The Power Behind Interactive Notebooks
Interactive notebooks are all the rage right now. They look adorable and allow kids to be creative while taking notes.
But are interactive notebooks a better tool than regular notebooks? Maybe.
Here is what interactive notebooks have going for them:
1. They are fun to put together, so kids stay engaged in the task for longer than a regular notebook.
2. They include some information from the teacher, so even kids with crazy messy handwriting will get important information into their notebooks.
3. Everything is prepared ahead of time, so they keep kids (and teachers) on track, so nothing gets missed.
There are many other things that are great about interactive notebooks, but I feel like these are the big three positives.
Here are the negatives:
1. They use a lot of paper. This can be an issue if your copies are limited.
2. They take a lot of time to put together.
3. Some kids are not ready for the cutting, folding, and gluing and their notebooks turn into a hot mess.
So, you can see there are reasons to use interactive notebooks and reasons to avoid them.
I believe the real power behind interactive notebooks exists in the fact that kids are given most of the information being taught (or reviewed) and are only asked to complete a small part of the puzzle. Plus, unlike a worksheet or text book, an interactive notebook only uses a few sample problems.
Both of these facts combine to make the information in interactive notebooks accessible to kids. All kids. It is an activity that the class is working on together, plus it is fun. That makes interactive notebooks an adventure instead of an impossible task.
These traits are not unique to interactive notebooks. There are many different ways you can provide your students the support they need to see math as a fun challenge instead of incomprehensible drudgery. But interactive notebooks are the tool du jour.
Here are some activities found in interactive notebooks that can be recreated without the time and hassle of making an actual interactive notebook:
1. Sorting activities: Have category labels and sort fact cards into groups or pair up matching fact cards. Sometimes there will only be one way to sort, but most of the time you will be surprised by the number of correct sorts kids will discover.
2. Fill in the blank: kids are given definitions with one or more words missing and have to come up with the missing words.
3. Break problems down into multiple parts: If you think it will take three steps to complete a math problem, fold a paper or print of three boxes and have kids put their work in the three spaces. This can be helpful for struggling students because they are given clues as to how to solve the problem. Stronger students can be challenged to see how many different ways they can solve the problem.
4. Solve it two ways: Put a problem in the middle of the page and have students solve it a different way on each side of the paper.
5. Mind map it: Put a word or concept in the middle of a page. Have students write everything they can think of related to the center idea. Draw arrows and lines to connect the ideas.
6. Put steps in order from first to last: Solve a problem step by step on cards. Mix up the cards and have students put them back in the right order.
All of these ideas could be used to make fun and engaging stations for kids.
If you want to engage your students brains without the hassle of setting up your own activities or stations, you can check out my Engage New York aligned interactive notebooks available on Teachers pay Teachers. They are in the process of being updated to include lesson by lesson activities in addition to topic activities. You can get them all here: