Do you ever find that technology is not all it is cracked up to be?
Do your students often forget their devices and chargers?
Or are you a lover of tech in the classroom but are looking to give your students a break from all the screens?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, using Spanish interactive notebooks is a teaching technique that might just be perfect for your classroom.
Technology can be wonderful, do not get me wrong.
But sometimes, internet-reliant technology can let you down, and that is when going old-school can be the safest bet.
Though this pen-and-paper approach to teaching and learning Spanish might seem traditional, this kind of notebook is actually a relatively new phenomenon.
Imagine: a creative way to promote organization and reinforce challenging concepts in a way that inspires pride in students and their parents/guardians?
Read on to find out more about the simple beauty of the Spanish interactive notebook.
What Are Spanish Interactive Notebooks?
In a nutshell, “interactive notebooks” is a fancy name for composition books that students fill with resources and revisit throughout the year.
You distribute handouts and activities that contain important information.
Students then cut out the relevant bits, glue them in their notebooks in an orderly fashion and personalize them by filling them in, marking them up and using them to learn!
The interactive part comes from students engaging with the material directly, correcting their mistakes and using their notebooks as study guides.
Spanish interactive notebooks are also:
- An approach to learning that helps students stay organized. Students of all ages lead very busy lives, and sometimes, staying organized can be a challenge.
Messy binders and folders can be too much for some students to manage as materials often slip out or tear, making them impossible to find just as they are needed for test preparation or homework.
Interactive notebooks keep everything in one place, preventing these organizational problems from happening in the first place.
- A way for students to store everything they have learned in Spanish class. Spanish materials cross a wide variety of platforms: grammar concepts, vocabulary building, reading strategies and writing practice. The table of contents in these notebooks gives students a clear method to sort their materials.
- An opportunity for teachers to engage students with different learning styles. Writing on the board or projecting PowerPoints on a screen might work for visual and auditory learners, but what about kinetic learners who need to move in order to register important information?
Using these notebooks requires students to actually do something with the material they are learning, so learners of all types are actively engaged.
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Why Are Spanish Interactive Notebooks Useful to Students?
Interactive notebooks double as a helpful study resource.
When students need to review their Spanish materials in preparation for a test or a project, they will have everything right in front of them.
Mention this helpful fact to students when introducing the notebooks in class; it may motivate them to keep the notebooks current, tidy and attractive.
They offer students a way to be creative while learning.
Students can personalize their notebooks with colors and drawings that mean something to them.
Leave some time for decorating during every notebook session. Discourage the use of markers as they can run through pages, but make colored pencils and highlighters available for adding a touch of color.
Give students the option to create collages as extra credit or for cultural projects and see what happens when you encourage your students to be more artistic!
They minimize clutter and mess.
Interactive notebooks are a lightweight and portable learning system when done correctly.
Early on in the introductory process, monitor your students as they compile the materials for their notebooks so that you can encourage neatness. There should not be any paper sticking out that invite tearing and ragged edges, so make sure your instructions and handouts include clear indications to students where they should be cut and pasted.
They add to your teaching arsenal.
Of course, using interactive notebooks is just one teaching method to bring to your classroom.
As we said before, we are not pushing technology away completely! In fact, the very tactile activity of putting together these notebooks provides a perfect companion to screen-based learning.
Pair physical activities with sessions on FluentU for maximum effectiveness and a good balance for your Spanish classroom.
The Quick-start Guide to Spanish Interactive Notebooks in the Classroom
Now that you understand the basic concepts behind interactive notebooks, here are some guidelines for implementing them in your classroom.
Fortunately for budget-strapped schools, teachers and students do not need much to get started.
Here is the list of materials your students will need:
- a composition notebook (the kind with a bound seam and a marbled cover)
- a glue stick
- a pair of scissors
- highlighters and colored pencils
You will also need to provide the various handouts for including in the notebooks.
Get started with the downloadables below by handing them out directly or using them as inspiration to create your own:
- Cover templates for interactive notebooks from Teachers Pay Teachers (and a few sample activities).
- Tips for creating a table of contents from the Island Teacher blog.
- Learning resources and handouts work great as content. Try these basic grammar materials, vocabulary-building activities and other learning materials.
- A rubric that clarifies your grading methods is also important to have (more on that later in this guide!).
Explaining the Concept to Students
Let students know that these notebooks will function as a textbook of their own creation.
This analogy works for students because easy-to-identify parallels exist between an interactive notebook and a textbook.
For example, both contain a table of contents, page numbers, images, academic information and examples of grammar concepts.
Reassure students that they will not be creating all the content on their own; you will be distributing handouts and giving them clear instructions every step of the way.
Grading Interactive Notebooks
Provide students with a rubric for their notebooks so that there are no surprises when it comes to grading their work.
How do you develop this rubric? You can grade students for:
- Completeness of their notebooks: Have all handouts been pasted in and labeled?
- Tidiness: Is the information actually accessible?
- Creativity: Do colors and designs enhance the experience of using the notebook?
- Various levels of engagement: Have all mistakes been corrected?
If at first you are not sure how much value to give the notebooks when it comes to a student’s overall marking period grade, make it a project grade or a test grade.
Then, as students become more proficient with the notebooks, you can increase the value as you see fit.
Determining Frequency of Use
Some teachers enjoy using the interactive notebooks on a regular basis so that students know what to expect.
Others prefer to scatter the opportunities depending on how quickly students progress through various Spanish grammar concepts and vocabulary building opportunities.
Use whichever way works best for you.
One easy way to organize your schedule of events is to start every new concept with an interactive notebook session, and then to finish every unit of study with a review of the materials contained within.
This way, you provide your students with an easy way to stay on top of their new materials at the start of the process and to check for completion at the end.
Getting Parents and Guardians Involved
If this kind of family involvement is important to you as a teacher, Spanish interactive notebooks offer parents and guardians an easy way to check on their students’ progress.
You might consider sending an email or a letter to parents and guardians letting them know that their students will be using interactive notebooks. Explain that, at times, the students will need their parents to sign or initial a page or assignment so the teacher knows that the students have shown their notebooks to their families.
Often, parents and guardians appreciate the opportunity to check out their students’ work. And besides, it can be a great way to keep younger students accountable!
Hopefully this introduction to Spanish interactive notebooks will inspire you to try something a little different with your students.
Good luck with the cutting and pasting! Your students will thank you for showing them an easy and rewarding way to stay organized in Spanish class.
Lynn Ramsson is an educator who enjoys working with students of all ages. She has taught in Virginia and California, and now, she writes from the south coast of England where she lives with her family. She travels to Spain as often as she can, in search of the perfect gambas al ajillo.
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