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!


  1. I love all the resources that you create.. and share. I really want to incorporate interactive notebooks in my Algebra 1 & Geometry Classes this year! I know that you stated NOTES only in interactive notebook.. so where do they keep their homework? In a separate binder or notebook?

    1. I require that my students have another binder or folder as well. They can choose. Homework and other non-important things go in there. I don't ever check their folders or anything.

  2. Hello Mrs. E,
    I subscribed to receive your interactive notebooks downloads. I have not received the e-mail yet. How long does it usually take? I am really looking forward to trying this with my Algebra I and Geometry students this coming school year.

    1. Hi!
      If you signed up for my free resource library, you should have gotten the email right away. If you didn't, you may want to do it again to make sure you typed your email address correctly.
      If you purchased one of my foldable bundles, you should have gotten the link to access the files in the product download.
      I hope this helps!

  3. Do you have a template of your warmups? I teach Algebra 1, PreCalc and Calc and I start the year off great and then find if I don't have something ready to go, I lose focus and go right to the homework.

    1. I really want to reply that I do something fancy, but I don't. I give them a blank sheet of copy paper and have them work their warmups on it. I collect them every two weeks (ish). I collect them earlier if their papers get full. I tried using a fancy template for awhile, but ended up forgetting to make copies and just kind of stopped using the template. :)

  4. Do you have something created where the students keep their warm-ups? How do you keep track of warm-ups?

  5. Thank you for this post. It was very helpful to know that you do everything fresh for each class and that you run a notebook for each period.


I love hearing from my readers. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment!