teacher, and I'm looking into creating and using interactive notebooks next fall.

  11. I would like to thank you for your nicely written post
    i like play happy wheels demo online and play happy wheels 2 games full friv4school , games for girls , games go girls

  12. Stephanie, can you explain your "Depth of Knowledge" word chart?

    1. Hello! I use this Depth of Knowledge chart.
      If you would like more information about it, let me know!

  13. Thanks for sharing the information. It is very useful for my future. keep sharing. Can you play more games at :
    baixar facebook gratis
    baixar whatsapp gratis
    temple run 2
    traffic rider

  14. great post. i like it. feeling great when reading your post. Keep on posting!
    watergirl and fireboy
    Geometry Dash

  15. As Marketing students in universities worldwide, many of you might have to write a dissertation paper as a final project before you complete your bachelor's degree.

  16. The blog or and best that is extremely useful to keep I can share the ideas. Age Of War 2
    Big Farm | Slitherio | Tank Trouble
    Of the future as this is really what I was looking for, I am very comfortable and pleased to come here. Thank you very much.
    Happy Wheels | Goodgeme Empire |

  17. Youth Talent is a social platform for professionals where they can show their talent by managing photo albums, video albums, blog posting and post jobs to seek talent. People can make friends, chat with them and share anything they have in this talent portal to friends or public.socialmedia

  18. This blog is so nice to me. I will continue to come here again and again. Visit my link as well. Good luck
    obat aborsi
    cara menggugurkan kandungan

  19. Not all are true. Everyone has their own way of thinking but I think they have to reconsider. I like to argue for the most accurate results.

  20. Not all are true. Everyone has their own way of thinking but I think they have to reconsider. I like to argue for the most accurate results.