Guest Post: 10 Reasons I LOVE Interactive Notebooks

Long before I started blogging, I followed the blog of super teacher Mrs. E Teaches Math. Her posts were always straight to the point with meaningful information I could bring right back to my classroom (like this post on favorite websites for math teachers). Little did I know that someday she'd be guest blogging for me and that I could call her a friend. So without further introduction, here are 10 reasons Mrs. E loves interactive notebooks!

10 Reasons I love Interactive Notebooks

If you’ve poked around my blog at all, you’ve noticed that I’m in LOVE with interactive notebooks.  I love coming up with new foldables and coming up with ways to keep students engaged during class.  Here are my top 10 reasons I love interactive notebooks (or as I like to call them, INBs).

1 - Every kid has paper and a pencil daily.  It drives me bonkers when students don’t have paper or wander around the room asking other students for paper.  Notebooks solve this problem.  You can have students keep their notebooks in the classroom, and BOOM! they have paper.  I’ve seen some inventive people even have students tape a straw to the edge of the notebook to hold a pencil.  BRILLIANT!

2 - Kids are organized.  When kids keep binders they are such a mess!  There are papers shoved everywhere and most things just get shoved into the pockets.  Pages glued into a composition notebook totally solves this problem!  If interactive notebooks keep my 9th grade boys neat, I’m sold.

3 - Students have greater retention.  Foldables help improve student retention and recall for information.  This isn’t just for gifted students either, it’s proven for students of all levels. (Bos & Anders, 1992)

4 - More students take notes.   Since I’ve implemented INBs, I have less students staring blankly off into space while I’m teaching the lesson.  That’s a golden reason right there!

5 - Students are held accountable.  This past year I did have a few complaints from parents that I “didn’t cover” certain concepts in class.  At my school parents can get very involved.  I was able to say, “Check the bottom of page 62.  Your student should have written…  Also, on page 63, your student should have an entire page of practice problems on this concept.”  If these pages were in a binder, I couldn’t have said that.  Who knows where those pages had ended up?  INBs put the accountability square on the student’s shoulders, where it belongs.

6 - Kinesthetic learners are more involved.  Most of my students are kinesthetic learners.  They LOVE foldables because they are hands-on and require manipulation.  They are so much more involved than they are with paper and pencil notes!

7 - INBs help students study.  A good foldable helps students study.  As students fill out a foldable, I model for them how the foldable can be used as a flashcard to quiz themselves later.

8 - Students take pride in their work.  Visual learners love drawing and coloring in the margins of their notebook.  Students end the year with a durable portfolio of their learning.  A student recently told me, “When I flip through my notebook, it’s just so…satisfying.  It’s like I actually did a lot of work in your class.”  Um, yes!  Thank you!

9 - Students can prepare for tests more efficiently.  True confession time.  It drives me NUTS when I give students a review and they come to me and say, “Teach me how to do this”.  Instead of having students stare blankly when I give them a review or ask a question, they start flipping through their notebooks.  They are referring to their notes, people!  Woah!  It’s even more powerful when I say something like, “Help me remember the triangle congruence shortcuts, page 92 will help….”

10 - Foldables keep ME focused.  My lessons have become so much stronger since I’ve started looking at material in chunks.  Now, when I look at guided notes I see just a list of vocabulary and problems.  Foldables keep my objectives wrapped in neat little packages. 

Before I started using interactive notebooks, I was worried that using graphic organizers and foldables would “water down” the content.  I often have honors classes and I didn’t want that to happen.  However, the content is only watered down if you make it that way.  You can put rigorous problems in any foldable.  Pages can be layered on top of each other to give students more room to write.  Interactive notebooks can be rigorous too! Download this list for free here.

Mrs E Teaches Math

Karrie is the teacher behind Mrs. E Teaches Math.  On her blog she shares all kinds of ideas for secondary math teachers.  Her Teachers pay Teachers store is full of foldables and engaging activities for your students!



  1. Hi, I tried out Interactive Notebooks after seeing and hearing such great things about them. Unfortunately, they didn't work out too well for a few reasons: 1) My 9th graders found them babyish and had their parents complain to the head of the math department who didn't back me up because she also thought they were childish. 2) I found they took up a lot of time. 3) It was a headache to keep track of and grade even though I used other people's suggestions to make it easier. 4) I have many students who resented being forced to take notes when they could do well without notes just the same. 5) For those students who did enjoy them, I found that it made them think of the class as babyish because they got "to color in class," reinforcing the negative opinion of my boss. Any tips of how these can work for me?

    1. I do INBs with my seniors. At first they complain about cutting and pasting, but then they get into it. This takes a few weeks, at least. In the 3 years I have taught the class with INBs not one kid has lost their notebook! They get quite proud of them.

      As for not taking notes, I saw this a lot when I taught younger kids. The problem is that they are not forming a habit for when taking notes is absolutely essential in Geometry and especially Algebra 2 and beyond. Without developing the skill early, they will struggle and then start to thinking they "can't do math". Really, no one can keep all the steps in their head when the math is more advanced.

      I taught for 1 year in what I not so fondly remember as being what you have described. With parents running the administration it becomes the kids running your classroom. Unfortunately, I don't know any way around this. If you want to do INBs because you see value in them, maybe a hybrid model where some foldables are used in a binder along with traditional notes. This is a tough one, though. I've been there!

  2. AnonymousJune 28, 2017

    I use interactive notebooks. I collect them twice each grading period. The students soon see the value of an easy A and copy the notes. I tell them, "It's an easy way to pull up their average and really not that difficult to do." A few still don't step up to the plate, but most do. I have even had students who moved on to another math teacher the next year and complained that he/she didn't use them:)

    1. HA! That's so awesome about the kids loving them so much they wanted to use them in their new class:) I really see the kids take ownership of their notebooks and grow more and more attached to them as the year goes on. Thanks so much for your comment!

  3. Hi, I too love interactive notebooks. However, I am always at the photocopying machine! It seems like I'm in line every single day, mind you that I do plan ahead! Do you have any problem with your admin about printing all the time?

  4. I plan by the week and do all my copies every Thursday or Friday. It takes me almost my entire off period, but I only have to do it once a week. My admin is very supportive and doesn't mind that I use lots of colored paper. We have unlimited copies at my school. I know everyone isn't that lucky though! :(

  5. My friend uses a "treasure hunt" to grade INB's. After a few assignments, students have a list of items on the board that they find and copy the answer to. If they were paying attention, have their notebook in order, they will easily find the answers and be done. The students that can't find anything or did not have the work completed will run out of time. Gives you an idea of who is working and who to check on during lessons! I am trying it next year!

    1. I really like this. Keeping an organized notebook is a skill all kids can learn and be held responsible to do. It's so important. I do something similar with notebook checks. Each is a 1/2 sheet of paper with 10 random assignments or note pages on it from their notebooks. If my students have kept their notes up to date they get a 100%. I do still collect their notebooks so I do like your idea a bit better. Anything to cut down on grading without cutting back on meaningful feedback is a great way to save time.