By: Amelia Nolan
If there is one thing I’ve learned about fourth graders these past few years it’s this: they need help staying organized. Every once in awhile I’ll see a student who’s desk is cleaner than mine could ever hope to be, but for the most part, children face some difficulty keeping their belongings and their thoughts in order. Like most skills, this is one that they have to learn and develop as they grow. We can’t expect them to simply know how to take neat, organized notes or keep the information we give them filed in some orderly system. We have to teach them.
In looking for an interactive notebook to use, I thought about students I’ve had over the years. Some would get frustrated by trying to cut around shapes that had curved lines or edges with a fun, fancy design (I even get frustrated trying to cut those out!) Others would get overwhelmed trying to perfectly create the foldable where all lines matched up exactly. If there were cute graphics on the page, some would spend the majority of the time doodling on that. After much searching for a simple, straightforward notebook that focused on reinforcing the skills we teach in 4th grade math, it came time to make my own.
The pages I have created for my students’ notebooks are designed in such a way that distractions are minimized. The models are already drawn and the examples are already written to allow students to focus on learning the process involved with that particular skill. As shown in the picture, the pages are designed to be student-friendly with straight lines and easily-created foldables (just cut, fold, and glue!)
I always walk through the notebook pages with my students, filling it out in front of them instead of displaying and explaining a pre-completed page. Modeling is powerful, and I’ve noticed that they stay much more engaged when I am working something out with them. The top section of the page provides examples and models to help students understand the skill, then the foldables provide an opportunity for students to practice. Based on student ability, I either walk them through each problem or allow them to work in their groups.
I have found the most valuable part of an interactive notebook to be the sense of pride and completion students find in having a tangible product showing every skill they have learned in math for the year. It is an excellent study guide when STAAR comes around as they can look back to any skill they still aren’t quite confident about or need a refresher on and review it. In having them keep an interactive notebook, you have given them an organized way to hold all of their math learning in their hands. Not to mention, it serves as a great tool for parent communication. If they are curious as to what their child is learning in math, I just pull out the notebook. It’s all there.
The examples shown here are from the interactive notebook that covers each of the place value TEKS for 4th grade math. If you are interested in looking at more of the pages, or my second interactive notebook that covers the problem solving TEKS, check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store here. I’ll be working on getting each interactive notebook formatted for TpT and uploaded in the near future, so keep checking back!