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.  We used our interactive notebooks from day one and we found that our students loved them because it was their own creation, parents loved the organization and student engagement, and our administration loved the end of course tests that demonstrated EXCELLENCE in science.  Of course, we ADORED them too for their ease of grading and everything else we mentioned above!

Want to effectively use interactive notebooks in your classroom? Here are a few tips from our toolbox to get you started.

START NOTEBOOKING IMMEDIATELY: Whether it’s the first or the 21st week of school, get notebooking! To get everyone on board right off the bat, be prepared. Always buy your students notebooks in advance.  If students have already purchased their own, they can trade out with you or opt to not take one of yours altogether.  It makes it a million times easier to have everyone working on their notebooks at the same time and for those students who have parents that work late and can’t get to the store until the weekend, it’s a welcomed relief that they won’t fall behind in class.  Sales on composition notebooks pop up all over the place, and you can find them for as cheap as ten cents in some stores.  Stick to the wide-ruled, one hundred page notebooks for little middle schooler hands – you’ll find that they’ll end up using almost every page by the end of the year.

Start by introducing the concept of the INB, what it’s all about and why they are creating it. Then 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!  One tip to keep your own sanity is to keep a binder of all of the master copies of your notebook pages. This way, when a student is absent or loses a page, have them hit the binder for what they need!


Familiarize students with the left hand right hand aspect of the INB.  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.

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

The 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. Our 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 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 you to provide more practice problems, notes, diagrams, etc. and increase productivity in your classroom!   It’s a great tool and it saves on time and paper resources!

Your kids 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, 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.


In order to make sure students are held accountable for the work, give a short 10 question INB QUIZ every two weeks that covers the information from the notebook during that time period.   Questions on the quizzes should be EASY and only refer to the WORK from those days, such as “what was the objective from date such and such?” or “what was the answer to the bellwork question #2 from this activity?” These should not be questions about understanding or comprehension of concepts – save those for your regular assessments.  Give them the page numbers to find the answers.  This way, if students keep up with their notebooks, follow the format, and complete the in-class activities each day, they receive an easy, breezy 100 point quiz grade. If not, well, then you know who’s been completing assignments and who hasn’t. There’s also the obvious win for you as you don’t have to collect 140 notebooks to grade each week.  And of course you’ll grade any major assignments in the notebook, but the daily tedium will be taken care of with this quick grade method.


Why? Because, at the end of the year, the notebook can be used as their primary study tool to prepare for their state test.  Once you have covered all of the material for science, have the students take a MOCK state test.  Then, create a Science Skills Tracking Sheet that lists each of your standards for science and the skills and concepts to be learned for each of those standards. You’ll use that same mock test to align each question with the standard it tests. You’ll only need to do this once, but it will save you a life time of individually assessing each student’s proficiencies and deficiencies regarding the material. Where the INB comes in handy is when you align the PAGE numbers of the INB with the particular standards as well.  When students analyze their mock 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 or EOCT coach book) 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!

It’s always fun to show your wide-eyed students the start and finish points for their notebooks. They can hardly believe that simple, daily assignments will make a monstrously almost 2″ thick textbook out of their relatively thin 100-page composition notebook.

A few will laugh at the size.  Some will shudder in fear of the amount of work that must go into making something of that magnitude.  However, all of your students will finish the year with not only a love of science, but a true personal connection to the material and their notebook.  We were always so pleased to hear when our students moved on to high school only to come back and visit and tell us that their INB saved them in their Biology classes!   We hope these INB tips help you along the way, too!

And if you’d like to get started right away and don’t know what you would need for your students to get them on board, check out our blog posts:

We also offer a product on Introducing Interactive Notebooks in Science which is complete with handouts and PowerPoint to guide you through the process. If you’re looking for resources and don’t have time to make your own, we have a curriculum that’s comprehensive and ready to go! Check out our assortment of PowerPoint and handouts on every life science topic here in our store. If you’re interested in interactive notebooks, we have accompanying INB activities too!

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