Sunday, July 28, 2013

ISN Setup for US History!

Every year I buy about ten extra ISN's for my students who can't get their own, or who come in after school has started. We use composition notebooks in our class. They are CHEAP, before school starts they are between fifty cents and a dollar. 

To relay the importance of the ISN I usually present it in this way:

"Everybody lift up your ISN" and I watch the students lift it up. I balance it on one hand like a restaurant tray. "Now try with four fingers" we balance it, "Now three fingers," I watch the kids balance it again "Now two fingers,". We then look at how wide it is and we generally decide we could probably fit the ISN under the door of our classroom. 

Now when we get to the end I relay to them "This is NOT the ISN that broke the students back. It should NEVER leave your back pack. The only reason it leaves your back pack is so that you can study!" 

One of the reason I love the composition notebooks is because they are small and I don't feel bad making my students lug them around all the time. One of my classroom procedures is that when the students walk in the room they pick up any papers they will need for the day. When we set up the ISNs it works the same way! The students pick up all the papers they need and right before we begin set up I lift up each paper and make sure that each student has every paper. It gives the students time to run to the back table and pick up whatever they need so they aren't doing it throughout the class period. 

The following is the way I have my students set up their ISN:
I have them put our classroom rules at the beginning of their ISN
and any time we are about to do something that references a rule we
turn to the front of our ISN and reference it.
I put a list of the most important links for my students at the front of their ISN.
They put their Name Teacher and Class period in case their ISN goes missing.
However I make them put important sites and information about our class as well.
I can always tell parents anything they need to know about our class is in the
front of their student's ISN

The next page is for our ISN Table of Contents. It usually changes every six weeks and I leave about six pages up from the previous six weeks just in case students didn't get a chance to copy it down. Students use pages two through four as their Table of Contents Pages.

Even though I teach US History I still feel like it is VERY important for students to have a basic knowledge of where different parts of the world are.  I found at the end of last year my students had NO IDEA where Asia was on a world map. Talk about an eye opener... So this year students will be required to label seven continents and five oceans on a world map sporadically throughout the school year. 

We use it to reference slave trade, mercantilism, and Manifest Destiny. 

Again, one of the things my students struggle most with is geography. After every test students take a Map/Essay portion the next day. This way by the end of the year they can label a US Map and prime landmarks

We try to coincide what we are teaching with the states we make the kids label. The most we have them label at once is thirteen-- for the thirteen colonies.  


Along with labeling the states the students will eventually be labeling capitals as well. 
The chart is used so students can fill it in as they are assigned states to label.

All of this goes in the front of the students ISN. 
Now we flip to the back twelve pages. 

I give each student a post it note and make them count out fourteen pages (twenty eight front and back).  I then have them fold over the post it note so it acts as a tab and tape the other side. 

In our class homework acts as a review of information from past topics we have covered. I wanted my students to be able to go back and use these as a review before tests and our STAAR Test. 

The front eight pages are for traditional homework and the back six are for our KUD. Which is a type of review I'll talk about in another post. Our KUD is at it's core a list of topics for students to use as they review.  

When they are all in one place it makes it easier for students to find and reference them for our cumulative Super Quizzes (given every six weeks) and our end of year standardized test.

These are the back cover of my student's ISN and the page next to it. My students always complained about having to tape their quizzes into their ISN even though their quizzes are class sets and therefore their notebook paper only has answers and is therefore fairly useless to hold onto. 

This chart is a way for students to keep track of their quiz scores, the topics that they struggled with etcetera. They also have a graph to chart their Test grades on for the first semester. I hope that by doing this students will be able to track their progression better. 

This post was about ISN organization and initial setup. I'll do more posts about different ways we have our students take notes!


  1. Am I a certified stalker if I comment again?!? Oh well... I'll take that risk ;)
    LOVE your reflection pages. Students need to be accountable for their grades, know where they need to push themselves, and in what areas they need extra help in before the STAAR.
    BTW, I'm going to add the contact info and the rules to my ISN. Thanks for the ideas!
    I'll be watching for more posts
    [[said in creepy stalker voice]]

    1. Yay! I'm glad you like the stuff I'm using in my classroom! Most of those pages were born out of necessity from this last year! --Stalk on!

  2. This is wonderful, but I have to ask... what does ISN stand for? I've never heard the term!

    1. An ISN is an "Interactive Student Notebook" essentially it is where students put information. Its just a plain notebook that we set up to use throughout the year. At our school the right is used for note taking purposes while the left is generally for processing activities.

  3. I know you posted this a LONG time ago but I am just now reading through (and thoroughly loving) all of your posts, especially Harry Potter Day - but this comment is about ISNs. I love the way you set yours up, especially with the homework in the back and the graphs/chart of quiz/test scores. Question for you, though - how quickly do students go through a composition notebook? I'm heading into my 2nd year of teaching 7th grade Social Studies (yay Social Studies!!) and am going to be trying ISNs but am curious how many notebooks the students will need throughout the year. It just seems like they will need several and I'm worried they won't be able to provide more than 1...advice? Thanks!!

    1. Aw thank you for all of your sweet words! We use one composition book a semester. We usually don't use all the paper but its nice for the kids to restart per semester. I preach to them the importance of holding on to their ISN to study for the STAAR test with. I just went to Wal-Mart and bought thirty six notebooks for fifty cents each! I usually have a stock of extras for kids I worry won't be able to provide their own which is usually about fifteen kids. I LOVE having the ISN though--its amazing.