When I happened upon a display by some lady named Dinah Zike at a conference, my first thought was Holy cow, this is what I’ve been doing in my classroom for YEARS! Finally, someone’s established the value of these activities and was smart enough to make some money off it!

As it turns out, I AM SERIOUSLY LATE, because Dinah is the guru of foldables: I tossed her name out to newsletter subscribers and got rave responses; I discovered multiple discussions at the AtoZ Teacher Stuff forums including some info on free foldables; and I opened the supplemental resources for our district’s new reading series and there she was again, partnering with McGraw-Hill! Clearly this woman is unstoppable.


A page from the foldables book included with our district’s reading series.

In case you’ve been hiding under the same rock that’s had me sheltered, foldables are multi-dimensional graphic organizers that can be used for skill reinforcement, practice, and/or information gathering. They’re unique because they provide a kinesthetic tool for learning (which is extremely important for younger students and rather hard to incorporate when teaching abstract skills such as reading comprehension). The concept reminds me a bit of the Alternatives to Worksheets book and it’s sequel, which have molded my teaching style more than any other resource book (remarkable, since I rarely meet anyone who’s even heard of the series). Dinah Zike has a similar idea that is–dare I say?–even MORE effective in helping students organize and analyze information.


From “Notebook Foldables”: the five tab vertical.

Dinah’s reps have graciously allowed me a review copy of any book in her collection, which was tantamount to giving an empty plastic bag to a kid in a candy store and hollering “Fill ‘er up!”. After much deliberation, I settled on Notebook Foldables For Spirals, Binders, and Composition Books. It’s designed for grades 4-college, but since I’ve already tried many of the ideas in the primary grade books, I thought this ‘big kid’ version could offer some unique ideas I could adapt for my third graders…and I was far from disappointed.


From “Notebook Foldables”: layered notebook.

I really can’t say enough good things about how engaging the foldables are for kids, and how effective they are in helping kids organize, comprehend, and retain information. I like to display one student’s foldable on a bulletin board in the classroom, so when I ask questions months after a unit, the kids can reference it. I taught a habitats unit once in October and asked the kids about ocean ecosystems in February. No one remembered until I said, “Think about the foldable we did with blue paper: you drew fresh water ecosystems on one side and salt water on the other…” and immediately five hands went up. I pointed to the sample on the back wall, and eight more hands went up. That’s how powerful these things are.


Freshwater/saltwater ecosystems foldable in blue (upper right-hand corner).

The Notebook Foldables book, like many others from Dinah, even came with a companion CD featuring printables. The Dinah-Might Adventures site has some free ideas which are also worth checking out.

Have you used foldables (from Dinah, or your own creation)? Any good ideas to share for graphic organizers, manipulatives, or worksheet alternatives?



  1. bpierce@saisd.net

    lovelovelove DZ's books…she lives 30 min.from San Antonio…I've had the honor of attending a few of her presentations…she is amazing!!! Kids love the foldables!!! Glad you finally discovered her…. 🙂

  2. Mrs. V

    I have heard of foldables, and last year I used them a lot with my McGraw-Hill Science book. I am sure that they were her ideas since you mentioned her working with the same publisher. I had not heard of notebook foldables though, so I am going to look into her books more. They seem very interesting.

  3. Anonymous

    I must've lived under the same rock as you because I've never heard of her or the foldables…but they look awesome. I'm teaching all of the 4th graders in my school science this year (just my class and one other) and we're using interactive notebooks. Seems like these foldables would be a great addition to our notebooks. I'm definitely putting the book on my "to buy" list.

  4. Becky N

    Angela these look awesome, I will definitely investigate! Thanks for the info.
    Becky N.

  5. Angela

    @bpierce: I'm so jealous that you got to attend her sessions! How fun!

    @Mrs. V: I think the notebook foldables are perfect for older kids who are taking notes because it lets them compile everything in one place for easy reference. Let me know how that works for you.

    @Anon: Ooh, this is going to be the perfect addition to your interactive notebooks! Yay!

    @Becky N: I think it will be a manageable strategy for your situation, as difficult as you've got it. Your kids will definitely be engaged and on task, which is half the battle. 🙂

  6. Anonymous

    it's mcgraw that's unstoppable
    and they can always cut the strings.

    that said, this actually looks like
    a pretty good little tool. one thing
    for sure: i had a fascination as a kid
    with those "advent calendar" thingies.

    looks like a pretty cool site you're
    running here; i found you at brazen's.

  7. Tricia

    I'm behind in my blog reading, but still wanted to chime in. I teach my preservice teachers about interactive notebooks and foldables. In addition to sharing the Zikes' books, I share these great resources. Most of them have free downloadable materials, as well as great example projects.

    Making Books With Children: Free Projects

    Science Notebooking Blog

    Bookmaking Instructions from Art, Books & Creativity (National Museum for Women in the Arts)

    Bookmaking with Kids Blog

    Sorry for rambling on. I hope you find these useful.

  8. Debbie

    Angela, I have both of your books and they are inspiring. I needed the shot in the arm they provided. As for foldables, we have a few choices in our adopted science text, but it wasn’t until I started cruising Pinterest that I began to see the huge opportunities they could potentially provide. I have been using and improvising with the concept ever since. The kids love them, and I feel so much better teaching with them than using boring worksheets for everything. They allow me to go outside the lines and enliven my curriculum in these days of standards, standards, standards.

    • Angela Watson

      Thank you, Debbie! Foldables are HUGE on Pinterest, aren’t they! It’s a great place to get ideas for them.

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