9 Tips to Keep Interactive Notebooks Manageable

Interactive notebooks are my favorite way to present lessons to students.  When I get out a foldable, my students are always more engaged than if I have them take notes on their own.  I also love that students have all of their notes in one place.  When I first started teaching, I had students keep a binder of their notes.  Students were always losing pages and couldn't keep up with anything.  I love interactive notebooks!  However, when school gets busy, using interactive notebooks can feel overwhelming if you're not using these tips!

Read:  Interactive Notebook Tips: Teaching a Lesson

Setting up interactive notebooks in high school can be overwhelming. These interactive notebook tips are perfect to help you organize and plan your lessons. I use these FREE tips in math, but they could also be used in English, social studies, or even science!

If you're feeling overwhelmed by interactive notebooks, it's time to make some changes.  If you're not already following these interactive notebook tips, try implementing them to reduce stress.

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Setting up interactive notebooks in high school can be overwhelming. These interactive notebook tips are perfect to help you organize and plan your lessons. I use these FREE tips in math, but they could also be used in English, social studies, or even science!

1 - Choose your glue wisely.  Gluesticks are terrible.  While they are less messy, they only hold for a couple of months.  After that, all of the foldables start falling out.  It is super annoying.  I prefer regular old white Elmer’s glue.  Yes, I had to spend 2 minutes teaching my teenagers how to glue :)  I recommend periodically reminding kids throughout the year that they only need a dot of glue.  For some reason, they think they need to use half a bottle every time.

2 - Cut what you can with the paper cutter before you leave the copy room.  Cutting and gluing doesn’t have to eat up the class period unless you want it to.  With a little pre-cutting and enforcement of procedure, you can keep assembly time to a minimum.  I love using a guillotine paper cutter to chop the edges off of pages or to cut things in half.  I usually chop while I'm waiting for the rest of my copies to finish.

3 - Always have a few extra copies of foldables if you haven’t made that style before.  Someone is going to mess it up, even if you give AWESOME directions while modeling it for the students.  Flipbooks can almost always be saved.  However, I have had the most trouble when students have to cut card sorts.

4 - Don’t worry about planning out elaborate units.  I plan the same way I did before I used INBs.  I usually fly by the seat of my pants when it comes to what lesson is on what page.  I’m not overly concerned with the left page, right page thing either.  I just roll with it.  When I first started I was overly concerned about having enough pages in the notebook for the full school year.  I felt like I needed every notebook page laid out perfectly before I even started the unit.  NOT TRUE!  Just move along as you normally would.  Everything will work out.

Setting up interactive notebooks in high school can be overwhelming. These interactive notebook tips are perfect to help you organize and plan your lessons. I use these FREE tips in math, but they could also be used in English, social studies, or even science!

5 - You don’t have to be fancy!  You don't have to use colored paper.  I do, because it’s provided by my school.  However, it’s totally unnecessary.  If I had to pay for it out of my own pocket, I would be rocking white paper all year. 

Read:  8 Interactive Notebooks to Save Your Sanity

6 - Legal paper is awesome.  In upper level and/or honors courses, the lessons can be dense.  In this case, I used folded legal paper.  When a legal page is folded in half, it fits perfectly in a composition notebook.  I call them giant hamburger books.  I can fit A TON of information in these giant hamburger books and it doesn't take much room in their notebook.

7 - You don’t need a foldable for every lesson!  I like to include them, because my students have so much trouble copying down problems and diagrams correctly.  However, you can just have students copy notes by hand too.  That's totally FINE!  This is what I do if I don't have time to make something.  My other time-saving tip?  If you don't have time to make something, screenshot or photocopy parts of a textbook so that students don't spend a crazy amount of time copying definitions from the board.

Setting up interactive notebooks in high school can be overwhelming. These interactive notebook tips are perfect to help you organize and plan your lessons. I use these FREE tips in math, but they could also be used in English, social studies, or even science!

8 - Don’t let students stand up to throw their own trash away.  It will get crazy!  I wait until a few students are done assembling and have them carry around a trash can for others to use.  There are other ways to manage the trash too.


9 - Don’t check all of the notebooks yourself.  If you feel the need to check student notebooks, have students check their own or “trade and grade”.  In the past, I have given students a notebook quiz with questions like “What color was the foldable on page 25?” and “What was the answer to example 3 on page 58?”  I have found this to be great for grading student notebooks quickly.

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