June 9, 2013

Top 5 Things I LOVE About Interactive Math Notebooks: #3-5

Well I'm back to share #3-5 with you. If you missed #1-2, check them out here.

The third thing I love about my notebook--the pocket! My students used this almost daily. Whenever we had pieces that they needed to keep track of from day to day, put it in the pocket. Whenever they received assignments back and needed to keep them to study for the next exam, put it in the pocket. Whenever we had a busy day and didn't quite get all the lose ends tied up, put it in the pocket. It was fantastic! Periodically if we had a few minutes left in class we would have "Pocket-Cleaning Sessions." Man, some of these kiddos are hoarders! :)

You can also see a couple other things I love (but didn't warrant their own Top 5 number) in the pictures above. We held our notebooks together with rubber bands once things started expanding. I got the idea here and let me tell you, it was a life saver! Most of my students' notebooks were still in great condition at the end of the year and I attribute much of that to the rubber bands. It helped keep things secure while bouncing around in a junior high backpack. YIKES!

You can also see our Speed Dial Partners peaking out in the picture on the far right. It's like clock partners but I made an iPhone template. While I still really like this idea, we hardly used it all year. Students filled in their partners on the first day of school during a Kagan getting to know you activity. The idea petered out for a couple reasons: 1) lots of students got schedule changes, moving between class periods, so lots of partners were messed up, and 2) I often rather paired/grouped students intentionally rather than going with whatever "get with partner #2" would yield. Oh well...
That being said, I plan to use that space to attach our pocket to the back cover next year. I think that will help increase the durability of the beloved pocket.

The fourth thing I love about my notebook--math notes are FUN! When you tell students to get out their notebooks during class time and there are audible cheers, it is music to a teacher's ears. We use colored pencils, highlighters, pockets, foldables, post-it notes, and tape all the time. Yes, 13/14-year olds LOVE it! They get excited to create their notes, color-code their important information, and add things to their personalized notebook. And of course nothing makes a teacher more excited than when students get excited about learning!
*I'll do individual posts on the topics shown above later*
The fifth thing I love my notebook--planning! Now, this is a little different from the rest and doesn't have its own fun picture, but planning with the notebook in mind made me a better teacher. I had to think through the most important aspects of the topics covered, and plan concise and cohesive notes. No more slapping too many problems into a powerpoint and calling it a lesson. I thought carefully about which few problems would be most beneficial for students, and the best way to present these problems. I thought through information clustering and how to create foldables, what color-coding would be most beneficial, what application topics or activities would glean the most information for my students. I can say, hands down, that implementing Interactive Notebooks has made me better. I encourage you to try it in your classroom; I bet it makes you better as well. :)
Now, before I dive back in to topic-specific posts, I want to know what kinds of things YOU would like to see first. As I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post, my students and I learned a LOT of math this year. We went all the way from rational/irrational numbers, through basic algebraic thinking, and ended with parent functions and systems of multiple functions. Now, I'm not saying I created stellar pages for every topic we did, but if there's something you're curious about please leave a comment so I can get to that topic sooner rather than later. Also if you have a question about notebook logistics, leave that in a comment and I'll try to address it.
Here are a few pictures to get you started thinking!
(from a Donors Choose project)


  1. I am curious about the student input. Do you let the students choose what they do? I have seen other teacher have them fill out worksheets at times, which doesn't seem as exciting or creative. I looks like you have a lot of really creative student pages, which I bet the students are extremely proud of. If I were your student, I would definitely hold onto my ISN for the future. I don't have any special requests, just maybe some of the ones that are memorable to you.

    Also, how do you personally grade them? I have seen a few different ways out there and I am curious what your approach to grading them is..especially because your student input pages vary so much. Thanks!!

  2. Nikki Lo, thanks for stopping by and your kind words! I have some exciting pages and some boring pages in my notebook; it's definitely a learning process that gets better with time and experience!

    I'll write a post about grading them soon. Check back!!

  3. I am curious about one of the pictures from above. It appears to be an activity with a map, has a a few right triangles highlighted on it. What was this used for? Do you have a link to a post or explanation?



    1. Mahr,

      The map with triangles was used with Pythagorean Theorem. I just posted more about it here:

      Thanks for your interest!

  4. I'm not sure if you covered these topics or not (I just found your blog via Pinterest, and I'm loving it so far!), but I have some specific topics I need to improve in my own notebooks for next year, and it would be nice to see someone else's take on them.

    1. Direct/inverse variation
    2. Determining whether a situation/graph involves continuous or discrete data
    3. Function notation

    I'm also interested in seeing how you grade them. Last year was my first time doing notebooks (first year teaching high school, too!), and I started off the year trying to look through each notebook and grade using a rubric once every three weeks or so. About 9 weeks in, I switched to "open notebook quizzes" where students basically just had to find and copy info out of their notebooks based on my questions. I would include a page number or title with each question as a hint for where to find the answer so it wouldn't take them too long (each quiz was about 10 min). The quizzes were MUCH easier to grade, and they served to remind students just how much great info we squeezed into our notebooks! I was also trying to work on getting them to reference their notebooks more, as several students basically forgot about them as soon as we finished our foldable/entry for the day.

    I look forward to hearing back and catching up on all your other posts!

    1. I love you method for grading the notebooks. By any chance do you happen to have a copy of what a sample Notebook quiz looked like. I will be teaching High School for the first time coming from an Elementary Classroom. Very intrigued!!!

  5. Is there a way to follow you by email or facebook? Haven't quite figured out how to get only the posts I want from Bloglovin so not loving it.

    1. Yep! Just submit your email address in the right-hand sidebar. Thanks for your support!!

  6. can you give an example of a personalized activity you assigned?