Interactive Notebooks

My students are 14-18 years old and enrolled in math or physics for the first or second time. As you can see, quite a range of academic types.

What is an Interactive Notebook?

Interactive Notebook (INB, sometimes ISN or IN): a student notebook governed by several rules: 1) teacher input goes on one side while student output goes on the other side of facing pages, 2) pages are permanently bound in the book such as in a composition or spiral notebook, 3) use color to connect related ideas in meaningful (to the student) ways.

First things first, you should probably see what an interactive notebook looks like. I’ve scanned pages from my copy and a student’s. Check ‘em out:

Read Up!

Here I’ve collected my thoughts and favorite resources on this valuable tool for students of math and science.

The big picture:

One thing folks love about interactive notebooks is that they can be anything you want. I classify teachers use of INBs along a maintenance spectrum (from low to high maintenance). The further along you go, the more “creative” you need to be. I also suspect higher maintenance notebooks perform best with younger students.

Low Maintenance Interactive Notebooks: you want to be sure every kid has paper and pencil daily? This is the way to go. Keep notebooks in your classroom most nights. If this is the only benefit you get from INBs, then you will have won a huge battle.

Mid Range Maintenance: My personal style. Requires advance planning and creativity of presentation. Often includes foldables and other cutsey things that more serious teachers deem silly. Yes, high school boys can be convinced to cut out card sorts and glue stuff into their INB.

High Maintenance Interactive Notebooks: While not my style, these posts still have great ideas I’d use in my own notebooks.

Printables

Resources to print & use with your classes:

  • Table of Contents: numbered to 200, formatted for a composition book page, and emphasizing the left/right dichotomy
  • Left Page Assignments (taken from Ms. Mora’s website): formatted for a composition book page, a selection of left page assignments you could give your kids or let them choose from
  • Notebook Check Rubric (one I can actually stomach is coming soon): Until I write my own, here’s what the google has to offer for interactive notebook rubrics

Drawbacks

The interactive notebook is a great tool for staying organized, teaching kids to take responsibility for their learning, and being assured kids are prepared with the materials they need for class. I used INBs in math and physics for two years with much success. I no longer use INBs in my classes*. It all comes down to a few big drawbacks to this format. Want to know what sucks about the INB? Here are my thoughts:

  • High-achieving students, especially the ones who already have impeccable notebooks, hate the interactive notebook. They resent me telling them where to put stuff, what format to put it in, etc. If you want to do INB and keep these kids happy, I recommend going to the lower maintenance end of the spectrum, either just for them or for the entire class. This is the number 1 reason I no longer use INBs in my physics classes — the skills the INB teaches aren’t relevant to my current crop of kids.
  • My mid-range maintenance notebook required more planning than I usually like to do. For one, I planned out where everything would go in the notebook a week in advance. Not that thinking ahead is a bad thing, it’s just that I’m more off-the-cuff than my notebook plan would often allow. Jonathan’s low-maintenance notebooks don’t require such planning.
  • You may go through more copies than a traditional classroom. Even after formatting everything on half-sheets to fit in the notebooks, I think I made more copies than the old way. Stuff we would’ve just copied by hand often got photocopied for the INB.
  • Cost is non-trivial. When I was in my heyday, I bought comp books, glue sticks, scissors, storage crates, stamps, and tape — all items I don’t spend money on anymore.

* Now I use a 3-ring binder and hole-punched handouts or notebook paper. The kids can keep these organized at this school.

10 thoughts on “Interactive Notebooks

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  3. wow, I feel like I have attended a GREAT mini class on IN and I have only read 3 posts.. THANKS!!!! I will be checking back a lot!!!

    I definitely want to try the left/right sides and the Table of Contents is like an ephipany for me. LOL

    I also agree where I read that it has to be documented inlesson plans what to do and where in the IN.

    Elizabeth
    Hodges Herald

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