Using Interactive Notebooks as a Counselor

Interactive notebooks are all the rage right now, and for good reason. This educational tool provides students with (1) an easy way to stay organized (hello, no loose papers!) and (2) a fanatic way to make personal connections to material. Also, as a side note, I want to give a shout out to my 10th grade World History teacher, Mrs. Holland, because she was using interactive notebooks more than 10 years ago! I still remember being excited to use colored pencils in high school.

So, are interactive notebooks only for core content classes? No way! I’ve developed an interactive notebook for elementary students to use in classroom guidance, and I’m sure other counselors everywhere are doing this too! The notebook I use has 6 sections, and I’m still pondering extra 7th and 8th sections with the extra space 🙂 I’ve been sharing an inside look at my notebook on Instagram (@counselorkeri!) and figured I should blog about it too! I LOVE this tool so much, and I have seen some amazing growth in students who are sometimes hesitant to participate in interactive classroom guidance activities. Parents love seeing these activities come home and have called to tell me about the conversations that were sparked as a result. Needless to say, I am so happy with the way these have changed my classroom guidance lessons!

There are a lot of ways to do this, but I like to use the second classroom guidance lesson to set up the notebook. We color the cover and section pages and get them taped/glued inside the notebook. This can be complicated getting students to count the correct number of pages to separate the sections, but it can be done! I don’t have them fill in the hypotheses just get (except for the first section), but getting the notebook set up is half the battle 🙂 Getting the sections in from the get-go allows you to jump around from section to section throughout the year, incorporating character words periodically and teaching study skills throughout the year. That’s just what works for me, but there are lots of ways to do it! Another perk to using interactive notebooks is that this is a non-academic (graded) way to teach students how to use interactive notebooks before the head to middle and high school and start using them! Set them up for success early 😉 I should also mention that I use this as a supplement to my classroom guidance program – clearly not all topics are covered, and I don’t want students cutting and coloring every single time we meet.

Here’s an inside look at how I’m using the interactive notebook:

Section 1: Growth Mindset: I start the year with this section for obvious reasons 🙂 Students learn recognize fixed/growth mindset and to reframe fixed mindset statements into growth mindset statements.

Section 2: Emotions – Under the top flap, students write about a time when they experienced that emotion, and under the three flaps below, they write how the emotion looks, sounds, and feels. This promotes emotional intelligence in that students understand their own feelings and are better able to recognize feelings in their peers.

Section 3: Coping Skills – I teach this section after learning about emotions and later in the year when students start to experience more stress or peer troubles. Students can glue the tiles or tape along the top and write about a time when they’ve used the coping skill or a time when they think it would be useful. There are over 20 coping skills in this section.

Section 4: Character Counts – This section is great for all-year use. Teach it periodically with your character word of the week/month. Students can lift the top flap to write about a time they demonstrated the character trait or someone demonstrated it towards them and then describe how it looks, sounds, and feels below!

Section 6: Study Skills & Test-Taking Skills: This section is perfect for grades 4-6 as they begin to experience more challenging academics. Students learn strategies for studying and identify the ways they work best for them. I encourage students to remember that everyone learns differently, and that’s okay! The test-taking skills section is ideal before end-of-course or standardized tests and includes tips for before, during, and after the test.

Section 7: Career Exploration: This is one of my favorite sections (who am I kidding? I love all of the sections). Students begin by taking a simple interest inventory and then learn about the career clusters. Under career cluster flaps, students can write about people they know in those careers or list more community helpers from that cluster. Finish the section with a career exploration project (I love using ONET!). Students write about the career education, skills, and daily tasks under the flaps! It’s also a great way to cross-walk with ELA standards 😉

Do you use interactive notebooks in counseling? How do you do it? I’m always looking for feedback and collaboration to make it better for my kiddos! You can get mine in my TpT store!

12 thoughts on “Using Interactive Notebooks as a Counselor

  1. Hi Keri! I am new to interactive notebooking but think this looks awesome! When you said that you set up the notebooks at the beginning of the year, does that mean the students already glue everything in? Or do they paste in as the lessons are taught?

    1. Hi! When we set up at the beginning of the year, I just mean that we make a cover and add the section dividers (which can be tricky because it requires the kiddos to count out pages in between). I like to do it this way so I can skip around between sections to change it up depending in what is relevant at the time of year, what lessons teachers request, etc. Then we paste in individual lessons as we go!

  2. Hi! When we set up at the beginning of the year, I just mean that we make a cover and add the section dividers (which can be tricky because it requires the kiddos to count out pages in between). I like to do it this way so I can skip around between sections to change it up depending in what is relevant at the time of year, what lessons teachers request, etc. Then we paste in individual lessons as we go!

    1. Hi, Natalie! I have used interactive notebooks to some extent with grades 4-6! I had the most buy-in from grades 4 and 6. when I told them it was in preparation for intermediate school (our grades 7-8 science teachers use interactive notebooks exclusively!) and they could practice without getting a grade, and they also loved that they could keep it at the end of the year! Grade 4 always wants to be like grade 6 🙂 My fifth graders did great too – many of them are just in the "too cool for everything" phase 🙂 I also found that my 6th graders really jumped at the chance to color again!

  3. Did you use this resource as a supplement to your counseling lessons or were these the lessons? Are there details on how many pages you leave between sections or on the set up itself? I am trying to find a good resource for my 3rd graders and am taking the leap with interactive notebooks. I already purchased one bundle from you, just wondering if this is something else I should consider too. Love all the ideas and resources you share. Thank you so much.

    1. Hi there! I'm so sorry it has taken me a ridiculous amount of time to respond – I had no idea I even had a comment waiting for me!

      With this particular notebook, these pages supplemented the lesson I was already doing. I've also taken individual sections from this one and used them in small groups (particularly the coping skills section). I have another bundle (it might be the one you're referring to! that has 36 lesson plans and accompanying interactive notebook pages. If you do weekly lessons, it can span the whole year, but I know several counselors who use it for a 2-year curriculum doing bi-monthly lessons.

  4. I guess I'm a little confused. Each student would have to furnish a composition notebook? And these would be kept in the students' rooms? I am a new counselor for graded EC-5, so I'm trying to figure out how or if this would work for my students or at least some of the grades. But I can't buy the notebooks.

    1. Hi Barb! That a great question – in my first school, I had a community leader who donated the composition books the first year (we were a small school, and I only did one grade level to start). The notebooks were kept in a crate in the classroom (with teachers permission 🙂 ). When I expanded to multiple grade levels the next year, I had enough time beforehand to ask teachers to add an additional composition book to their supply lists, and this went over without issue.

    2. Keri, I just completed an inservice with my grade level teachers and am interested in using interactive notebooks. I am in a school grades K-5. Would you recommend I begin with one grade level?
      What lessons are you using in your interactive notebook?

    3. Hi Lois! When I first started using interactive notebooks, I started with grade 4. I'm glad I started with them because I was able to learn from them and make changes over the summer to improve upon it to make it even better for them in 5th grade! I typically stick with grade 4-6 now. The curriculum that I use is this one: It's 36 lessons, so it covers weekly classroom guidance lessons (I was able to do that in my old school because it was small, but it could really span 2 years going in every other week). In that curriculum, I divide the lessons into Self, Others, Unity, Community, and Supplemental lessons to have some flow and organization. The "self" lessons cover things like goal setting, self esteem, etc. The "others" lessons cover things like respect, cooperation, friendship, empathy, etc. The "unity" section covers conflict resolution, peer mediation, etc. The "community" sections covers career development, exploration, and ways students can currently be community helpers. The "supplemental" section is just everything else – meet the counselor, drug prevention, national school counseling week, and I'm sure lots of things I'm forgetting now! My students really seem to connect well with the material through the interactive notebooks, and many of them enjoy having a place to keep a journal and have something to take home from "counseling"! Feel free to email me anytime if you want to chat about INBs! I love doing them! It was really overwhelming for me at first, but I really think starting with one grade level helped!

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