How to Create Lapbooks for the Interactive Science Notebook

mini lapbooks

Lapbooks had been showing up in my Pinterest feed more and more, and I wanted to find the best way to use them in a science classroom. All the lapbooks I come across look fun and interactive, and I know students would enjoy creating and using them.

Thinking over the many uses of a lapbook in a science classroom, I decided that they would be a great addition to an interactive science notebook. Essentially, lapbooks and interactive notebooks both give students an interactive place to collect and store new information for future practice and reference.

One thing bothered me about lapbooks. Where would I keep these lapbooks in my classroom? I have always organized and stored student notebooks in my classroom. Each table with its own crate to hold the notebooks. Students can take their notebooks home for review or homework help as needed, but having a dedicated place of storage in the classroom cuts down on students losing and destroying them. A lapbook for each student, for each topic, would really add clutter to my already filled classroom. **Idea** Make the lapbooks IN the notebooks!

mini lapbook image.pngI have a system for creating lapbooks for each topic in your science lessons, and how to get a whole lapbook onto a page in the student notebook.

  1. Create a lapbook using printer paper and glue it into the notebook on the input side.
  2. Use the materials that you already have in your lesson files to fill the lapbook with valuable information and learning tools.
  3. Create these lapbooks during the time you already use for interactive notebook input.

Students can always look back and review the interactive learning tool you have provided for them! This is great for test prep and review.

Easy to create, easy to store, and easy for students to use!

Grab this FREE mini lapbook guide with set up and printables!

Lapbook Template


Here is my Complete List of What to Include in your Lapbooks for the Interactive Science Notebook:

  1. Topic/ I Can Statement or Standard
  2. Guiding Question to Answer
  3. K-W-L or Schema Building Activity
  4. Vocabulary Matching (Cards and Definitions can be found in these review stations.)
  5. Anchor Chart
  6. Lab or Activity Sheet
  7. Interactive Science Notebook Input Activity

**Print on the setting “4 per page” to get the printables small enough for your mini lapbook.

You can always take this lapbook idea and use it for a file folder sized lapbook if that is the format you like best!

This whole system could be easily modified to work in a math or history/ social studies classroom, too!! The possibilities are endless 🙂

Have fun making Interactive Science Notebooks even more interactive!!!

How to get your work done during the school day (and leave on time)

how to work smarter

Hi teacher friends! Since school is starting back up, I want to share my secret to keeping my sanity while teaching. I am a planner, and I figured out very quickly that teaching was a job that needed serious time management. At first, I spent nights and weekends grading papers. It took me four hours on Sunday nights to plan my week’s lessons and write my lesson plans to turn in to my principal. I spend who knows how many hours online and in book stores researching the best creative and effective ways to teach my content. When you spend ten hours at school teaching, prepping, tutoring, and planning, the last thing you want to do (or need to do) it work at home.

We all need a nice, relaxing, enjoyable home life. I have found that having hobbies and date nights and family movie nights and attending church all help me live a happy life. Working long hours and continuing to work at home take away those joys.

I know that teaching is a demanding career. Never before did I have so much responsibility, diversity, planning, data, or training like teaching required. We teachers have a great deal of information and activities to cram into each day of the school year. I have worked in all exemplary schools with very high expectations on the teachers. So, I know the incredible stress of needing your students to pass state tests. I am hoping that sharing some ways I found to get my work done at school and leave on time will help you find ways to do the same.

  1. Get to work at least 30 minutes before the kids get there. This will give you time to make sure you have everything you need for the day, look over your plans, start the day quietly, and maybe even catch up or get ahead on copies or grading.
  2. Sneak in time to grade student work. I would grade while I ate, while I made copies, while I waiting on a meeting to start, and after school. Its never a good idea to grade while you should be monitoring or teaching. If the students are in your care, its probably not the best time to grade. Grading student work using a remote (CPS) system can be a huge time saver, if it is a multiple choice assignment. I used the remote system for grading homework assignments quickly. It also gave us a chance to talk about each question as a class, and give the class and me an idea how well everyone was understanding the questions.
  3. Make class time count. The more involved you are in assessing and redirecting and guiding student learning, the better they will “get it” the first time. As students work, walk around observing, asking questions, and assessing their work. If you can work with each student individually throughout the day on their assignments, then you may be able to tutor within each lesson. This just makes your time more effective. I am not saying this will replace your normal tutoring time, but they will be more successful with your extra attention throughout the day. For each topic, teach it and show it in a variety of ways. The more your students experience and re-experience a topic, the better it will “stick” with them. They say it takes reading or hearing something seven times to commit it to memory. How many times do your students see or hear the content? Repetition is a great method for helping students commit it to memory.
  4. Plan during your planning period. I know meetings and obligations come up during your planning period, but use that as much as possible to plan. I recently wrote a post about how I use a system to plan efficiently. Find a system that will work for most units, and you can just plug the materials in. Here are a couple examples of my lesson planning.

This is a planning page that shows my overall system of planning resources for a lesson. lesson brainstorming imgHere is an actual lesson plan that I have written for 5th grade science. It will show you how those resources fit into my week. Every week just about follows this plan. Same plan, new topic, new resources.Free science lesson- Structures and Functions of Plants and Animals

6. Prep. As part of my planning, I sort the copies I make and set up the materials for the next day. Here is an overview of my prep methods:

Make lesson plans at least three weeks ahead. Make copies at least one week ahead. Place labels on an empty counter space for each day of the week. On Thursdays, stack the copies and materials you need for each day of the following week on those labels. On Thursday,  you can also move your Friday (of this week) materials to your desk for easy access. When it comes to a lab or activity that requires a material list. I would set that up the day before. After school the day before a lab or activity, set out a basket for each table. Fill the baskets with the materials each group will need. You can either place a basket at each table, or you can have a group member pick up the materials when needed. This seriously would take me about 20 minutes after school. *As you write your lessons, think ahead to what materials you will need for those lessons to make sure you have them when that week comes around.

7. Make a Happy List. Okay, this is just a fun thing for you to do. What are ten activities that make you happy? Make your list and aim to do at least one of those things each week. Here is my happy list:

happy list

And, I could add chalk art while the kids play to that list. 🙂

Whatever your workload this year, make time for yourself. Love yourself, and I believe your teaching will be even more successful!

Best Wishes this year!

Back to School: 3 Steps to Streamlining Your Lesson Planning

3 steps to lesson planning

July is almost over already?!?! Summer goes by faster and faster each year I think. July is the month I always scheduled my CPE and professional development workshops to prepare for the upcoming school year. I also get organized and set up for my school year in July. I am a bit of a planning nerd, so a good deal of my lessons and classroom were usually set up by the time I left the previous school year. But, I always used July to really get it together.

Okay, so where do I begin planning an entire year?

Evaluate, Simplify, Plan

step 1 evaluate

First, I evaluate what I need to cover. Your state and district standards are always a great place to start. Some schools provide a scope and sequence to let you know when to cover each standard. If you don’t have a scope and sequence, break up your standards across your year. I use a calendar like the picture below to organize the standards in a logical order and take into account school holidays.

planning calendar

2 simplify

Second, I simplify by planing out my system for teaching. I like to begin with a learning goal based on the standard(s) I have planned for the week(s). Having a specific method for teaching in your classroom will help you organize and streamline the planning process of each lesson. Here is the planning method I use:”IDEA” Introduce, Details, Experience, Assess.

lesson brainstorming img

Click here to download my lesson brainstorming pages! My gift to you to help get your school year off to a low-stress start 🙂

If you would like to see a whole year of my lesson planning, check out my Science Lesson Plans freebie on Teachers Pay Teachers. This might help give you an idea how I use resources to cover each part of my teaching process. Mondays usually cover the Introduce lesson, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the Details, Thursdays are the Experience and the formative part of the Assessment. Fridays are a day I use to spread out a longer lesson, or to complete comprehensive Science Stations to review the concepts from the year. This gives you time to work with small groups for extra learning or provide a reteach if the formative assessment doesn’t show the mastery you wanted. A week from my Science Lesson Plans freebie is shown below. I make sure to provide links to any resources I use for each lesson.
Free Science Lessons: Complete and Incomplete Metamorphosis

3 plan

Third, I plan. I look at each standard/ lesson and decide which teaching materials and resources will be the best to cover it. I have a collection of resources that I add to and update each year as I go along to meet new standards or new methods of teaching. I suggest storing your collection of resources in binders. Depending on the amount of resources you have, you can put everything for one unit, or one standard, into its own binder. I started my teaching career using filing cabinets. I swear I had a troll living in my filing cabinet because papers were always all over the place and I had a hard time finding anything. I soon figured out binders were much better for me 🙂 When building your collection, Pinterest is a great place to start! So many great ideas. I can get lost in my Pinterest “Planning” time for hours. It just sucks me right in! I have many education and science boards already set up if you need a place to start looking.

I also have a blog post for each week of the school year for my upper elementary/ 5th grade lessons.

Once you have a good collection of materials and resources, go ahead and start plugging them into your lesson plans!

Here are the big collection bundled resources I have been recommending to the teachers who have already been emailing me for planning suggestions this summer.

Everything 5th Grade Science

2nd grade interactive science notebook bundle

Creating a Science Lab for your Classroom

How to create a science lab in your classroom

Lab Basics

Science Lab Basics

Need help creating a lab in your elementary classroom?  Some schools provide all the supplies you need, some reimburse you for your purchases, and some leave it up to you to fund your classroom supplies. Which ever is your situation, let’s look at a basic cost-effective list of equipment you can use to create a lab for your students. *Prices below were based on my shopping cart on

1. Group desks together or use tables (Free)

2. Safety Goggles (Set of 6 for $24) Class set

3. Metric Rulers (Set of 36 for $17) Class set

4. Triple Beam Balance ($61) Either one for class demonstrations or one per table

5. Graduated Cylinders (3 for $7) Either one set for class demonstrations or one per table

6. Glass Beakers (3 for $7) Either one set for class demonstrations or one per table

7. Hand lenses ($5) One per table

8. Hot Plate ($15) One for demonstration purposes

9. Electric Circuit Supplies: Wire ($4 a roll), batteries(20 for $8) and holders ($4 each), light bulbs (10 for $5), switches ($14 each); ( a single group set up kit for $14) Have enough supplies on hand for each group to make a circuit with switches

10. Magnet Bar ($4) One per table

11. Microscope – Celestron Digital Microscope ($43) One for class demonstration is probably enough – This one has an attachment so you can put it on the projector or TV screen through your computer!

12. Prism and lens set ($19) One for demonstration purposes

13. Flashlights (4 for $8) One per table

14. Thermometers (10 for $13) One per table

15. Notebook – add to the student school supply list

As labs come up throughout the year, collect and reuse any items you can. Put out emails to friends and staff to collect items you need for labs. Watch garage sales and store clearance sections for good buys. You can also ask local stores and businesses to donate supplies that you need. Most places are happy to help out!

Keep in mind that some of the equipment can be used for class demonstrations, so you will not need to buy multiples. You can look at my list and modify it to your needs. These items are the fundamentals that I use when designing my lessons and labs. If you need lessons, activities, and printables to complete your science class, check out my store!

The most important resource to use when deciding what materials you need for your science classroom is your state and district standards. In Texas, the first section of the standards for Science (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills – TEKS) explain the learning goals for scientific investigations and reasoning. They include a list of lab tools students should be comfortable using.

science standards for lab tools


Storage Solutions for Classroom Science Labs

Group the equipment and supplies by the unit they are most often used for, so you will know where to find things. Have cabinets set up for Physical Science, Earth and Space, and Life Science. Keep supplies that you use for labs in gallon freezer bags stored with the corresponding equipment. Most equipment will fall into the Physical Science category, so that will need to be the biggest cabinet. The other two categories will probably contain more supplies than equipment.

Another option is storing lab tools out in the open. Using lab tools as a display serves a dual purpose. You can put the supplies on the top of cabinets around the room with a large label for each one or set. Hang your thermometer on the wall, or hang multiple thermometers in different areas/ temperatures in the room. It would be like a 3-D anchor chart for lab tools. And, it leaves your cabinets open for storing more supplies.

triple beam balance

Science Classroom Decor

I never used anything too fancy to decorate a science classroom. Science is an interesting subject and kids like it. Use that to your advantage and use science as your decor. As you cover topics throughout the school year place anchor charts up around the room. Your walls are prime real estate for learning and anchor charts give students a place to refresh their memory. With bright or bold colors and drawings or diagrams, anchor charts can be very decorative. Science news articles and images can be placed around the room or on bulletin boards for added interest. Like I said in the organization and storage section, storing science tools around the room provide visuals for students to become more familiar with the tools and they make the classroom shelves a little more interesting.

anchor chart1


The Twelve Days of Christmas Tips and Gifts: Ninth Day – Classroom Labels

12 days of Christmas tips and gifts

Follow with me each day as I post my 12 gifts of Christmas for teachers. Each day will have a tip to encourage engaged learning in your classroom and a free gift to accompany that tip. Here goes the ninth day!

On the ninth day of Christmas, Elementary Ali gave to me…

Nine Classroom Label Pages!

An interesting and interactive classroom has a lot going on. You have I can statements, essential questions, interactive notebooks, tables, learning stations, lab supply baskets, and the list goes on and on. I have put together a small collection of labels that might help you organize some of the things you have around the classroom.  This week your gift is nine pages of free classroom labels! Here are a couple sample pics:

free labels free labels free labels

Beginning of the year Science


iphone 216
Well, it’s that time of the year again. Back to School season. It is actually one of my favorite seasons of the year! I happen to be a huge school supply need, so back to school shopping is my favorite. I always buy more than I need and spend more than I should, but I get excited. It is also my favorite season because you get to set up your classroom and prepare to delight and enlighten students with a love for learning and a love for science. Teaching is all about making it fun and interesting. I love to share that fun with the kids! Today, I am going to share my ideas for starting off the year with fun with you! I have added hyperlinks into this post in case you need to see which resources I prefer to use.

From day one, I let my students know how much fun science will be. I build up the anticipation by talking about the kinds of labs and activities we will cover throughout the year. This anticipation and excitement is a perfect opening to lead into behavior. I explain to them how important it is to follow the rules and listen in science. Labs can be dangerous of rules are not followed. I always tell my students that if they are not following the rules and listening, I can trust them with lab equipment. Right off the bat, I find behavior better because they want to participate in labs! I have a behavior system of warnings and rewards that my kids have loved. It includes a fishbowl to fill with fish for good behavior, a cat moving closer to the fishbowl for warnings, and the cat can eat fish out of their bowl for each redirection after the cat gets to the bowl. Works like a charm! The reward I find most effective is allowing students to pick their seating chart for a period of time. They actually work pretty hard to get rid of my seating chart. A daily reminder that good behavior = labs and fun activities helps. They always say to start the year off tough and scare the kids into good behavior. Well, at 5 feet 1 inch, I am not scary. I can’t be scary if I try my hardest. I did worry I would have troubles with discipline because of my lack of scare tactics, but my creativity paid off and I never felt I had lost a student. No student wants to be left out of a lab! I think I had one or two that did miss a lab and completed a handout over the information. It only happened once to each of them 🙂

It really helps to get your classwork started from day one. Don’t plan nonsense days for the first week of school for two reasons. One, the kids will consider it play time because they can tell it is not an important week and you have lost them from the beginning. Reason two, time is a precious commodity in teaching. You have way to much to accomplish in just a few months. Don’t waste a minute of learning time. Begin by making anchor charts with your students to outline classroom behavior expectations and any routines you will have in place. This introduces the concept of anchor charts, and gives you some wall decor to start off the year. Day one, I hit the ground running with setting up the interactive science notebook. This is the perfect time to introduce any daily routines and procedures. I like to start everything off with the Nature of Science Unit because it is basic and perfect to introduce the science routines like Science Wall, Daily Science Starters, the Interactive Science Notebook, and labs. Day one is usually setting up the science notebook with the table of contents and going over how to store them each day. The second day is usually when I start the science wall and daily science starters to accompany a lesson on lab safety.

10 Ways to Save Money on Your Classroom this Back to School

Save money on your classroom!

Let’s face it, teachers do not make enough money to spend half of it on getting their classroom ready for back to school. I know I easily spent hundreds of dollars on my classroom at back to school time each year. (It’s probably a lot more than that, if I actually sat down and added it all up.) I love to have everything all pretty and organized. I am hoping to help you have a pretty and organized classroom this year, while saving enough money to buy yourself some back to school outfits! Here are some great solutions to spending too much money this year! Here are 10 ways I have found to save money on getting your classroom ready for back to school.

Teachers can save money getting ready for the school year

Ten ways to save money getting your classroom ready for back to school.

1. Wrap your supplies in fun tape! This can give a new personalized look to old supplies AND can help you find them when they get lost or borrowed!! Now that I have discovered fun tape, I may decorate everything with it!! So much fun 🙂  I found duck tape that comes in thin rolls of fun prints.

2. DIY Magnets. You can make magnets like these in two simple steps! Magnet + Clear Stone + Print a fun design from your computer + Modge Podge = Way too easy and inexpensive to not try it! Be creative! Use glitter and modge podge for glittery magnets! You can even glue small objects to the magnet if you want.

3. Free Classroom Binder Set to get you organized and ready to go!

4. Reusable Water Bottle. My super duper favorite is this one from Starbucks. It is probably the most expensive water bottle I have ever bought ($25), but it is awesome and has saved me more than that in buying bottled waters. And… I dropped my first one getting out of the car one morning before school, so I’ve actually bought two. I drink water all day, so refilling a bottle is the way to go.

5. Don’t decorate your classroom walls! I know its hard not to, but those walls are prime real estate for actual learning and review posters. I always use the anchor charts we make as a class with each unit to decorate the walls. By the end of the year, you have class-made learning posters all over the walls! They make great references if a student needs to look back at something learned earlier in the year. And, when their mind wanders at some point in the day they have something meaningful and educational to look at. I actually took down all the posters I bought when I first started teaching and replaced them with anchor charts made in class. If you don’t want blank walls to start the year off, make procedural anchor charts and inspirational posters for the walls. I also made a small bulletin board to post current news articles that pertained to what we were learning.

Saving money on back to school!

Saving money on back to school!

6. Shop Garage Sales! I have hit the jackpot more than once and found garage sales thrown by current or retiring teachers. You can find some amazing deals. I found these magnet boards and puzzle cards this summer at a garage sale of a homeshooler. Less than five dollars bought three magnet boards with letters and pictures and a puzzle card set. One summer I found a sale from a retiring teacher and filled my classroom library and bought organizational things. Boy, was I excited that day!

7. Recover old, ugly clipboards. It is so easy to cover those old, ugly brown clipboards and make them cutesy or more useful. Here I have a clipboard covered with scrapbook paper and modge podge. Its a super easy way to make it cuter. I also bought some white board paint and plan on covering the back of my classroom clipboards so they can double as student whiteboards!!

8. Dress up boxes. Crates can really add up when you need them all over your classroom. All you need is a cardboard box (Diaper boxes work perfect), hot glue gun, and fabric. I made this box in less than 5 minutes! It’s as easy as wrapping Christmas presents 🙂 This one is for my son’s room, so he chose Winnie the Pooh. Bright patterned fabrics would look awesome in a classroom!!

9. Chalkboard tags. All you need is chalkboard paint and old gift cards! This was way too easy and makes the cutest label tags for anything in your classroom! A hole punch and a sting make it a cure hanging tag.

10. Tape for divider tabs. I haven’t bought dividers or tabs since I was in high school. Print a cute divider page on cardstock (or blank cardstock) and use decorative or regular tape for the tab. Those dividers can really add up! This saves big and is prettier. The tape tabs work in notebooks to divide sections, too!


July Teaching Tool Giveaway! Teacher Binder and Calendar Printables

July is the time when I always start seriously planning for the following school year. That is why I wanted to give away a set of planning materials this month! The teacher binder sets are a basic tool to help you start planning and organizing lessons for the school year. I love using binders rather than files because they keep everything in line exactly where it needs to go. My files end up a big pile of papers shoved in to a file folder, and I hate digging through them to find anything. Switching to binders saved me so much time and energy. Here is a freebie to get you started! Click the picture below to get the Teacher Binder Set!

teacher binder

Teacher Binder Freebie

Each set in this collection has printable binder covers and spines.

*Calendar  July 2014- July 2015

*Lesson Planning binder with templates for planning both weekly and a 5E lesson plan.

*Student Information Binder with class lists, student checklist, student grading sheet, log-ins and passwords for teacher/class and students, student information sheets, RTI log, reading levels, test data.

*IEP binder cover and spine

*Student Data binder cover and spine with copies of student grading sheet, RTI log, reading levels, test data.

*Parent Contact binder with communication log printable.

*Subject binder labels for binders storing papers for each subject.

*Tutoring binder with student checklist