3 Ways that I use Math Interactive Notebooks in my Classroom
January 04, 2020
Interactive notebooks are the LATEST trend in the classroom. If you’ve never tried interactive notebooks in your classroom, then you will definitely want to read this and see all of my pictures below. I will cover what an interactive notebook is, the pros and cons of using one, and how I use interactive notebooks in my classroom.
(1) What is an interactive notebook (INB)?
An interactive notebook is an organized notebook filled with lecture notes, interactive activities, and/or reflection activities. The extent to how many interactive and reflection activities varies depending on each teachers’ preferences. Most of the interactive activities range from foldables to cutout activities. The reflection activities can be as simple as a quick write up, self reflection, brainstorming, or a drawing. Some teachers might not even ask students to complete reflection activities, or if they do, they might not do it to the extent of what other teachers feel is necessary to actually benefit from an interactive notebook. That is why if you scavenge the internet looking for ideas on how to do a interactive notebook you will find so many different templates out there. You might read that some teachers require students put information that they are given (for example, lecture notes or lab worksheets) on the left side (called “teacher input” side) and on the right side what they create (called “student response” or “output” and an example would be like a quick write up or some kind of reflection). Some teachers might even reverse the order.
(2) What do I need if I want my students to start an interactive notebook?
In order to start an interactive notebook, you will need students to buy a notebook (or binder) and glue. I always provide scissors and crayons (or colored pencils) for my students. I’ve heard some teachers say that they buy a big pack of glue sticks and sell them to students for the same price that they bought them for at the store. I haven’t had much issues with this because students are also doing interactive notebooks for other subjects so they always have their glue with them that they purchased in the beginning of the year.
Now, you can decide if you would like students to complete their interactive notebooks in a spiral notebook, composition notebook, or binder.
Option 1  Spiral Notebook: If you decide to use a spiral notebook, I recommend using a college rules sheets that has at least 150 pages. The pages will fit perfectly in the spiral notebook.
Option 2  Composition Notebook: Most teachers like to use composition notebooks in their classroom because the notebooks are smaller and less expensive.
I constantly get asked if my interactive notebook pages will fit in a composition notebook. My answer is yes, but with certain options. As you can see from the picture below, my pages hang over a little bit. Yet, this is only the border. So you have two options.
The two options are that: (1) You can cut the border (which is only for decoration anyways) and it will fit perfectly, OR (2) fold the page and glue down the bottom. If you decide to do option 2, you can have students fold it with the concept showing. Students can still see what the concept is instead of it folded half way.
You can also write the concept on the top of the page so that it is very noticeable.
Option 3  Binder: If you hate glue sticks then this might be the best option for you. Students still need to use some glue for the little foldables but it is far less than with a notebook. You just need to print the interactive notebook pages with three hole punches. Saves class time for any class that is limited with time.
It is up to you on which option you think would work best for your classroom. I have used all 3 options and they all have their own pros and cons.
(3) What is your routine for using interactive notebooks? How do you use implement them in your classroom? Where do pages go?
Every math concept in my interactive notebook comes with two pages: (1) Left side is introduction and (2) right side is practice ("Your Turn").
Before I get started with instruction, I pass out both pages to my students and have them cut and glue the pages in their notebooks (or binder). I have students write down the page number on the bottom of the corner (either left or right) and have students fill in the table of contents.
If I am limited with time, I will start the instruction and tell students to make sure to glue the pages in their notebook as part of their homework.
After students have glued the pages:
 I will project the first page of the concept onto my SmartBoard and fill out the information while students fill out the same information on their copy. I always move at their pace and check for understanding throughout the lesson (Another option is that you could also project the answer key and go over the material. You could use a screen to cover the next portion as you are going through each part).
 After completing the first page, I make sure to ask if there are any questions and check for understanding before I move onto the second page.
 Students will quietly complete the second page also called "Your Turn" page. I like to walk around the classroom and check for understanding while students are completing the problems. After students have completed the problems quietly, I will do "team talk". This means that students will compare their answers with another classmate (I have already assigned their "team talk" partner in the beginning of the year which is the person that they are sitting next to in class). This allows my students to communicate and share their answers which results in more confident students.
 As students are "team talking," I will walk around the classroom and assign a problem to the students so that they can complete the problem on the board.
 After completing the problems, students will now write their reflection. My students are informed from day 1 that they need to write a good reflection other than "I learned math" or etc. I will walk around the classroom and read students' reflections. Students cannot put their notebooks away until they receive a stamp for completing the reflection.
I have found that this approach works best for my classroom. Yet, you can always decide however to implement the notebooks into your classroom to fit your students needs.
(4) What is a notebook starter?
All of my notebooks come with a notebook starter. The notebook started is my "unit 0". This unit is a great way for students to start their notebooks. These include classroom rules (or classroom expectations), notebook expectations, grading rubric, setting goals, a look back at goals, reflections page, table of contents, and unit overview.
 Syllabus / Classroom Rules (Expectations) – It is important that students have your syllabus and classroom expectations in their interactive notebooks so that they can always look back at them. I have students sign my classroom expectations page so that they know what they will be held accountable for if they disobey my expectations.
 Notebook Expectations – I want my students to know my expectations on how they will construct their interactive notebooks. This is important for students’ to know that their notebooks will be used in my classroom daily and that it is their responsibility to take care of their notebook.

Grading Rubric – It is important that students are informed on how their interactive notebooks will be graded. A grading rubric will break down categories and let students know how many points each category is worth.

Setting Goals – You can have students set goals many times throughout the year. I normally have students set goals every quarter.

Looking Back at Goals – Students need a way to look back at goals that they set and determine if they achieved those goals. If not, they need to question how they could have achieved those goals, and what they need to do differently next time to make sure they can obtain their goals.

Reflections Page – Students should be making reflections every lesson. Students need to be able to reflect by written response, drawing a visual picture, or giving an example.

Table of Contents – This allows students to easily locate information in their notebook. The interactive notebooks can get very big with lots of important information. The table of contents will help the students access information that they need by looking up the concept and page number.
 Unit Overview  This allows students to know standards, essential questions, vocabulary, and important test dates that are in the upcoming unit. It is great for students to have all of this information in the same spot and be able to know exactly what they will be learning in the next few weeks or so. I also love having students write in the dates of their pretest and posttest so that students can not come to class and complain that they didn't know that there was a test.
I absolutely love starting the year out right with my unit 0 and starting a routine with my students. So, I have decided to provide my Algebra notebook starter for free!
You can get my Algebra notebook starter (unit 0) for free by CLICKING HERE.
(5) What are the pros of using an interactive notebook?
 Students take ownership when they have put time and effort into their interactive notebooks.
 Interactive notebooks are a great way to have students establish goals and monitor students’ progress in achieving those goals.
 The interactive notebooks are organized by a table of contents that allows students to easily find a concept by looking for the page number.
 Students can write reflections about what they learned or took away from the lesson.
 The interactive notebooks are a great study tool to have before a test.
 Students can always reference back to their interactive notebooks to help them when they have a question on homework, classwork, or etc.
(6) Where do students store their interactive notebooks?
It depends on the teacher. I have used interactive notebooks for many years and each year I like to try something new to see which way works best. This year, I have students be responsible for their notebooks and they have to bring them to class everyday. I have not had any issues with students bringing notebooks because they know that we are working in them daily. I firmly believe that if you are consistent in using interactive notebooks then students will see how much they are used in the classroom and will bring them to class. They will not forget them at home. Yet, if you do have 1 or 2 students that forget them at home, then you can tell them that they will need to make sure to pay close attention to where the page goes and complete the gluing at home.
Now, the binders were very easy for me to store in my classroom in an organized way. I have bookcases in the back of my classroom and I placed labels for each period. Students knew exactly where to place them according to their period. In the beginning of the school year, I had students create a side label with their name on it. I placed their label with their name on it, on the side of their binder. Hence, it was extremely easy for students to see their name and grab their interactive notebooks when they were placed in the bookcase.
You can see an another example of a math interactive notebook as a binder below:
(7) How do you grade your interactive notebooks?
Interactive notebooks are usually around 15%25% of a student's overall grade. I grade interactive notebooks by using my grading rubric (as shown earlier).
I grade by organization and completeness. I assign a certain amount of points to each category below:
 Students work is neat and organized
 Vocabulary words or important facts are highlighted
 Effective use of colors
 Pages are where they need to be
 Work is completed
 Reflections are completed
I collect my students' notebooks each quarter (one week before the quarter ends). This allows me to have enough time to grade notebooks before quarter grades are due.
(8) How is my interactive notebooks any different than others?
My interactive notebooks are not the same as the traditional interactive notebooks. My interactive notebooks are more organized, and are an excellent way to introduce and reinforce math concepts. My notebooks are a great study tool and provide a reference for any struggling students. Students will be engaging and learning far more using my interactive notebook than others.
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