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?



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!