Interactive Notebooks, INBs, ISNs…  whatever you call them, they are proving to be THE MOST popular and talked about way to engage students in the classroom.  I use my interactive notebooks from day one and I found that my students loved them because it was their own creation, parents loved the organization and student engagement, and my administration loved the end of year tests that demonstrated EXCELLENCE in science.  Of course, I ADORED them too for their ease of grading and everything else we mentioned above!


I start by introducing the concept of the INB, what it’s all about and why they are creating it. Then I have students set-up the initial pages with their table of contents, syllabus and other important papers, and explain that their INB is now their new best friend.  Remind them not to lose it, because when they return the next day, it’s go time… and they’ll need to bring it every day for the rest of the year!



I familiarize students with the left hand right hand aspect of the INB.  I have students write the date, the topic title, daily objective, and bellwork questions and answers on the left-hand side of their notebook.  This will leave them with plenty of room underneath to ask questions, draw diagrams or scientific doodles, create poetry, follow-up the lesson with an exit ticket, or anything else that helps them better understand the topic at hand.

I start each lesson with a “do now”, “warmup”, or “bellringer/bellwork” to get students focused on the day’s material.  The question(s) the students answer should be thought provoking, but not so tough that only a select few will be able to think them through.  My bellwork can review the previous day’s lesson or I introduce a new lesson by using Brainpop, movie clips, interactive white board lessons, group brainstorms, or the like.

ING-right-SideThe right-hand side should be the home for your notes sheets. Interactive notebooks can be constructed in many different ways: full size sheets folded up, printing at 80% size, etc. My preference is to convert notes sheets into a book: print material on both sides but leave 1/4 of the back of the page blank for gluing. Then, fold the page in half like a “hamburger”, line the page up with the red margin line and the blue top line to make sure it’s in the notebook securely, and glue it down.

This method of creating INB pages is great because they open up like a book in order to provide plenty of room for students to complete their work on the right.  Since most INB sheets are a half sheet, this style of handout offers 3x as much work space, allowing me to provide more practice problems, notes, diagrams, etc. and increase productivity in my classroom!   It’s a great tool and it saves on time and paper resources!


Students will become very in tune with the process of using the INB, taking ownership of it from day one, neatly filling out their left side “do now” and working on the meat of their lesson on the right.  Once they complete an assignment in the notebook, I remind them to keep their table of contents up to date with the title, date, and page number and that each page is filled out daily.


Why? Because, at the end of the year, the notebook can be used as their primary study tool to prepare for their MCAS test.  Once I have covered all of the material for biology, I have the students take a practice MCAS test.  Where the INB comes in handy is when I align the PAGE numbers of the INB with the particular state standards as well.  When students analyze their practice test, they are able to see which standards AND which pages in their INB they need to review for the big day. The best part is that students will want to use THIS tool (versus a textbook) because it is THEIR personalized journal of learning, and they are able to revisit the key concepts in THEIR OWN words and THEIR OWN way in an individualized and targeted fashion!



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