Interactive Notebooks: Where Should You Put HW?

tl;dr: Let’s put our minds together and brainstorm some math-specific uses for the left side of an Interactive Notebook.

The Interactive Notebook is based on brain research. One key element of the IN is the left/right page dichotomy. The right page is for input and the left is for output. Often, that translates to notes on the right and…something on the left.

In my experience, left pages are much easier to do in science, social studies, and language arts. Those teachers get to give assignments like “write a poem about President Grover Cleveland’s time in office” and “create a chapter test with 10 matching questions”. When doing math Interactive Notebooks, I had 4 go-to left page assignments:

  • Highlight meaningfully selected classwork or homework problems. Say we did 10 problems during class on factoring and solving quadratic equations. I’d ask students to divide the page into quarters and choose 4 problems that are distinct in some meaningful way. Students had to write why they chose the problems they did. (Side note: I don’t think the notebook needs every single problem in it that kids solve. They’ll never refer to them again. But how do you manage doing more problems? I’ve seen teachers have a homework folder — the $0.19 ones from the office supply store — that goes home nightly.)
  • Create a graphic organizer or mind map of the current studies.
  • Create a foldable to illustrate a procedure, an example problem, or whatever else you might use a foldable for.
  • Put the daily warmup problem(s) on the LHP (this was probably my favorite use).

My colleague who teaches chemistry suggested having the students use Bloom’s Question Starters to create questions they circle back and answer later. I think there’s a lot of power in this approach. Someone try it in math and let us know how it goes, ok? (I’ll be teaching physics this year, else I would.)

I don’t have the answers here. There’s not enough left page room to do it all. Y’all have asked great questions on Twitter recently about homework, classwork, and the left hand page. Let’s put our minds together and brainstorm some math-specific uses for the left side of an Interactive Notebook. Leave ’em in the comments.

17 thoughts on “Interactive Notebooks: Where Should You Put HW?

  1. Hey Megan,

    Great post! I have been thinking about the LHP for DAYS with all of the INB Twitter discussion going on. I kept it open for activities in their notebooks last year but rarely used it. In fact, I was even thinking of doing away with “saving” the LHP. UNTIL I read this post and everything I have been thinking came together.

    Your “do the warm-up on the LHP” gave me an idea. I hate the WU on the RHP bc it doesn’t always correlate to the lesson. It takes up just enough room to have the lesson run over. What if we had the student divide the LHP into thirds horizontally. The first third could be the warm-up. Loosely following Cornell notes, the 2nd third could be where they write questions or trouble they are having with the lesson. The third half could be a summary of the days lesson or, “Redo 2 problems from today’s lesson before starting your homework.” Of course you wouldn’t do this everyday, but it’s a thought.

    Many times my students take notes and never look at them again (maybe before a test). I want my students to summarize and go over the problems we did in class BEFORE they start their hw. I think it would be beneficial to them.

    LOVE the ideas and how hard everyone is working on these INB’s together! I still don’t know where to put the HW though, as most days the hw I give comes from a separate skills workbook.

    • LOVE this idea! Maybe you could even have them write questions in class and answer them at a future time, maybe in class. I also appreciate the way it helps make the left page more predictable from the kid’s point of view.

      What do we want kids to do with homework once it’s complete? I think the use case will dictate how we should handle those papers.

  2. I’m going to use interactive notebooks in math this year for the first time, so I can’t say that any of these ideas will work, but here’s some of my thoughts:
    -Vocab work. Lots of new terms in middle school math. Straight up definitions would go on the right side, but the left side could have lots of possibilities with words. What are similarities and differences between terms. Frayer models and other word maps (this time defined in their own words.) Illustrating words. Etc.
    -Summarizing. Explaining math in full sentences. My students hate doing this, because it can be hard, but it’s good for them to make a complete concrete thought out of their understanding.
    -Creating their own problems
    -Mnemonic Devices (like, instead of Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally, they make up their own phrase).

    • Vocabulary work is an especially great idea, especially for younger kids or English Learners. I had some success building pages with flaps to hide definitions. Imagine the page with a bunch of little post-it notes with vocab terms written on them. Lift the note to reveal a definition on the notebook page. It’s cute and could even be used for a matching game (stick the post-it atop the correct definition). Lots of possibilities here! Thanks for joining in — we need some brainstorming to come up with great ideas.

  3. I’m new to INBing this year too, but I’ve been wanting to implement them for years. My good friend is a History Alive addict and at times I’ve been somewhat jealous at the stuff his kids get to do. Anyway, I digress.

    As a newbie to this, I can only share my idea…it might be an epic fail…but here it is. I have created a “spreadsheet” of assignment possibilities for the LHS It is not complete, as I am still refining my own ideas of the INB and what I want it to look like, but you all might be able to springboard off of it. I have used some of these ideas in the past when I needed a nice review assignment, culminating assignment, something to do when I was out, etc. Some of them have turned out to be incredible…some of them, well, I’m still waiting for the right kiddo to take it and run. I’m hoping they will serve the purpose the LHS is intended to accomplish.

    Here (hopefully) is a link to the document

    I’ve never tried this, so please let me know if you cannot access it. It was a pdf document that I uploaded to google, so the board is a bit difficult to read, but it looks to me like it printed the text at the end in a slightly more readable font, although terribly formatted.

    As far as “normal” homework…I’m still losing sleep over that. I’ll have to get back with you in a couple of weeks. Last year I really reconsidered the amount and length of daily homework assignments. Most of my students either a) didn’t do them, b) copied them, or c) had someone else do it for them. I made a more conscientious effort to work them from bell to bell, and let the HW be more along the lines of the LHS assignments. (I realize that is a whole other discussion and has both pros and cons…not wanting to open a new can of worms here).

    • A list of LHP assignments is an awesome idea. Copy it and have kids put in their books the first week of school. My IN mentor used it a lot as a class closing activity — “choose a LHP assignment and do it beside today’s notes.”

      Thank you for the feedback! We’re going to figure this out together 🙂

      • I love the idea of using the left-hand side as a closing activity–especially since closings are a weakness of mine. How much time did your IN mentor give the students for this? And how did they handle fast finishers and those that don’t finish in class? (I hate it when students that want to put effort in their work end up with more homework than those that rush.)

  4. I have been doing INBs for a few years. I started them when I taught 7th grade math and was struggling with how to make it all work before I left for 5th grade.

    Here is what I did… On the RHP we took Cornell notes and on the LHP is where I would have them practice problems – like the guided practice. Then I would give them HW over it. The next class period I gave them a HW quiz over the assignment. It was worth 80% and 20% was for completing the assignment. This way if they copied or had homework or forgot it, I could get a good idea of their knowledge from the quiz. This also helped for those who did not do the assignment, no zeros. We would then glue the quiz onto the LHP across from the notes it was over. If there was already something there, then we would glue just the top margin of the quiz so that we could still see what was under it.

    Then when I moved to 5th grade I have been trying to figure out how to do it with the younger grades. This year I plan to use the INB with them to take notes, put in foldables, and anything else that will help them be successful.

    I am very excited that there are so many other math teachers out here that are also using them so that when we get stuck, we have a place to go to get help. I am so glad I found you all!

    • Yes! This is another approach I’ve seen at my school. I have a colleague who used the “glue the quiz on the LHP” approach (sometimes with a fold-out page to let something underneath show through.

  5. Does anyone do homework on the “student” side? I think I will try notebooks this year, but the HW thing has me stumped, as well. What if you just planned on using a new notebook each quarter or semester and did everything, including homework, in the notebook? I think it would make me think very carefully about what problems I assign for practice to make sure they’re worthy of reference later.

    Would that dilute the notebook? How many notebooks would that take in a year? If you don’t put homework in the notebook, would kids then be required to keep their homework in a binder? Is that too much stuff to carry to class each day?

    By the way, I don’t collect daily homework, though I do go over problems kids have questions about. This year I’m planning on date stamping it while kids do the warm-up so kids can prove I saw it if there’s a grade question. I’ll write down the names of any kids who don’t have their homework and they can show it to me late for a small point penalty. Homework is only worth a small percentage of the grade, so a few missed assignments aren’t a big deal.

    • I did from time to time try putting homework assignments on the left. Caveat: the assignments wer approximately 1 per week and short enough to fit on the page, even for the largest handwriting. Here’s something to chew on: it shouldn’t go in the IN unless you want the kids looking it over again. Are 30 factor-and-solve quadratic equations really necessary? If you decide not, you’ll need to have the kids practice them elsewhere and only put some in the notebook.

      My students generally kept their IN in the classroom (unless studying for a test). Colleagues who did IN + a homework folder reported success there. Not sure how they reintegrated practice back into the notebook. If I were doing it, I’d suggest something like @hsimmons32’s suggestion above about a quiz based on homework.

      I agree that homework and Interactive Notebooks is a quandry but feel like the suggestions here are helping us get to an answer. Don’t you?

  6. At the AVID summer institute I went to this summer, the instructor, who was explaining Cornell notes and INB together, suggested using the LHP to have the students create a summary of the previous days notes as a warm-up. I thought this was a great idea, since it seems almost impossible to get the students to look back at their notes, and it gives them the opportunity to refresh their memories on what we covered in the last class meeting.

    • That’s an excellent idea! Everyone should consider adding summarizing to their IN practice. @jreulbach and I have discussed Cornell notes in an Interactive Notebook could mean that the entire left page is what in pure C-notes is that little left column (key points) and the bottom section (summary).

  7. Is there some reasoning behind why the right is the input and the left is the input?

  8. Thanks for this post! I’m planning for next year (with a month left in this year) and trying to flesh out LHP assignments. I’m up to 18 on my list and will share it soon on my blog.

    • I finished my list; it now has 23 left side assignments appropriate for math.

      In response to the placement of homework, my students are going to keep a binder in addition to their notebook. The binder will hold the weekly warm-up sheets and practice homework or classwork assignments. I’m saving the notebook for the most important stuff. From time to time, their left side assignment will be to transfer one or more HW/CW problems into the notebook and write about them.

  9. I am thinking I will keep the homework in another binder/folder, but have the correct INB page number written in the top right corner. So, let’s say they are studying and want more practice for the topic on page 26/27, they can go in their folder/binder and look for a practice assignment with 26/27 in the corner.

    I personally don’t check homework, but I do homework quizzes everyday on the previous topic, plus review. I like the idea of taping the quiz on the left, because I personally am having difficulty writing on top of foldables that are under the LHS pages!

    Here’s how I tackle homework…

Comments are closed.