Learning math can be tricky. One main goal for teachers is to set students up for success. Make it more than a goal. Make it a priority. Remove barriers and allow them to take ownership of the content. One strategy to support this goal is the use of interactive notebooks.
As a secondary math teacher, I quickly realized my students lacked the ability to take quality notes independently. And even if they were able, they were not great at organizing those notes or any classroom materials. They lacked an efficient system. Most students need to be explicitly taught organizational strategies to be successful in each class. This is what led me to put notebook procedures into my beginning-of-year procedure lessons.
I have tried binders, spiral notebooks, and interactive notebooks (in composition notebooks). My students were at least fairly successful with each due to my insistence that they kept them organized. However, my students had the most success (by far) with interactive notebooks. Here are a few reasons students and found them to be so helpful.
ESTABLISH NOTEBOOK PROCEDURES.
If you have followed me for a while, you know I am a firm believer in well-taught procedures. It is my number one efficiency tip. Notebook procedures fall under this umbrella. Establish notebook-related routines that work for your class and lead to student success.
USE CLASS TIME.
Take a few minutes each day or every couple of days to allow students to stay atop their organization. This time could be for taping in a piece of work they forgot to get, updating their table of contents, securing a foldable, jotting down missed notes, etc. If you always leave these tasks for students to do outside of class, they may forget or lack the materials to keep it up-to-date and organized. Again, I go back to the goal of setting students up for success.
Provide tape or glue, highlighters, scissors, staplers, etc. Have supply stations or buckets on tables. Use color-coded drawer sets like me, as seen in picture. Just make sure you are removing barriers that keep students from success.
PREPARE ENGAGING & INTERACTIVE CONTENT.
For notebooks to be interactive, it must be more than a storage location. Students need to put as much into the book as you do. Their thoughts, their mistakes, their ideas. So, provide space and time to allow students those opportunities. Foldables aren’t just cute and fun- they are tactile forms of engagement, student-constructed visual aids for arranging information. Plan investigations, card sorts, guided notes, and color-coding.