08 July 2015

Back to School: Interactive Notebook Organization

Earlier in the week, I shared some classroom decor I'll be using for the 2015-2016 (that's not weird to type at all #sarcasm) school year! I thought I'd continue the B2S theme today!

I'm sharing how I help my students keep their desks organized, and which also helps keeps transitions snappy quick!
Even if you don't use "interactive notebooks" - you can do this with ANY composition book or spiral notebooks. The idea behind this is so simple (I wish I could take credit for it, however, I didn't invent it!)! It's just color-coding. Total "duh, why didn't I think of that" moment, right?
Anyway, you can use markers or crayons, and I've used both with my kiddos in the past. I don't have a preference to either one...they both work well!

I usually start by asking them to take out their ____ notebook. Naturally, it takes forever, because they have to take each one out, look at the cover, ask their neighbor if that's the right one, poll the remainder of the class, and phone a friend.
This long process leads to a very organic conversation about what we should do so that we can find our notebooks more quickly. After some brainstorming, and the power of suggestion, they come up with color-coding!

Choose whatever colors you like, or ask your sweets for suggestions. It doesn't really matter which notebook is assigned which color, just so long as all the math notebooks are green (or whatever color you choose), and spelling notebooks are red (again whatever color you want), etc...

Like anything else, I always model how to do this for my kiddos. I explain that the easiest way to color the bottom, is to lay it flat on their desks. With their non-writing/coloring hand, press down onto the bottom of the notebook, kind of like smushing a sandwich together. While smushing, color a small portion of the bottom of the notebook. The bottom doesn't have to be entirely colored, just an inch or two...enough that it's obvious what color that notebook is.
While my students are coloring, I add that subject to our anchor chart. This serves as a great reference throughout the year in case we forget, or get new students, or maybe so I can remember :)

When we're all finished color-coding our notebooks, I challenge students to a race! Can then take out a given notebook faster than they did before we color-coded?
They're always amazed at how much easier they can find a notebook! Seriously, there are no excuses for finding a notebook, keeping desks organized, and being able to make a smooth transition without talking or lost instruction time! WIN, WIN, WIN!

You may have noticed that each of our notebooks also has a cover on it. Maybe you didn't...that's ok too! At the beginning of the year, each of my students decorates a notebook cover (and of course they also have their names on them). This way, if a notebook does become lost we know exactly who it belongs to. PLUS, the decorating makes a perfect activity for students to do during the first week of school when I need just a second to catch my breath! :)

I went ahead and labeled mine and my co-teacher's notebooks to serve as models for our sweet seconds. I still need to color them, but that's certainly not at the top of my to-do list!

Take a look below at our notebook covers. We don't actually have ALL of these notebooks, but I like the variety. I made a total of 11 notebook covers that are ready to print and copy!
I know, however, that not every teacher calls every notebook a notebook, or the same name (writer's notebook vs. writing notebook). So, I created an EDITABLE version that has all of the graphics, but allows you to change the title of the notebook/journal/folder to whatever fits YOUR classroom best!

You'll just open in the EDITABLE notebook covers in powerpoint, type in whatever you call that notebook, and you're ready to print, copy, and GO!
You can grab your own here or by clicking the picture below!

For more great ideas, tips, and tricks from True Life I’m a Teacher, be sure to follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Bloglovin’ and Teachers Pay Teachers.


  1. This is such a great idea! I'd probably have my students color the bottom and the top of the notebook because I know I would have some students who would throw their notebooks in their desks the wrong way (no matter how much I drill desk neatness)! Love the idea and the covers!!

    Mrs. Cain's Creations

    1. You are SOOO right! To be honest, maybe I should have them color all the way around! That might really help some of my "shovers" :)

  2. This 28-year veteran just learned something new! Brilliant!

    1. I'm thrilled you found this helpful! :)

  3. I love this idea! Last year I just put tape on the side so they could identify it. But you're right, they still have to pull each one out. I think I'll have them color the top and bottom in case the put it in backwards. Thanks for the idea!


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