Thursday, September 4, 2014

My Take on Interactive Notebooks

Happy Friday Eve! Doesn't that sound a lot better than dreary old Thursday?? After the week I have had...I need Saturday to be here stat! I always love to escape after a long day and reflect on something great that is happening amid all the other stuff that can make you crazy if you let it. For me, that is using Interactive Notebooks in my math classes.

I am linking up with several other like-minded teachers who are great consumers of interactive notebooks in their own classrooms. I am thrilled to be part of the same blog hop hosted by 4mulafun!

Let me first start by telling you what INBs are NOT: I was in a professional development hosted by my regional service center here about this time last year. I was so excited to see composition notebooks on the tables when we walked in and were told to take one. I was even MORE excited to find that mine had grid paper inside. Am I a nerd or what? I was the only person stoked to be at a PD at 7:30 AM on a random Thursday. Because of grid paper. It really is the little things. Anyhow, long story short, all we did was glue random worksheets that we did in our notebook. I feel like it would have been better suited for a folder.

Or a trash can.

Needless to say, I didn't keep that notebook long. I like spirals better anyhow!

So, let me tell you what works in my classroom. And let me also state FOR THE RECORD that just because something works in my room doesn't mean that it will be a best fit for you and vice versa. Only you know your kids and what will work. I will tell you what DOES work for every classroom if the budget allows it--and that, my friends, is colored paper. Oh, mylanta. When the kids see that they get SO EXCITED. For real. One student said to me just today, "I just want to thank you for making our foldables on colored paper. It makes me look forward to your class."

They almost had to pick me up off of the floor.

Colored paper was the trigger. This, of course, I already knew. I mean, I love colored paper, so why wouldn't they?! But, I digress.

The point is that you have to find something that kids will look forward to each day. Something that keeps them on their toes.

We are just 8 days into the school year, and we are going strong with our notebooks. I have 6th grade regular math and 7th grade Pre-AP math this year, so I am keeping a notebook for each class. I am going to share with you what we have done so far in 7th grade so you can get an idea of how I set up my notebooks at the beginning of the year.
First page is always the table of contents. I printed all year on one legal size sheet of paper to save time each day.

Next, I had them put their syllabus in so that they have it to reference.

We are a goal-setting campus! Students can set anywhere from 3-5 math goals for the year, but they must follow up each one with an action plan. I was so proud of how serious they were with their goals. We have a big conversation about making them reasonable as well as attainable.

So, unfortunately, my Pre-AP babies didn't come to me with all of the skills that they need to be successful. Some did, some didn't. It depended on their placement last year. SO--we made some cheat sheets that they can reference. I know that this is way more teacher input than output, but sometimes curriculum pacing guides don't allow time for reflection or student output for everything!

Actually, giving them these cheat sheets has made them accountable for pre-requisite skills and they have already deemed their notebooks as their math bibles! A teacher's dream :)

We start every unit with vocabulary. The first unit, I model how I want them to do it, and then for subsequent units, they come up with the way that they want to display it themselves. In this case, I chose a simple tab foldable. Underneath, students write a definition and provide examples. 

This one here...I am particularly proud of! We had to classify numbers and although it seems like an easy task, I could tell by conversation the previous day that this was going to be an issue for some. This solved it all, and it was so easy to do! Layering the circles helped the students see which groups the values belonged to.

These are just SOME examples that I have used this week in my class. Stay tuned throughout the year to see more ideas. Whatever you do, the key here is to make it interactive. The best thing is when you see students pull out their notebooks instead of asking you a question. Not that I don't like the questions, but sometimes it gives me (as well as the student) so much more pleasure to find the answer themselves. 

One other thing that I love the INBs for is organization. In order for it to be truly useful for the kiddos, I try to make things easy to find. I LOVE these tabs:

Doesn't that just make you want to go to math class?!?

Check out these awesome posts for more ideas:


  1. Thanks! I have been playing around with the idea of using interactive notebooks in my 6th grade math classroom. This was very insightful!

  2. This looks awesome!!
    Would you be able to email me your template for your syllabus? I think that that looks amazing!!

  3. I would also love to see your syllabus! This will be my first year teaching!

  4. How do you create the foldable syllabus? Did you use a template? I wanted to try it this year, but I couldn't figure out an easy way to get it done. Thank you for sharing!!!

  5. Is this foldable on teacherspayteachers? If so, can we have the link to it?