Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Interactive Notebook Survey

Throughout my first marking period, I faced so much resistance to interactive notebooks from students and parents.  I felt as though I was making a big mistake.  I reached out to Jessica (@algebrainiac1) and Sarah (@msrubinteach) on Twitter for advice.  (Twitter is awesome like that.)  They both gave me some truly awesome advice.  (View the conversation here.)

From talking to Jessica and Sarah, I learned that (especially at the beginning of the year - when interactive notebooks are new for my students) I have to (a) reference the content of our notebooks frequently and (b) use the notebooks more often for quizzes.  By constantly referencing where to find information in the notebook I am showing students the immediate value of their notebooks.  Anytime they need some kind of information, they have it at their fingertips.  I can do this verbally during class, on homework, and on worksheets.  Allowing students to use their notes on quizzes is a huge help, for me and for them.  Students realize quickly the importance of keeping their notebooks up to date.  If their notebook is not up to date, they are missing information that could help them on the quiz. 

The best piece of advice they gave me was to give students a survey.  At the end of the first quarter, I gave my students a survey with statements about the interactive notebooks. (See the survey I used here.)  Results varied.  Overall, I saw that students were warming up to the interactive notebooks.  The best part was reading the comments.  I gave students the prompt "I would like using interactive notebooks better if..."
And they answered:
  • "we used more colors and if the open notebook quizzes were based more on the book, like if we could find the answers in it."  I need to find a way to give students regular access to highlighters and colored pencils.  I didn't this year because I was so worried about my limited supplies being diminished. 
  • "I write the notes first and then you teach the lesson it would be helpful.  But copying the notes and listening at the same time doesn't help me." Unfortunately my classes start talking the moment I stop.  It seriously makes everything more difficult.  I'm working on this over the summer.
  • "they were more colorful and more gluing and 3D things."  Note:  buy colored paper because they like the foldables.
  • "we have more examples."  Something to consider with the limited space.  Perhaps adding flaps just for extra examples.  Also, I condensed as much as I could to one page or to one two-page spread.  I was so scared of running out of pages, we ended up with plenty of extra pages at the end of the year.  I need to not be so worried about space this year.
  • "there were more 3D or hands on things to put in the book, whether it spins, slides, or opens."  It was very encouraging to hear that they were excited about the non-traditional note-taking things we did.
  • "we had more time working on it."  I'm not sure how I can help here.  If only I could create more time.
  • "it was neater."  Perhaps I need to give students more guidance for how to put their pages together.
  • "I came on the first day of it."  I still have no perfect solution for new students.
  • "the notes were easier to understand."  The eternal struggle of Geometry!
  • "had more notes and detail."  I was actually trying to escape the lengthy notes and extra details.  I wanted simplified notes because the students view the textbook as being written in a foreign language.
  • "we didn't write so much."  That one came up twice actually.  There are teachers in my school that hand out note packets and the students just fill the notes in.  I do this for lessons with excessive writing or diagrams.  I think it's too passive for learning. 
  • "it was for History class."  I welcome other teachers in my school using INBs!
  • "we didn't have to waste time writing, cutting, and gluing."  I'm at a loss for what we do instead.
  • "it were digital."  We are far from digitizing INBs.  Our school is in a high poverty BYOD district. 
  • "it was less messy with the glue."  I told them over and over to just use small dots with the glue.  They simply would not listen.  This was very frustrating for me this year. 
  • "we had more time to review."  This sounds more like a class procedure issue than an INB issue.
  • "they were on an iPod for the whole period and every class."  What I think this student is getting at is how I projected a photo of my INB page at the beginning of each class when we added to our book.  Many times throughout the period I'd be asked to refer back to it to give more guidance about the layout of the page.  Perhaps I could email students the picture of the page so that they could look at it throughout the period.  Although I'm cracking down on phones this year, I'm not sure how this would work.
Overall I received phenomenal feedback.  Ideally, I wanted to give the same survey again at the end of the year.  Once we got to review, though, I forgot all about the notebooks.  The biggest success I found this year was that students were much better about making up the notes they missed in class this year.  I am definitely using Interactive Notebooks again this year.   


  1. I've been working on developing my plan for using an interactive notebook in my high school Biology classes this year. This was actually one of the most helpful posts I've seen about INB because you shared and reflected on student feedback! My worry is running out of pages, as well, but I've pretty well decided that if we run out of space we'll just move on over to a new notebook. And it's great to know that the kids seem more responsive when they refer back to the INB more frequently, not just for note taking.

    I like that some of your students wished "we didn't write so much". It's amazing to me that so many other teachers are giving out fill-in-the-blank notes, because I agree with you that they don't contribute to learning in a meaningful way.

    Last comment: were you using regular glue or glue sticks? I've seen most teachers having luck with glue sticks. My concern was glue sticks not being as strong, but you can always just dab on a little more if something starts to come unstuck, and it gives you a chance to move things around if you don't get them exactly straight the first time.

    Thank you for sharing your experience with INBs this year!!!

    1. I used regular glue because glue sticks don't hold up. I never had a problem with students losing anything that they glued in properly. I've also heard of other teachers finding success with using tape. It would make things much easier, but I fear that if I cannot get students to use small dots of glue, I won't be able to get them to use small pieces of tape, and tape definitely costs more than glue.

      Thanks for the feedback!


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