My Version of Interactive Notebooks (INBs)

This blog post is in response to Matt Baker:


This had started from a tweet I sent out looking for suggestions about what Elissa Miller had requsted: a unit summary sheet for the end of each unit in her class’ interactive notebooks (INBs for short).

Continuing our Twitter conversation:

And here we are.

First of all, I should share Jonathan Claydon‘s INB posts. Go here first and read through it as well as the updates (at the top of the page). I’ll wait.

Cover of my 2015-2016 Algebra 1 INB.

Cover of my 2015-2016 Algebra 1 INB.

Each year begins with its own composition notebook. Students are told to have one the first day of school and I specify that I want the plain covered (not Justin Beiber or One Direction) composition notebook with 100 pages.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Inside the INB is the table of contents. Rather than number by pages, I number by learning target. This way, my students don’t have to worry about using the exact number of pages that I do (not everyone writes the same size). I got this file from Shelli and tweaked it to work better for me.

Pages 2 and 3

Pages 2 and 3

The next two pages have my Class Information and Standards of Mathematical Practices. I took my class information file and had it print in booklet form so that I could have it on half sheet (5 1/2 inches wide by 8 1/2 inches tall) pages. It is stapled and then students tape it into their notebooks. The Standards of Mathematical Practice foldable is from Kathryn Belmonte and you can find more information about it here.

Unit Pages

Unit Pages

After those pages come the rest of the INB. Each unit begins with a set of pages like you see above.

On the left side, students adhere (glue if single sided, tape if double sided so they can flip it over to the left) the learning targets for the unit. I use standards-based grading, so after each learning target is a series of boxes where students can record what they have earned as well as add their mastery stickers when they have earned them.

On the right side, students use two pages to create a pocket. The way it happens is the top page is folded from the upper right corner to the margin. They place a small piece of tape where the top page meets the inside margin. Then they place 3 pieces of tape that have half on the top page and half on the bottom page (by folding): one piece on the right side vertically, and two pieces on the bottom horizontally. Students can put their warm up pages in the pockets or practice problems for the unit into the pockets.

Students also adhere a tab with tape on the right page (they actually use one piece on the top side and one piece on the bottom side). The tabs are originally printed on card stock and then laminated. Then I cut them out.

Close up of tabs

Close up of tabs

I think the original idea for tabs may have come from Sarah Carter at Math Equals Love. I am considering doing something like this that Sarah blogged about earlier this summer but I haven’t totally fleshed it out yet.

One set of pages with a foldable

One set of pages with a foldable

After those unit pages come individual learning target pages. Generally, stuff on the right side is either notes or information I provide students in terms of how to do something. Stuff on the left side is mostly examples, but may also be stuff they do. Every page has a heading and we do it the same way for all pages. Upper left corner is the learning target number (i.e. LT1). Middle is the title – a shortened version of whatever the learning target is. Upper right corner is the date we began the pair of pages. It’s not always the date we began the learning target because sometimes we have multiple pages per learning target.

I don’t do a whole lot of foldables. I do them sometimes and I tend to stick to a couple of formats that work for me. I pretty much do everything in Word in landscape with two columns and narrow margins so that everything comes out as half sheets of paper (5 1/2 inches by 8 1/2 inches). I tried at first creating everything as full sheets of paper and then printing 2 per page but things didn’t always come out as I liked. If I were to switch to Google Docs, I would have to use tables and I haven’t had the motivation or patience to rework stuff. With two new(er) preps to me next year (and new since I’ve been doing INBs), that may be motivation to try GDocs.

Another set of INB pages

Another set of INB pages

Here is another set of INB pages. In this case, you can see on the right side, students are filling in notes that give guidance of what to do. I do try to set up those pages so that students have to fill in at least part of the notes so that students are doing something other than just listening to me. Examples that we did either individually or as a class are on the left. This is where there may be a difference in how many pages a learning target takes up (depending on how large someone writes).

Multiple pages adhered on the left side.

Multiple pages adhered on the left side.

In this example, I had students adhere two pages on the left side. The top page is what I call “hinge taped,” which means they place two pieces of tape on (in this case) the left side so that they can flip the top page over to the left and see what is on the back of that page as well as what is below. When we are hinge taping a page in, I usually wait until the end of their writing on both sides of the page before having students tape it into their INBs. It makes sure they can read their writing on the page and don’t have as much difficulty writing.

Last set of INB pages for ALgebra 1 2015-2016

Last set of INB pages for Algebra 1 2015-2016

This is the last set of INB pages we completed for the 2015-2016 school year in Algebra 1. Anytime we are doing graphing, I provide graph spaces as a part of the notes that they adhere into their notebooks.

As far as class flow, generally what I do when we are putting pages into our INBs is first have students write in their table of contents. I project using a document camera focused on my INB so students can see what to write. Then we set up the two pages with the heading (LT, title, date) and if anything is getting glued down (because it’s single sided), we glue it down. Hinge taped pages get added in later in the lesson. Then we’re ready to go.

I don’t do notebook checks. I hated notebook checks in school and I would rather spend my time doing other things than notebook checks. Plus, I honestly don’t want to factor keeping a notebook into their grades. I don’t require students to leave them in the classroom. If I assign practice problems for outside of class, they may need their notebooks to help them.

So, that’s how I do interactive notebooks. It’s what has worked for me and generally seems to work for my students. I know that others do it differently, but I think, in the end, what matters most is that it works for your students.

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