What is an interactive notebook & What goes in it?

In this blog post, we are going to go over all of the basics of interactive notebooks. To get us started, let’s go to the very beginning…

What is an interactive notebook?

An interactive notebook is just a composition or spiral notebook that students develop over the course of a class where students can organize their notes and their learning to be used as a study tool. 

Here’s an example of the first unit in my Algebra 1 interactive notebook.

So what makes an interactive notebook interactive?

Interactive notebooks are interactive by the design of how they are built to be used and referred to over and over as a study tool. Students aren’t meant to just interact with notes once and then forget about them. They are meant to go back and there are structures in place (like the table of contents, for example) to encourage this. Paired with classroom routines, students spend much more time interacting with the content they have written than with other styles of notes. 

What do I include in an interactive notebook?

  • Notes/Foldables
  • Warm-Ups
  • Activities to help students process/practice new information (puzzles, card sorts, etc.)
  • Drawings
  • Flowcharts
  • Math journal
  • Glossary
  • Table of contents
  • Reference Materials
  • Grade tracking / Progress toward standards
  • Goals & Goals Tracking

Not every page must be something that is glued in, either. You really can build the notebook however you like. Just keep the end goal of building a really wonderful study and reference tool at the forefront, always. 

Left/Right Hand Pages?

If you’ve researched interactive notebooks before, you might’ve run into the notion of Left/Right pages and how they should serve different features. This is very common in AVID schools to be trained this way. A quick summary is that the left hand page is for student’s to output and summarize or interact in some way with the teacher-led right hand page. 

I’ve always found that a bit too restrictive and felt like the left and right hand pages should’ve been swapped, so I have done my own thing and really don’t believe in sticking to any rules. 

I typically set up my notebook as a series of 2-page spreads. 

Left: Notes/Foldable (class-led)

Right: Warm-up/Card-Sort/ Puzzle (student-led) to review what was on the prior left hand page. 

Here is my general approach to creating 2-page spreads for my Algebra 1 interactive notebooks.

Now, I don’t always stick to the 2-page spread for each topic. Some topics take more than 1 page for notes and 1 warm-up, and that is OK. Don’t get caught up in focusing on it being a rigid structure or else it will become overwhelming.

At its core, just remember that the interactive notebook is really meant to be a study tool for students to refer back to over and over (and oftentimes, years later). That gives you plenty of room to experiment and make it your own! 

This post is part of the INB 101 – The Basics series.

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