Interactive Notebook for “The Pearl”

This is my sixth year teaching 10th grade English, so I wanted to change things up a bit. I’ve seen  a lot of hype about the benefits of using interactive notebooks (INs) and decided to give it a try with the relatively short novel, “The Pearl.”

Here’s how it went:

Day 1

I started the first few pages just as all of the other bloggers and teachers suggest: rules about the book and a few blank pages for the table of contents.

Above is a picture of my first actual spread where I created a foldable graphic organizer for 10 vocabulary words. This took a good hour and more than a couple tries to get everything to line up just right. However, the students were very happy to have a study guide all ready for them. I liked being able to refer students back to it throughout the unit if they ever finished something early: “Study your vocabulary, it’s right in your book.” They couldn’t argue with that.

I left the left side for original sentences using the words and I periodically checked their books and wrote grades or corrections right in the book. This way, I was again able to direct students back to it and the paper is never lost. I can suggest a student redo a sentence and it actually gets done because it’s always right there for them. So far, so good.

I had students create and glue down the characterization chart we’ll use throughout the unit. It’s an easy foldable. Line up the two pages and fold once. Staple at the fold and glue down. Students take notes on Kino’s character at the end of chapters 2, 4, and 6.

For each section of chapters they find two traits to describe Kino. On the left side, students find one quote from the text to support each trait they identify. This is a good opportunity to practice MLA formatting.

Day 2

This foldable graphic organizer is just lining up two pages and folding once, stapling the top, then cutting the two dotted lines. This one as well took a few hours to create and perfectly line up. The students were still intrigued by the newness of the foldable organizers. I used QR codes around the room to get all of the information they needed and to get them out of their seats. On the left side I had them make predictions based on their new knowledge.

Day 3

We are actually reading the text at this point, but not until we first cut and glue the tabs for the first chapter. This chapter is full of imagery and references to music, so I found some music online I felt mirrored the mood of different parts of the story. There are QR codes to link to the webpage to play the music and I put it in a Powerpoint to listen together.

I could have had students cut out and glue down a graphic organizer for the imagery, but I don’t want to create laziness and I like the idea of the students learning to make their own graphic organizers. For the music the students identify the mood of the music and what is happening in the text that goes with the music: morning sunrise, the scorpion attack, the visit to the doctor. This goes very well and the students enjoy the music. I can’t tell though if it went well because of the IN or because it incorporated music.

Day 4

There is a bit of cutting for this one and the students are getting the hang of what to cut and what to fold. I also started to add little scissor pictures on the lines to cut and that helped tremendously. I really think the IN was helpful in this assignment because the students were able to rearrange the different quotes in order to group them and attempt to find similarities and patterns (emerging themes).

Having a whole text or even a paper full of quotes is overwhelming to some students; being able to remove, from their desk, all but two or three quotes helps to chunk it out for them. It’s easier to analyze those two or three quotes without the distraction of the others.

I also like having the different tabs because it again helps to isolate the information. I can have them look at examples of rich vs. poor without the others cluttering their thoughts and diverting their attention.

The found poem went well, too. It probably helps that the words are already there for them, and they just need to find the right ones and the right spot for them.

Another option I may try next time is black out poetry. Paste a page of the text in the interactive notebook and have students circle different words (like found poetry) and black out everything around those words. The words that are still visible become the poem.

Day 5

This goes with chapter three and focuses on symbolism, inferences, and theme. I was going to have the students draw their own graphic organizer for the symbolism, but I figured this would just be easier. I left room under the word symbolism for students to take notes about what symbolism means. One student got that they are supposed to look like pearls.

I was also going to have some sort of flap for this section, but it seemed overkill in the foldable graphic organizer department. It also seemed like too much cutting and pasting for little reward.

Below is a section for inferences. I intentionally left white space next to the word inferences for students to take notes on what the word means. The focus here is on how the reader knows the doctor (or rather his assistant) is the one who attacked that night because he saw Kino’s eyes flicker towards where the pearl was buried.

For the left side, I have students do a brief writing assignment on theme. They looked at basic emerging themes, but this chapter helps develop them more fully. Now students can write out a complete sentence instead of just good versus evil. I also take this opportunity to have students use quotes to support their answer.

Day 6

More vocabulary, but this time students complete it on their own time. They already know what to do with it at this point. Moving right along to chapter four.

This came about because I have very visual students. I knew it would help them to see internal conflict as actually being in his head. A few students did say it helped them better understand internal conflict.

To get into the analysis of complex characters, they look at each internal conflict and write out how they think chapter one Kino would have handled it. For example, chapter one Kino would have taken the $1,000 and been very happy to have it. Chapter one Kino was content with his life.

Day 7

I ditched the foldable graphic organizers for a hand-drawn one. A basic t-chart to show static and dynamic characters. Specifically I want students to look at Juana. This is the chapter she defies her husband but then continues to support him after he hurts her.

On the left side, students complete a writing assignment. They pick one scene from the book to write from Juana’s point of view. They need to write in first person, include Juana’s thoughts and reasoning for her decisions.

Day 8

I like the foldable organizer here because there is a lot of information to write down. If you open up the organizer, it is full of writing. That really has a negative impact on my students. They get overwhelmed, feel like it’s too much work, loose focus, etc. This looks more manageable and still gets all the information needed.

Students take notes on the different tragic hero traits on the underside of the flap. On the paper underneath the flap, students write a quote from the text that shows the trait. They also include how the quote shows the trait. This is the type of information they ask now on the SATs and many state tests. What is the answer and what is one quote to support the answer? This worksheet is great practice for that.

The other page(s) of the notebook is for writing an essay on tragic hero. Students can use their quotes and reasoning they have already started to write out on the organizer. All they have to do is organize their essay and add good transitions. The focus can be more on the writing since the information gathering already happened.

That’s It!

I wrote out the days, but I personally did not follow that. For one thing, we read in class so already this took much longer. I also did not make my students complete the writing prompts in one day. We peer edited and rewrote which took a few days.

Overall, I really enjoyed it and so did the students. We all saw the benefit of occasionally using foldable graphic organizers and the constant benefit of having all the work in one notebook.

When I first wanted to try interactive notebooks, I looked at a lot of blogs to see how to do it. Hopefully, this will help a few people who are considering taking the plunge in their classroom as well. If you want to try this one, click here to go to my TeachersPayTeachers store.


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