Thursday, February 13, 2014

Making Interactive Notebooks Work


1. Start off day one with the notebooks. 
This summer when Office Depot had composition notebooks for sale, I stocked up on enough for class sets for one semester (I'm on block). This way I can start off teaching expectations from the beginning and not have to wait for students to bring in one - especially since we all know there are a couple who will never bring one. On their supply list is a notebook to replace the one I gave them.
2. Page Numbers 
Last semester I started putting the page number on copies. If you are tired of hearing "What page does this go on?" look no further. I put mine in a box in the top right corner. 

3. Manage your supplies. 
Check out my post on my group supply bins and how to make them work. Then students have everything they need and aren't constantly searching for supplies. It also helps decrease movement, prep time, and holds students responsible.

4. Control Paper Distribution
I have a table when they enter where they pick up all their copies for the day. I will be writing a post later on how this works day to day. But, I instruct them on the first day to get the papers on the table as they come in and reinforce it for a couple days. After that it is on autopilot and we don't have to lose momentum in class to pass out materials.
5. Keep everyone on the same page
I've started using Math = Love's Unit TOC's and I'm loving it. I've also put a place on the back to stamp for homework and classwork which is a new addition this semester. I made a TOC for the front bulletin board out of poster board, marker, and contact paper. I can write on it in Expo marker and erase when necessary.

6. Use some sort of tabs
This makes it so easy for students to use it as a reference, for you to do notebook checks on a particular section, or to find specific material more quickly.

7. Envelope for piece-y parts
Part of why you probably when to do an INB is to be more interactive, which often involves cutting and pasting. But we all know sometimes things happen and we don't get to an activity when we thought and all those pieces are lying about. We have an envelope at the front of the notebook that is the home for such things. I got mine at a supply warehouse our district keeps for teachers based on donations.

8. Embrace the pocket
I make pockets out of construction paper cut in half both ways. Students tape on bottom, right and left. These are great to put full size paper or packets that you just can't cut down. Or put in note cards with vocab, notes, etc.

9. Don't feel pressure to put everything in the notebook. 
My students are required to have a binder where we keep quizzes, tests, and extra classwork in the classroom. I think this helps keep the notebook from being cluttered and last semester I used almost my entire notebook for the course even with keeping classwork separate.

10. Have students prep before class starts
I feel crazy for saying this but...I don't do traditional warm-ups. Students have five minutes at the beginning of class to do a "Do Now" that involves turning in homework and getting materials ready for the day. At the start of a new unit they might be putting on the new tab, they might be cutting out pieces for an activity, folding and cutting some guided notes - it depends on the day. I put the instructions in a dedicated part of the board with an example of what I want done.

I hope some of these encourage you to try something new! Feel free to leave your own tips for INB success as well. Always remember to take it a step at a time. This is my third semester doing notebooks and it is finally going much more smoothly, but it took a lot of trial and error - just stick with it!


  1. I am totally going to try to use these tips! I'm am going to try doing an INB with my resource chemistry class next year. Any advice I can get is welcome! Thanks!

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  3. One of the biggest assets for a school / company is their notebooks. However, they are unfortunately neglected in this digital age. Notebooks function as a great item for writing and brainstorming ideas. They are great for meetings or if you have a problem with the electronic system.

    This was a great article and I learned a lot. Will try to follow your advice to be more productive. Teachers and higher ups should use notebooks themselves I believe. Thank you for sharing.