Interactive Notebooks: Year End Review

I've been wanting to write this post since I started  using INBs but then after school was over, I didn't feel like I was 'allowed' to write it until I had finished sharing all of my INB pages from the year. Well that still hasn't happened and here we are so #nobodycares if I am 'allowed' or not.

General overview here:
  • Thumbs up
  • Using them again
  • Better than what I was doing
  • Keep reading for more details

Things I Loved

  • Pretty!
  • Organized!
  • Student Reaction: "I didn't even know you could do all this stuff to a notebook!"
  • Pocket for small pieces that didn't get used yet
  • Milkshake straw duck taped to spine as a pencil holder
  • Duck tape also helped reinforce spine so two birds, one stone
  • Helped me better focus my teaching and notes by thinking about what was necessary for the notebook and the best way to organize that information
  • Table of Contents
  • Page numbers
  • Colorful tabs
  • Being able to answer questions like this: "Did you look in your notebook?"
  • Highlighters- if the notes were pretty straightforward boring, highlighters were a low-prep way to spice it up
  • Tiny post-its- this doesn't need explaining
  • Not grading them!
  • Making copies or taking pictures of my INB for students who were absent
  • Notebooks were still slim and neat at the end of the year a.k.a. didn't use the whole notebook

Things I Didn't
  • Bookmark- should have been cooler than it was but I don't think some people know how to use bookmarks *shocker*
  • Glue sticks sucked- the glue dried out over time and little pieces fell out but it's a pain to tape a bunch of little individual pieces in the case of sorting, which I LOVE
  • I didn't use the right hand pages for processing like I wanted to; too much of a control freak and I don't know if that's as possible or effective for math as it may be for other content
  • I mostly gave them the beginning or easiest parts of a concept, then a handout that got more complex; when they looked back in their notebooks, they had nothing helpful. Toward the end of the year I noticed this and figured out that my notes should cover all types of whatever we're doing, not just the easiest
  • Related to the previous point, I don't need so many handouts!!! Practice can be games or cards or on the desk if they have all the vitals in their notebook already
  • Not one student wanted to keep their notebook at the end of the year; I feel betrayed by other INB enthusiasts. Liars!

Things I Wanted To Do and Didn't I'd Like to Do This Year
  • Have a giant test at the end with no review but allowed to use the notebook- now my admin will do it for me since he no longer wants us to review in any kind of way for their End of Course Exam
  • Redo the Table of Contents so that the concepts are numbered and grades are easier to track
  • Make formula sheets to put in the front that students can refer to through the year (especially for Mental Math Mondays)
  • Make a PPT of what every page in the notebook should look like (since I already take pictures of every page) and have students grade each other's notebooks page by page
  • Color coordinate pens to each content area's INB.
  • Color coordinate all handouts for each unit the same across all content areas.
  • Make extra INBs for students who move in
  • Laminated graph paper inside the cover
  • Save last 18 pages for Would You Rather writings every other week; focus on improving by one MP standard at a time, shows growth over time (had to add one I probably won't do!)
  • Actually use the Plickers cards I created and laminated and apparently cut for no reason

I've written this post in my head so many times that it doesn't seem like I covered everything so please feel free to ask any and all questions! I love talking about my ideas!


  1. Thanks for sharing all the reasons you love INB's and the truth that no one kept them. Cretons. Really. But I betcha they did.

    My students ended up borrowing each others the day before they were being checked, not keeping up with them. That is one thing I hated. Did you grade them? I did, quick check. Maybe I won't this year. Geometry got to use them on tests, not Pre-Calc. I didn't make very many pre-pages, I had them make them. I figure the more THEY do, the more they learn. In community.

    1. No, they really didn't keep them. They are all still on the shelves in my room. Lol

      I did checks four times throughout the year basically checking for correct page numbers, ToC filled out, no empty pages, shake it and nothing falls out, and titles and dates. These were the notes we took and they could use them on their tests in all classes so I didn't have many problems with them keeping it up. I just walked around the room and made sure everyone was on task.

      I could never think of a way to have them make their own pages that would be valuable and I'm a control freak so I made everything.

  2. Hi Elissa! I'm switching from sixth grade to high school (geometry and algebra 1) this year and could use some help modifying how I do notebooks. 
    I use to "grade" their notebooks every week or unit because if I didn't they wouldn't keep up with it and finding old notes would be a nightmare. We're your students self-motivated enough to keep up with their notebooks without it counting for a grade?
    Also, how did you have them make pockets? I've seen a few ways to do it on Pinterest but am not sure which way I want to do it.
    I too had issues with glue stick glue drying out and pieces falling out of their notebooks; I was constantly finding foldables on the floor and having no idea who they belonged to. I had a few students actually bring tape to use instead. Have you given liquid glue a try?


    1. Hi Emily!

      Here is my post with my powerpoint presentation that I used to helo students set up their notebooks. It shows the pocket but here's a short explanation: turn the second to last page of the notebook and bend the corner to the crease. Run glue along the bottom then close it again the last page and seal the bottom shut.

      I did notebook checks about once a year. Here is a link to one so you can see what I did: https://app.box.com/s/nnytle1aqij6q4opjy5dek8azl3lte3d

      I am not messing with liquid glue because even for high school students it will be too messy and take up too much time. We use almost all tape.

      I let them use their notebooks on tests so I guess that was enough motication for them to keep up with them. I didn't really give them the choice. These are your notes, this is what we are doing in class. I walk around while they are cutting and gluing and I display stuff on the board for them to copy/model. It hasn't been a problem for me.

      Let me know if you have any other questions or things I could blog about!

  3. Majority of my students took theirs and the rest threw it in the trash. =( BUT even those who kept it said they wanted it because of their personalized cover.

    I wasn't going to have students personalize their cover this year but I'm rethinking this now. Maybe it is motivation for them not to lose their notebook? (I don't know about other schools but my students always seem to loose their books.)

    1. I buy alphabet stickers for them to spell their name on the cover and I have different designs of duck tape for them to tape on the spine but that's about all of the personalizing we do unless they just draw on them.

      Notebooks stayed in my classroom on the bookshelf so I didn't have problems with students losing them.