Routines for Using Interactive Notebooks in Algebra 1

One of the most important things to ensuring that your experience with interactive notebooks runs smoothly and doesn’t waste class time is through your use of routines and the organization of your classroom. In another post I talk about supplies you’ll need and how I organize them, and in this post I’ll walk you through how to set yourself up for success with routines that utilize that organization. 


Notice how I wrote that in red?

Routines, organization and practice are the KEY to not having interactive notebooks take so much time. Here’s what I do:

  • I have all papers and supplies on the counter or a table by the door as students walk in. Students pick up one of everything right as they walk in. If there’s something to cut, students cut it apart as part of their warm-up. I often have instructions about what to cut projected as students walk in so they can begin cutting before class even has started. 
    • I keep all of my scissors in a removable Sterilite plastic drawer, so I walk around after the warm-up to collect scissors. You could totally have a student do this. I find that having just one person collect the supplies makes things go far smoother than having every student or even one student per group do it. For classroom management, it definitely has reduced some of the undesirable behavior that happens when 8 students are walking around and by taking away the scissors early on, students don’t have them to fidget with all class (some students struggle with using supplies in a productive manner, even in high school). 
  • After the warm-up, we work on our notes for the day. Students will wait to glue in their notes until they are totally completed. It’s a real pain to write on a page that’s already been glued into the INB, especially if you’re more than a few weeks into the year because the notebooks start getting puffy. 
  • At the end of the lesson, we will glue in our materials at the same time, and then I will repeat the same process as with the scissors, and walk around with a tub to collect the glue sticks. You can have a student volunteer to do this.  

But how do I not let the cutting and gluing take forever? 

Use a timer for cutting and do a LOT of cutting and pasting early on in the year (think of it like a bootcamp the first two weeks). Students WILL get faster. 

Also, have a pocket glued into the notebook for things that didn’t get glued in so students can keep track of it for the next day. 

If you stick to a consistent routine and have your supplies set up to be picked up and returned with very minimal transitions, it really takes no additional time to do interactive notebooks. 

What if a student is absent?

I have crates in the back of my classroom that are numbered 1-31 to correspond with the date. At the end of each day, I put extra copies of the blank notes/warm-ups/activities into the corresponding tab on the crate. 

I also write the page on the top of each set of notes before I photocopy them to make it easy for students to see that R-39 means that it goes on page 39 which is a right hand page.

Students can take pictures of my notes or a friend’s to get caught up. I highly recommend keeping a notebook yourself! 

Do you let students take them home?

I think this is more dependent on the age of the students you have. 

Students keep INBs in the classroom:

Pros: Better for younger grades, doesn’t get forgotten

Cons: Takes lots of space, can be annoying and cause a bottle-neck in your room. 

Students take their INBs home: 

Pros: Better for older grades, students can practice responsibility and can use while at home

Cons: Could get lost or forgotten. 

At the Algebra 1 level, I definitely think it’s appropriate to have students take them home with them every day. That said, I’ve always had a student or two each year who I have found it’s better to have them stash away their interactive notebook in my classroom each day. Find a balance that works for you!

What about Grading Routines?

If you’re interested in my grading routines, check out this post. 

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

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