Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How to Set Up an Interactive Notebook in Any Classroom

Interactive notebooks are useful in any subject area. In my science classroom, students used them for all of their Do Nows, all of their notes, and many daily assignments. Every day, the students knew they had to get their interactive notebook, fill in the Table of Contents, copy the Do Now questions, and answer the Do Now in sentences. When we went over the Do Now answers, the students would sometimes add to or change their answers so they had accurate information. Then, if we took notes that class period, the students knew exactly where to write them. They would add any vocabulary words to their glossaries. When it came time to study for a test, the students had potential test questions and answers from all the Do Nows and they had all of their notes organized neatly so they could find information quickly.

During the school year, I kept an interactive notebook as well. When a student was absent, I could show them my interactive notebook or make a copy of certain pages to distribute. Interactive notebooks have proven invaluable to me as a teacher. They show everything we learned, when we learned it, and how we learned it. That makes lesson planning so much faster and easier the next year. I love interactive notebooks and would never go back to not using them in my classroom.

Interactive notebooks are adaptable and can suit the needs of each classroom and subject area. There are different ways to set up interactive notebooks. Below you will find directions, pictures, and advice on how to set up a basic interactive notebook for your classroom.

First, instruct your students to purchase a composition notebook. Composition notebooks were the only required supply for my classroom and should cost less than two dollars. I strongly recommend composition notebooks over any other kind of notebook. Composition notebooks are durable and, in my experience, can even hold up to a year of abuse from middle school students. All other notebooks tend to fall apart quickly. Plus, students are tempted to tear out notebook pages to use for other purposes.


I always set up interactive notebooks on the first day of the second week of school. That way students have plenty of time, including a weekend, to go out and buy one. I encourage students to bring in their composition books early and keep them in my classroom so they are less likely to be forgotten on the day we need them. Inevitably, you will have some students who will not bring a composition book on time. For those students you have two options. One, have a stockpile of composition books for students to purchase from you. (Office Depot usually has a back to school sale where you can buy loads of composition books for only a quarter each.) Two, have students write detailed notes on how to set up their composition books so they can do it at home on their own.

Setting up interactive notebooks takes longer than you might expect. I always dedicated at least a full hour of class time to getting them done. Even then, I sometimes had a few students not quite finished in the allotted time. On the day you plan to set up interactive notebooks, make sure you have a completed example (or use the pictures from this blog post) for students to reference. Start by having students number the pages in their interactive notebook. Have them number the outer, upper corner of every page, so if you were to flip through the pages quickly with your thumb you would see every page number. Refer to the picture below.


Numbering the pages takes between ten and fifteen minutes, so while the students are numbering, pass around a few permanent markers. With the markers, students need to write their first and last names, class name, class period, year, and grade on the cover.


Also, with the permanent markers, students should write their first and last names along each side of the composition book. This will help students find their interactive notebooks much faster at the start of class. (The students in my classes were not allowed to take their interactive notebooks out of the classroom. Without this rule, you can expect many interactive notebooks to never make it back to class. I did make the occasional exception to this rule for responsible students who requested to take their interactive notebooks home to study.)



I haven’t tried this with a class before, but consider adding a color-coded system to quickly separate interactive notebooks by class period. You might try a certain color of sticker for each class period. Students can add a sticker of their class’s color to the upper right hand corner of their interactive notebooks.

Once students have finished numbering the pages and labeling the outside of their interactive notebooks, they are ready to create the table of contents. Use the front and back of the first five sheets (pages 1-10). Students should make three columns: a column for the date, title, and page number of each entry. If students use rulers to do this, expect it to take 10-15 minutes. See the pictures below for how the table of contents should look.



Below you’ll find a picture of a completed table of contents.


Now the students are ready to make their glossaries. Some teachers require students to write the vocabulary words and their definitions. If this is something you want to do, have no more than two letters per page. I only required students to write the vocabulary words and page numbers in their glossaries. To label the glossary like I did in my classes, have students use the last three sheets of paper in their lab books. Label the top of each page “Glossary.” Then divide the page into four even boxes. Write one letter in the corner of each box. See the pictures below.



When you get to the last page of the glossary, put U, V, and W in their own boxes. X, Y, and Z, since they have so few vocabulary words, will share a box. See the image below.


If during the year the students run out of room in their glossaries, simply put a sticky note over the top of the box.  My students never had enough room in the C box, as you can see in the picture below.


Once the students are finished making their glossaries, they are done! The interactive notebooks are now set up and ready to use. Like I mentioned earlier, I did not let the interactive notebooks leave my classroom. If you implement this rule too, you’ll need to have some sort of storage system in place. I liked using plastic milk crates because they were inexpensive, sized perfectly, and kept the interactive notebooks neatly organized. I bought six crates and then labeled them alphabetically, with several letters for each crate. The students placed their interactive notebooks in the crates by last name.

The first year I used interactive notebooks, I had the crates divided by class period rather than alphabetically. I do not recommend this. I had close to forty students in each of my classes and it took FOREVER for all of the students to locate their interactive notebooks when they were all crowded around the same crate.

As far as grading the interactive notebooks, I graded them once each quarter. I have tried many grading methods over the years, and I finally have one that works for me. You can get it for free here.

Free INB Check

I think you will like using interactive notebooks in your classroom! Please leave a comment or send me a message here if you have any questions. 

67 comments:

  1. Thank you for this practical advice. This is really helpful and will save so much trial and error.

    Would you consider posting a few samples of some entries?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Amanda! I'm glad it is helpful to you.

      I don't have my interactive notebooks with me, but I found some great pictures on another blog. There are some really good ideas there. Scroll down a little bit and you'll see them.

      http://themiddleschoolmouth.blogspot.kr/search?updated-max=2012-05-18T19:51:00-04:00&max-results=7

      Hope this helps! Thanks for reading!

      Delete
  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks so much. Last year was my first trying IANBs and it didn't go quite as planned. Looking forward to trying again this year using your pointers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are welcome! I'm happy to help.

      Delete
  4. As my school goes digital one to one next year, I'm pushing the students to take better notes. Your site is very informative. Thanks for sharing the ideas.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are welcome, Art! I'm glad you found my post helpful.

      Delete
  5. Thank you for the set up advice. I teach 9th grade and I'm thinking of doing interactive notebooks for the first time this year since my students consistently struggle with organization. Does the one notebook last the entire year or do the start a new one for the second semester?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello, Fay!

      Thanks for reading my post and commenting. I used the interactive notebooks every single day in my 7th grade classes. How my students organized their daily entries into their IN and their writing size determined if they needed another IN before the year was through. I always told my students at the semester change that if they thought their IN wouldn't last, then they should get a new one when school started up again in January.

      I'd say that if you plan on using the IN every day in your 9th grade classes, your students will probably need a new one for second semester. It just depends how much you plan on using it.

      I hope this helped answer your question!

      -Elly

      Delete
  6. Thank you for your IN advice! I was wondering- how do your students study at home if they are not allowed to take them home? I am interested in using them in my classroom, but I am trying to decide whether or not I should let them take them home.
    Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HI Tiffany!

      Here is what I do to make sure my students have the material they need to study. Before any test I give a mostly blank study guide outlining the information that will be on the test. The students then spend about 30 minutes in class completing the study guide using their interactive notebooks. It's a way for them to review and condense the material into a form they can take home. It worked well for my classroom. It's something you can consider.

      Thanks for your question!

      Elly

      Delete
  7. I've tried INB in the past, without much success, but after reading your pointers, I'm going to try again! Do you have requirements as to what is written on the right side vs the left? Also, do students write the information in their table of contents after they've finished writing or using their notebooks each time (for ex, some students may take up more pages for their notes on a particular subject)?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Mrs. Perry!

      Thank you for reading my blog. I'm glad you're going to try INB again. I hope you have much more success this time around.

      I personally do not have requirements about what goes on each side, but I know other teachers do. (For example, some teachers require the notes on the left side and the students' response on the right side.)

      As for the Table of Contents, I have the students add the day's entry right away (as part of the daily Do Now) so it doesn't get forgotten. They can update the amount of pages they used during the next class period. It's what's worked for me. In my experience, most of the students are pretty good about writing in the page numbers without me prompting them.

      Hope this answers your questions! Thanks for reading!

      -Elly

      Delete
  8. Hello Mrs. Perry!

    Thank you for reading my blog. I'm glad you're going to try INB again. I hope you have much more success this time around.

    I personally do not have requirements about what goes on each side, but I know other teachers do. (For example, some teachers require the notes on the left side and the students' response on the right side.)

    As for the Table of Contents, I have the students add the day's entry right away (as part of the daily Do Now) so it doesn't get forgotten. They can update the amount of pages they used during the next class period. It's what's worked for me. In my experience, most of the students are pretty good about writing in the page numbers without me prompting them.

    Hope this answers your questions! Thanks for reading!

    -Elly

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Elly,
    This will be my first year teaching Biology and I was looking for a good tutorial to set up interactive notebooks in my class, and I FOUND IT! Thank you so much for going into such much detail with everything that needs to be done to set up (and grade) a successful INB.
    Thanks again,
    ~Mariana

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Mariana!
      I'm so glad that you found my blog and it's exactly what you were looking for. I'm happy to help :) Have a wonderful year teaching biology!
      -Elly

      Delete
  10. Hi Elly,

    I love the idea of INB and will use them this year with my sixth graders for geography. How many pages do you allow for the Table of Contents and do you start the page numbering after the Table?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Sally!

      Thanks for reading my blog post. I use the first ten pages (five sheets of paper) of the INB for the Table of Contents. In the past, I've tried using Roman numerals for the first ten pages and then starting at one after the Table of Contents. It seemed to cause unnecessary confusion with the students. Since trying that, I always start numbering on the very first page of the INB (even though that's in the Table of Contents area).

      Hope this helps!

      -Elly

      Delete
  11. I'm implementing ISN into my 9th grade health class. I did plan on having them go home, though, as I don't know if they'll have enough time in class. An added incentive is that our final will be an open notebook final! Wish me luck, I'm a nurse, not a teacher (by education).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Vickie,
      Thank you for reading and commenting. You might have more luck with getting the interactive notebooks returned to class than I do since you have high school students. Your incentive will definitely help. Have a great year!

      -Elly

      Delete
  12. I'm diving into these notebooks with my students this year! Thanks for the help! I know I will be back a lot!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are very welcome! Thank you for reading!

      Delete
  13. Thanks for sharing! This is by far the easiest explanation on how to set up an IN! I am planning on implementing them in my 6th grade ELA and Social Studies classes. Do you ever provide handouts to go into the IN? If so, what is the best way to create them so that they fit and what is the best way to insert them so that they stay?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Kisha,

      Thank your for reading my blog post. I'm glad you found it to be a helpful explanation.

      I often give handouts in my science classroom. In the past, I printed a handout on a regular piece of paper and had students fold it and tape it into their IN (so they were able to pull it out and look at it). It worked fine, but some students weren't as careful with folding as others, and edges of the paper stuck out and eventually got torn apart.

      Now, I make handouts in Microsoft Word by printing two to a page in landscape format. I think that way works better and keeps IN more organized, although it limits the amount of information you can fit on each page. You can see an example of what I'm talking about in this resource: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Qualitative-and-Quantitative-Observations-Interactive-Notebook-Pages-1961992

      If you click "preview" you can see how it looks in an Interactive Notebook.

      I prefer to use regular office tape. Tape always works. I usually get a couple of students to walk around with tape dispensers and it goes pretty quickly. I've tried glue sticks in the past, but only the name brand glue seems to stick for very long. Glue sticks also don't last very long, so I kept having to buy new ones which got to be pretty expensive.

      Hope this helps!

      -Elly

      Delete
  14. For their first assignment, do you start right away with one that is a topic from the subject that you are studying, say science, or do you have them do an activity or two about themselves at the beginning of the notebook to get used to using it first? I hope that makes sense. I saw something about this on another blog post and wanted to see what your opinion was.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Ally,

      I always start with actual science content for two reasons. One reason is because we begin using the INB during the second week of school, after much of the get to know you activities. The second reason is because I want the INB to be a good science resource for them and filled only with useful content they need to know. My first unit is always safety, which is easy enough that I can guide them through using their INB correctly while still focusing on the content.

      Thanks for your question! Have a great school year!
      -Elly

      Delete
  15. I've started INs (or CI - Cuaderno Interactivo) for my Spanish students this year - lots of trial and error but so far so good. I'm thinking about my plans for Monday where I'll have them jot down the work they do in partners and then hand it in.

    Do you have them keep a separate notebook or binder with looseleaf paper for things that will be turned in? Or do you provide loose paper? Or do you avoid this by having them leave their notebooks in class?

    Thanks,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Karen!

      I do a combination of everything your mentioned. Many of my students bring loose-leaf paper into class and use that for their assignments I require to be handed in that day. I also provide paper for students who don't have any. The students always leave their INs in class as well and I grade those once every quarter.

      Hope this helps you and your students!

      -Elly

      Delete
  16. Just started teaching middle school ELL and I will be doing a writing INB with them... This isn't my first time doing INBs but this post was so helpful! I got some great ideas, thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  17. This is my second year incorporating INB into my classes.....but I use 3-subject college ruled spiral notebooks, as opposed to composition books, because they are large enough in size to adhere a full 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper.....you would need to trim sheet if using a composition book. Luckily, students did not tear out pages because they had them pre-numbered as to go along with their ready-made TOC sheets that they adhered to the beginning of their INBs

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad that method works for you! I agree: it's nice to glue in papers without any trimming, but I'm still sold on composition books because of their durability. Thanks for reading!

      Delete
  18. Hi Elly,

    Thanks for the information. I shared this link on my blog. Hope it drives some traffic your way. http://everyed.blogspot.fr/2015/09/found-in-education-jobs-grant-inbs-and.html

    Cheers,
    DocRunning

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome! And thank you for sharing my blog!

      Delete
  19. Hi Elly,
    I am about to begin homeschooling a 7th grader, and I am planning on using the INB. What subject do you teach? And would you mind posting photos of some pages in your notebook so I could see how you use it? I will be teaching all four core subjects!
    Thanks,
    Amanda

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Amanda!
      I apologize for the long wait. Things here have kept me very busy and I haven't tended my blog for a while. I used my INB in my science classroom. I currently live in Korea and teach English. The lesson format I'm required to use at my school isn't conducive to using INB, unfortunately. My science INBs are all back home in the States, so I can't share any pictures of them. However, if you Google interactive notebook pictures, tons of great ideas will pop up. Hope this helps!
      -Elly

      Delete
  20. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Do you have any pictures of how you set up your content pages? I use an IN in math class but am always interested to see how others do it. Most interested to see where do now is in relation to class notes. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Melissa! If you email me at ellythorsen@gmail.com I can send you a picture of my content pages and Do Nows.

      Delete
  23. We have the student's INBs color-coded too on the top and bottom spines. On the top and bottom of the INB we take a marker and color them with different color for each subject. For example, green for science, blue for math, red for reading, orange for writing, yellow for word study, etc. So when they were in their desks they knew what INB was what by the color and didn't have to pull them all out to find the right one. They just need to grab the right colored one because they all had colors on the top and bottom spines.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Excellent ideas, especially for elementary. Thank you for sharing! :)

      Delete
  24. These are some really helpful tips as I am beginning my first year of teaching in the fall. Do you have your students complete their Do Now on the same page they take their notes for the day? Thank you so much for posting this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Happy 4th of July, Caytlyn! I'm glad you found this post helpful. Yes, I do have my students write their Do Now questions and answers on the same page as their daily notes. They write them above the notes. I'm considering making a section after the Table of Contents specifically for the Do Nows, but I haven't hashed out the details for that yet.

      Delete
  25. Hi Elly, great post! I've been using INBs the past couple of years but this will be my first year to go "all-in" with them and you've give a lot of helpful tips that I will be using! I'm unfamiliar with the term "do now"- are these like bellringer/warm up questions you have students answer at the beginning of the class?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh I love the Harry Potter reference! And thank you for reading and commenting. The answer to your question is yes. Do nows are the same thing as bellringers and warmups.

      Delete
  26. to color code the INB's we used the narrow postits (four different colors - 1 for each class). wrote students name, then attached to the binding. then a quick piece of packing tape to color the color postit. then store the INB's on a library re-shelving cart for quick access as the students enter the room

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Excellent ideas for organization! Thank you for sharing :)

      Delete
  27. Thank you for the detailed steps. I will be trying INB's for the first time in my 5th grade class. We are departmentalizing and I'll be teaching Math & Social Studies. It seems as if these would work for both subjects quite well. Would these work for ELA/Spelling too? How could I set them up?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Tracy! INBs will definitely work for ELA and spelling. I'd set them up as described above with just a few changes. I'd use the glossary for ELA words only (no spelling words). You might dedicate a set amount of pages after the Table of Contents or before the Glossary for students to put their lists of spelling words and a place to practice the words. Hope this gives you a couple of ideas to try!

      Delete
  28. Thanks for the permission to use your images. .. I have been putting off creating my own images for the steps. I get lots of new students throughout the year so this is perfect to create an online resource for them. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome! It can be a time-consuming process, so I'm happy to share and save other teachers some time. If you decide to create an online resource, please credit me and my blog. Thanks for reading!

      Delete
  29. This page is extremely helpful, and I am using many of your ideas with my Economics students this semester. You mentioned asking them to leave their notebooks in class. How do you store that many notebooks?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Brian! I'm happy to hear my post is helpful. Here is what works for me for storing INBs. I first tried storing the INBs separated by class in a large bookcase, and I totally don't recommend that. They were a mess and all of the INBs were stored too closely together so students took FOREVER to get theirs. What worked for me was getting 6 crates and dividing them up alphabetically. For example, the first crate might house the INBs of students with last names beginning with A, B, and C. The second crate would be D, E, and F and so on. That worked very well. The books were much more organized and students could quickly find their books without waiting in line to sort through the class's stack. That's what I'd recommend, but I'm sure there are some other great storage ideas out there as well.

      -Elly

      Delete
  30. Hi Elly, thanks for sharing! I'm assigned to a 3rd grade class this year. I've been reading up on interactive notebooks and plan to use it FOR THE FIRST TIME!!!I'm excited and a bit nervous at the same time. still have a few questions though.
    Kathy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Kathy! You're welcome. If there is anything I can help you with please let me know.

      -Elly

      Delete
  31. I LOVE THIS! It is my first year teaching and I had no clue how to set mine up! Thank you for this post, it saved me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're so welcome! I'm happy other teachers can learn from my experiences. Hope you have a great first year with your students.

      Delete
  32. It's a good thing there are people like you out there to help people like me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hahaha, thanks! I learned from trial and error and great teachers :)

      Delete
  33. Hello, Elly!
    Thank you for your post!
    I'm a teacher of English from Argentina and we use folders in the classroom. It is usually complicated for teenagers to have all the sheets of paper together, that's why i'm thinking about working on interactive notebooks next year. I believe these notebooks would be motivating tools for the learners to improve. Thank you again!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, Argentina! That's awesome. :) Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I think you and your students will be happy with INBs. I'm happy to help.

      Delete
  34. Dear Elly, I'm an English language teacher from Croatia. I have never done INB, and would like to try this year. It's very dificult to teach grammer to 11 year old students, when they starting to learn grammar in their mother language. You helped me a lot, but what now? We've prepered notebooks as did you say, and start doing some foldable worksheets, and it was a mess. Have you got any suggestion for where to find all necessary material? This is a long leter and lots of questions, hope you have time to help me.
    Thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello,

      Wow, you’re from Croatia! That’s pretty cool. Good for you for trying something new in your classroom by using INBs.

      I’m sorry to hear you’re having difficulty with them! My advice is to start small and build up to using fun and more complicated foldables. Although foldables are great and worthwhile, you can still accomplish what you need without them. Instead of foldables, I suggest having students write directly in their INBs or glue just a simple paper into them. Maybe on the left they could glue a paragraph with grammatical mistakes and circle the errors. Then on the right, they could rewrite the paragraph correctly. If you take notes, students can write those in the INBs and summarize them in a few sentences after the lesson. If you use vocabulary words, students could write the vocabulary word, its definition, use the word in a sentence, and draw a picture. They can make graphic organizers to practice information. As far as finding materials, I know Teachers Pay Teaches has a lot of great stuff for interactive notebooks. https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/ Just search for “interactive notebooks” and the topic and you might pull up something helpful.

      Well, I hope this helps! Good luck.

      -Elly

      Delete