Interactive Notebooks vs. Binders

I've gotten this question a lot in the last few weeks so that must mean I need to blog about it.

I love INBs but I also use binders and people ask me how or why I use both.

My curriculum came with notes in the Cornell style on a regular portrait 8.5x11 page. I reformatted them to fit on on a landscape 8.5x11 page. We cut those in half and then tape one on the left hand page and one on the right hand page. If the notes are more than one page then I make it front to back and we fold them in half so that each side is a full page. Of course the back is blank because they tape that into the notebook.

Every skill has two pages, the left and right. I don't start page numbers until the first skill so Skill #1 is page 1-2. This helps everyone keep track. So when we get so Skill #27, I already know the page numbers will be 53-54.

I do a new table of contents for every unit. It has 8 spaces for skills so I will break that up into two tests over four skills each. Each unit is a different color of paper and has a colored tab.

I do not give homework. My curriculum came with activities and homework. So if there is an activity planned for that specific skill, I turn the homework into a review game.

A typical week would go like this:

  • Monday-introduce new skill; fill in and tape notes into notebook
  • Tuesday- use notebook to do a review game or practice activity; end class with a quiz over that skill
  • Wendnesday- pass back quizzes and offer retakes; pass out new skill notes to fill in and tape into notebook
  • Thursday- finish notes, do practice activity
  • Friday- quiz over second skill, pass out new skill notes to fill in and tape into notebook
  • After 4-5 skills, do a study guide. Students work independently, check their answers that I've hung up on a cabinet, and ask for extra help where needed.
  • After study guide, students take tests and are allowed to use their notebooks
Quizzes I offer retakes but no notebook. Tests I do not offer retakes but I allow them to use the notebook. This motivates them to do a good job of taking notes because they know how useful the notebook will be. I don't think they should need the notes for a one skill quiz that they've been focused on two days in a row. But after 4-5 skills, there are more things to remember. And I'm not focused on what they can memorize but how they can use it.

The binder is separated into three sections: Handouts, Quizzes, Tests. Now if it's not possible to turn it into an activity or I like a worksheet better than an activity or I have an investigation that's on a worksheet, those go into the binder. The handout section is mostly study guides and the things I just mentioned.

They keep all quizzes and tests all year long. After Christmas break we throw away the handouts only. We use a 1 inch binder. The binder itself doesn't get thick but the INB does and since we keep it inside the binder, they do get thick by the end of the year. The binders go on a separate shelf in my room for each period. Sometimes they ask to take them home and study but it's rare. Sixteen binders is about the max that will fit on a shelf.

They also have a three ring pencil pouch that goes in the binder and I give them a mechanical pencil and dry erase marker to store in there all the year.

I feel like that's everything but I love to talk about this so please ask if you have any other questions!

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