How to Save Time with Interactive Notebooks in Algebra 1

“I’m wanting to do interactive notebooks, but how do you make it not take so long?”

This is, by far, the #1 question I get from other math teachers.

In short, the only secret is ROUTINES, ROUTINES, ROUTINES (and ORGANIZATION). 

The best way to save time is to minimize transitions, and I talk about how to do that in my post about routines. If you haven’t already, check out my post about routines and my post about supplies organization, because they are the foundation for all time savings strategies.

Cut & Paste Bootcamp

In addition to your routines, have a “Cut & Paste Bootcamp” in the first 2 weeks of school where you use a timer and students have to cut quickly and efficiently to finish before the timer goes off. Students will get faster, even if the first few days are rough. Not everyone will finish at the beginning, so having a pocket added in the notebook to store in-progress notes is essential. 

During the first two weeks, I do several cut and paste card sort activities or puzzles that need to be cut out in addition to the notebook to really give students opportunities to practice becoming quick at cutting. I also find that students need to be reminded of how to efficiently cut, so modelling exactly what you want them to do works well, too. 

Gluing rarely takes much time, it’s normally the transition to get the supplies or the cutting of things that can make INBs take longer than expected. 

Design Notes That Require Less or No Cutting!

Beyond getting your students into shape for cutting quickly and efficiently, the even better option to save time is to design notes that have minimal cutting (or have no cutting at all). I often make these “mini book” style interactive notebook notes that require no cutting at all. 

Printing Hack – #1 Tip to Save Teacher Prep Time!

I also have a great hack to reuse non-INB notes to save YOU time while planning. 

If you already have a set of notes/reference page/etc. that is 8.5×11” don’t waste any time reformatting it for an interactive notebook… 

SIMPLY PRINT AT 80-85% size and it will fit PERFECTLY! 

You can even use a paper cutter to cut a full class of handouts at once so your students just have to glue. You won’t have to waste time reformatting notes you have used in the past to fit in an interactive notebook, which makes the process so much less daunting. 

Read more about this hack here


Trust the process. If you stick to strong routines and have your supplies organized well to minimize transitions for students, and you really work with your students straight from the beginning by challenging them with a timer, things start working like a well-oiled machine after just a couple of weeks. If you notice your students are starting to drag things out, then definitely go back to using a timer for a set period of time, again, and if they don’t finish they can always stick unfinished notes/activities in their pocket until the next day and that’s A-OK. 

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

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