Interactive Notebook Tips: Teaching a Lesson

Teachers that are new to interactive notebooks often ask me how I run a typical class period and how I teach a lesson.

In this post, I’m going to outline exactly what I do with my classes and how I do it.  For reference, my classes are 48 minutes long and I have a document camera.  I do not have a smart board or any thing like that.

This post explains how to teach a lesson using interactive notebooks. It explains how to structure middle school and high school class periods.


My students are supposed to start their warmup as soon as they walk into class.  I don’t do anything fancy.  I typically project a couple problems that review what we did the day before or a spiral review topic.  I usually just zoom in on a couple of problems on a worksheet and project them on the board.  My students have a sheet that they do all of their warmups on and turn it in at the end of the week.  I cut them off when I’m ready to move on, regardless if they are finished yet.  Then, I write the solutions on the board and answer any questions.

Checking Homework

Next, I have students check their homework.  I project the solutions on the board and have students check their own homework.  They are supposed to write the correct answer of anything they missed.  I walk around with a clipboard and check to make sure they did it.  If they gave the majority of the problems a good effort, they get full credit.  If they only did half of it, they get half credit.  Yeah, some kids cheat on this method.  I don’t stress about it, because I can TOTALLY tell when it comes to test time.  I usually just put a note in the grade book that little Johnny has been cheating on his homework and don’t worry about it.

The Lesson

For the sake of explaining, I’m going to pretend I’m teaching my Algebra 1 classes about adding and subtracting polynomials. For this lesson, I would use my adding and subtracting polynomials flip book.

I pass out the foldable for the day and show them how to fold it (if necessary).  This is exactly what I would say:
“Ok, you have two pages for your flip book.  Look at the page that says SUBTRACTING POLYNOMIALS on the bottom.  Put it on your desk like this.”
Then, I would set it under the document camera so that the SUBTRACTING POLYNOMIALS tab is at the bottom.
“Now, set ADDING POLYNOMIALS on top of it so that they are layered.  Then, fold it over.”
I would model exactly what I am saying under the document camera.
“I’m going to pass around staplers.  They will start at the front of the room.  Please staple like this.”
I model correct stapling.
“Don’t bang on them like an idiot.  It breaks them.  You know how to staple.  When they get to the back of the room, please pass them over to my desk.”
Then, I glue the foldable into my notebook and my students do the same.  This whole process takes about 2-3 minutes, at the longest.  After about October, my students can figure all of it out themselves unless it’s a new kind of foldable.  They can usually put it into their notebooks as I pass things out.
Once I glue my flip book in my notebook, I start teaching!  I fill in everything with my students.  I have one notebook per class period and I write along with them.
First, I would open the vocabulary tab.  I would talk through the new vocabulary words and do the examples with them.
Then, we would move on to the adding polynomials tab.  I would show them the first two examples, then they would work with a partner for the remaining examples.  When they were done, I would put the answers up.
Last, I would do the subtracting polynomials tab the same way I did the previous tab.  


When we are finished with the lesson, I typically let my students start their homework or we do a short activity.

Honestly, the way I present lessons isn’t much different than when I didn’t use interactive notebooks.  The big change was in what my students were doing.  Before interactive notebooks, my students just dutifully filled in their guided notes….and lost them in their backpacks…  Now, they are manipulating the pieces of the foldable, color-coding, and chunking ideas while I’m teaching.  Everything is glued in their notebooks so that it isn’t lost.  That’s the big change!

Any more questions?  Leave them below so I can help you get started!

Visualizing Intersecting Planes

Students have such a hard time visualizing intersecting planes.  It helps so much if they have something concrete to hold.

Are you teaching high school geometry?  This hands on activity helps students visualize intersecting planes.  It is perfect after teaching about points, lines, and planes.

I have a giant piece of foam board that I cut in half, and then cut slits in.  A saw works nicely for this :)  

Use foam board to demonstrate intersecting planes in geometry

Check out how awesome this looks once the foam board is stuck together.

Use foam board to demonstrate intersecting planes in geometry

I use my giant foam board to introduce the lesson and talk through the main points.  Once I’m ready to have students start taking notes and dive into specifics, I pass out two notecards to each student.  I have them tear notches into the notecards to show intersecting planes.

Using notecards to model intersecting lines and planes in geometry

Then, I have students stick their pencil through the notecard to show a line intersecting the plane.

Using notecards to model intersecting lines and planes in geometry

After that, I have students put the two planes together and use their pencil as a line.

Using notecards to model intersecting lines and planes in geometry

This works so well to have students visualize things.  Their homework typically involves true and false questions for this lesson, so I have them get out their notecards if they get stuck!

Surface Area and Volume INB Pages

I wanted to share my interactive notebook pages for my surface area and volume unit!  I like the pages that I used, but I think I will include a few more “drill and kill” pages next year.  Instead of teaching all of the surface area formulas and then all of the volume formulas, I taught all about prisms and then all about pyramids.

First, I started with this messy looking page about the parts of a prism.  I realized at the last minute that my students needed a refresher about parts of solids.  This page only had parts of prisms.  I also had a derivation of the formulas at the bottom of the page.  I cut and pasted the diagrams from my student’s textbook.  

parts of prisms interactive notebook page

Next, we did a flip book with the vocabulary formally introduced and practice problems.  I taught the cylinder as a special case of the prism.  I did not give students a separate formula.  Many of them figured it out, but they didn’t have to use it.

surface area and volume of prisms and cylinders flipbook for geometry interactive notebooks

Next, I did this page about composite volume.  The first problem has students add the volumes and the second problem has students subtract the volumes.

composite volume practice page for geometry interactive notebooks

I did another messy looking page to describe the parts of pyramids.  

parts of pyramids interactive notebook page

Another flip book with the vocabulary and practice problems came next.  Again, I taught the cone as a special case of the pyramid.  

surface area and volume of pyramids and cones flipbook for geometry interactive notebooks

Lastly, I taught the surface area and volume of spheres.

surface area and volume of spheres flipbook for geometry interactive notebooks

Area and Perimeter INB Pages

5 area and perimeter INB page ideas for a high school geometry class.

I started my area unit with a short review of simplifying radicals and special right triangles.  It’s ALWAYS needed.

The first lesson was about the area of parallelograms and triangles.  They learn these formulas in pre-algebra, but I think they needed a little review and I include special right triangles.  I also have students highlight the perpendicular parts, so that they can find the base and the height easier.  Highlighting helps my struggling kids.

area of parallelograms and triangles foldable for geometry interactive notebooks

area of parallelograms and triangles foldable for geometry interactive notebooks

The next day, we talked about the area of rhombuses, kites, and trapezoids.  The examples in the flip book include special right triangles and the Pythagorean Theorem.

area of rhombuses, kites, and trapezoids flipbook for geometry interactive notebooks

I also have a foldable that students can use to help organize the area formulas.  I made it optional for students to complete this foldable.  I also included notes about regular polygons.  I just had them take notes in their notebook for those pages.  No pictures, sorry.  :(

Then, we moved on to circles.  The first day, we talked about circumference and arc length.  I have a post about how I explain the difference between arc length and arc measure.

circumference and arc length foldable for geometry interactive notebook

The next day, we talked about the area of a circle and the area of a sector.  I didn’t do segment area with my kids this year.  They struggled with the area of a sector and I didn’t want to create a disaster.  I was allowed to leave out a few little topics this year because our math standards were being revised this school year.

area of a circle and sector area foldable for geometry interactive notebooks

The last lesson of the unit was perimeter and area of similar figures.  I broke it down as simple as possible.  On the flaps of the foldable were the different types of problems.  Inside each flap there are two practice problems.

perimeter and area of similar figures foldable for geometry interactive notebooks