Implementing Interactive Notebooks – A Challenge and Changes

This year, I had the wonderful idea of using Interactive Notebooks. There are so many resources and ideas online, they just seemed so fantastic. We don’t use the textbooks in any of my classes, so my goal was to create a resource that would replace the textbook for the students.

Some students have done an AWESOME job at keeping up with their notebooks, but this was a very small number of students. Also, we made interactive ‘binders’ instead of notebooks. I chose binders over notebooks for several reasons, some being that we could just put our activities straight into the binder, but the binders came with a lot of problems.

Binders fall apart. Things don’t always stay in order. The little rings on the binders ALWAYS mess up. I didn’t stick with the binders or emphasize them as much as I should have. I initially made a rubric and did binder checks, but it took FOREVER to grade all of the binders. I hated grading the binders so much that I pretty much quit doing it. And it was so discouraging because I would spend so much time grading them, but most of them were terrible (which was a lot my fault, too).

There are definitely some changes that I am going to make for next year.

1. Use composition books for our INBs. This way, things will stay in chronological order. Notebooks don’t fall apart like the binders do.

2. Emphasize the INBs. Remind students. I am also going to keep my own. I kept my own Table of Contents, but did not actually make my own binder. I am hoping that by purposely keeping my own INB, it will help me to place an emphasis on them in my class.

3. Find an easier way to grade the INBs. I’m not sure exactly how I am going to grade them, yet, but it is definitely going to change. It HAS to change. It has to be easier and quicker.

4. I am thinking that I will let students use their INBs on all assessments. That way, it will encourage students to actually keep up with the notebook to help their test grades AND teach them note-taking skills and then how to actually use those notes. That is definitely a skill that my students need some more work on.

Any other ideas or suggestions? Any ideas for easier ways to grade the INBs?



Partner Cards

In my Algebra 1 classes, I have been struggling all year long with motivation. I have some students that just refuse to do anything. It has been very frustrating, and can be very discouraging. As a first-year teacher, this is something that I hope to improve on A LOT over the next couple of years. I have some ideas on how to improve on this from the very start next year, but that will have to wait until August!

One thing that I have found is that my students LOVE to work in groups or with partners. This almost always gets (almost) all of my students actually working and trying. I love group/partner work, too! It gives students a chance to talk about what we are doing, give each other feedback, find mistakes, and so much more! It also keeps most students engaged so that I have the time to walk around and give 1-on-1 attention to the students that need it. I love it!

One of the biggest downsides of partner/group work, though, is that sometimes the students tend to get off-topic. I would give warnings, and I started telling students that each group would get 1 reminder/warning to get back on topic, and after that warning, if they needed another reminder, then the students would have to go back to their own seats and work individually.

This worked for the most part, but I couldn’t always keep track of what exactly counted as a ‘warning’ or which groups I had already given a warning to… then I came up with the idea for Partner Cards!

1428676916433577574714I printed these cards out on colored card stock. Each pair or group gets 2 cards – one green and one red. If I give a group their first warning, I take the green card. If I have to give them a second reminder, I take the red card and the students have to go back to their seats and work individually.

The cards MUST be on the table and visible to me while the students are working. If I can’t see the cards, then the students shouldn’t even be sitting together – they should be back in their own seat working individually. This helps to keep the students from hiding the cards so that I can’t take them.

This actually works! I hear the students start to get off-topic, and I will hear one say, “Stop! She’s gonna take our card!” I love it! It has helped my students to hold each other accountable, keep themselves on the task at hand, and makes it more concrete and visible when the group gets a warning!

It was very easy to make, but if you want to download the partner cards that I made click here!

Let me know what you think, if you have any ideas that might help, or if this helps you in your own classroom!


Flip Flopping Inequalities

As we have been working on inequalities in my Algebra 1 class, my students have been having trouble understanding the concept that if 1 > j, then j < 1. To me, it makes sense. If 1 is greater than j, then that means that j has to be less than 1. But for my Algebra kids, that abstract reasoning is just not quite there.

But then, I had a brilliant idea! Height! I picked two students – one really tall, and one really short. We’ll say their names are Chris (the tall one) and Jane (the short one). We made an inequality. If Chris is taller than Jane, then C > J. From that, since we know that Chris is taller than Jane, it made sense to the students that Jane HAS to be shorter than Chris, so they wrote an inequality for that! J < C.

Then we talked about age. If Chris is older than Jane, then C > J. Since Chris is older, than Jane MUST be younger than Chris, so J < C.

We did a few examples like this, and it then talking about flip-flopping the inequalities. When you flip-flip the side of the inequality, then you also have to flip-flop the sign!

This really helped the students to understand the ‘Flop Flop Order Matters’ sheet that we did, which you can find the link to in my previous blog post.

This definitely helped though!

It is such a great feeling when students are struggling with something, and you just don’t know what to do, then you switch it up, and students start getting those ‘Ah-Ha!’ moments! I LOVE seeing Ah-Ha moments!

Graphing Inequalities

In my Algebra 1 class, we have just started working with inequalities. I actually got some really good lesson ideas from Sarah Hagan at the Math = Love blog. I used a lot of her material for my own lesson, and to put in our own Interactive Notebooks. One thing, though, is that I didn’t realize she had PDF copies to download. I spent forever trying to make a foldable to copy hers. I think that I finally got the hang out of it, but it would have been way easier if I hadn’t spent all that time trying to create a similar one, only to find out that I could download her’s right at the bottom!

One thing that we are really working on is graphing the solution set for inequalities. I started to put meaning to it that I had never learned before. I was taught to memorize that we use an open circle unless it has the ‘or equal to’ part, then we use the closed circle. My students seem to be trying to memorize it this way, also, but I have been really trying to help them to understand why that is. When we are graphing the inequalities, we circle the number that we are given. So, we have been starting with the open circle every single time. Then, we shade in all of the numbers that are possible solutions. We first start by checking the number itself. When we have the ‘or equal to’ along with our inequality symbol, then we shade in that number, because it is included in the solution set. Every time one of the students says “So we up the closed circle when its ‘or equal to’ and the open circle the rest of the time,” I agree with them, but then I make them explain why that is.

It seems like it has been working well for my students. Hopefully, this unit goes great after we just spent the whole first quarter on solving equations! This is so similar, it should be a good confidence booster for the students, as well!

It’s Been Awhile…

So, it has been a long while since the last post! Over the summer, I had no idea what I was going to be teaching this year, so I really had no idea what to post.

Last year, I started teaching at a school halfway through the year. But now, I am officially through the 1st quarter of my first full year of teaching. In my own real classroom! Boy, have I learned A LOT! It has been good, bad, and ugly. I have definitely learned a ton already, but I have also learned just how far I have to go.

This is my first-ever experience with freshmen – they are like a different breed of people! I am figuring out this breed, though! This year, I am also in a school with a very different culture, which I am still getting used to.

I am going to start making posts regularly, and the things that I do that work, I will post up here for everyone else to use! One thing that I tend to do a lot of, though, is use other peoples’ lessons, foldables, templates, and ideas. There are so many good resources out there, and I wish that I had the time to sort through all of them and find all of the amazing ones to use!

I am going to get back to my search now! I promise that I will be back soon!


Interactive Math Notebook

In my last post, I talked about some changes that I will make for next year, and some things that I plan on incorporating into my classes. I mentioned an Interactive math Notebook, but I think that mine is actually going to be a binder. Searching online and all over Pinterest, I have found some really great ideas for INBs.


From my research and my ideas so far, here are the major parts of the INBs that I will have in my class:

  • This INB is actually going to be a binder instead of a notebook. That is just a lot more versatile, and since it will be my first time implementing something like this, I’m sure I will have a billion different ideas and change my mind just as many times.
  • Personalized Cover: Students will have time in class to decorate the cover for their binder to really make it their own.
  • References Section: This section will include a calendar with important dates, syllabus, student progress sheet, copy of the rubric for the notebook grade (which I will be making eventually), formula sheet that they would have available for any standardized test/EOC, any other important information, and a Rules sheet that I will adapt from Live. Love. Math. Students will read the rules at the beginning of the year, sign them, and when they ask why they have to do something, I will refer them to the rules that they have in their notebook.
  • Glossary: This section will obviously be dedicated to vocabulary words. The words will be grouped by unit, and students will have their own glossary, with definitions that make sense individually, and pictures or examples for the words.
  • Content Section: The very first page of this section will be a table of contents. It will include the title of the page, the page number, the date, and the unit that it falls under. After that, this section will include everything that we do for a unit: notes, foldables, homework, quizzes, tests, everything. This way, students will have all of the information they need, all of the information that was given to them in-class, everything!

I think that the INBs will be a really good way to help students get organized, and start to use things like notes and quizzes as learning tools. I have also seen some really neat ideas about the right side of the notebook being the ‘input’ side that would include notes, foldables, and testable information given by the teacher. Then, the left hand side is the ‘output’ side, where students have to do something with the testable information, and give some sort of output using that information. It seems like a neat idea, and something that I might try to find  a way to incorporate!

I’m sure by the time that the school year actually starts, I will have plenty more ideas, but that’s all that I’ve got for now!



Next Year

Like I said in my first post, I have learned many lessons teaching! Next year, I will be starting new classes at a new school! I absolutely cannot wait to find out what I will be teaching! I am so excited! Since I don’t know what I’m teaching yet, I can’t start planning my lessons while my current students are taking their finals, but I have been thinking a lot about changes that I will make for the next year.


1. Late Work Policy: Wow! Don’t even get me started on students and late work, or just not doing their work, ever! It is very frustrating sometimes. But, I have decided that it is better late than never. Even though this was not my original policy, I have adapted it through my past few months of teaching. No matter when a student turns in a late assignment, I still give them half credit. I think that next year I will let them turn in the assignment for half credit up they take the test. At first, I was only going to let students turn in work up to one day late for half credit, but that just was not working. Students grades were suffering, and they had a difficult year (I was their fourth teacher).


2. Assignment Headings: The late work issue brings me to another issue… Students turn in a homework assignment late with absolutely NO heading, title, or anything, and I am supposed to know what assignment it is to put it in the grade book. No. Not working for me! Next year, at the beginning of the year, I will teach students my expectations that they should have a heading on EVERY assignment, whether they need to turn it in or not. They need to include the assignment title, name, period, and original due date. Also, no name = half credit. I treat it as late work. I am teaching 11th and 12th graders right now, and my thinking is that they’ve been doing this for 10-11 years, so they should know to always write their name. After a student gets half credit for not writing their name, they will probably never forget to write their name on something. At least, that has been my experience.


3. Getting a Student Caught Up After an Absence: I have noticed that when kids are absent, they expect me to use class time when they return to give them one-on-one attention to catch them up, and have the rest of the class wait. I tried to stress the importance of kids coming to tutoring when they miss class, even if it is just for a few minutes, but that rarely actually happened. I have got to come up with something else to do for when kids are absent, but I’m not sure what yet!

One thing that I have done that I really like it my ‘Daily Log of Classwork’ and class folders. On the Daily Log (which you can find here: Daily Log of Class Work and Homework), I write down everything that we do in class that an absent student would be responsible for. After I fill out the Daily Log, I staple it on the board above the absence folders. Then, I put all the extra copies of papers that I give out during class in the folder for the appropriate class. One thing I will do differently next year is that I will write the students’ names on the papers they need to get.




4. Math Binders: I have seen A LOT lately above Interactive Notebooks, and I think they are a really neat idea. I think that I am going to implement these next year in my classes, but use a binder instead of a notebook. I feel like the binder is more versatile, and you can take things out, add them in, and make different sections and not run out of room. That is one thing that I don’t think I would like about the INBs is that if you make a section for Vocab for example, the students don’t know how many pages to leave for that, and I don’t know, either, and it seems like it would be a pain if students did run out of room.


5. Word Wall: With the implementation of the Common Core Standards, I think that Vocab is going to be a really important aspect. I want to start using some sort of Word Wall to have all of the Vocab for the unit that we are working on. I also want to put a bigger focus on Vocab, and I plan on having students make a glossary as part of their Math Binder. Here, students will do things like copy the formal definition, write the definition in their own words, and draw a picture or example.


So those are just a few of the lessons that I’ve learned and the changes that I plan on making for next year. I have a lot more, but those are the big things that I have been thinking about!