How to make interactive notebooks less stressful

Interactive notebook ideas

blog post title of interactive notebook ideas
Interactive notebooks: yay or nay? Many teachers have strong opinions about interactive notebooks, and are either in the LOVE or HATE camp. What are you? 

No matter what camp that you are in, I think you are going to find this post helpful. I discuss four ways to reduce your stress level, prep time, and class time when utilizing interactive notebooks. Read on and see if any of these ideas would work in your classroom!

Have more questions about interactive notebooks? Make sure to check out my interactive notebook guide to answer all your burning interactive notebook questions! Click here to read.

Good-bye, table of contents

Hear me out on this one. When I started interactive notebooks, I always had a table of contents. We numbered pages. But.... my kids always struggled with this. It became a 5-minute process every single time that we added to the table of contents (there was always a couple of kids who just never got the hang of it). 5 minutes every class periods turns into 25 minutes a week of wasted time. That is A LOT of time for something that at the end of the day does not matter.

My stress level dramatically reduced when I stopped adding to a table of contents. And guess what? My students didn't get lost or confused without one. It took them just as long to find the Life Cycles section in the interactive notebook as it did without a table of contents. 

If a table of contents & numbering pages works for you - do it! But in my classroom, it seemed like an easy event to forgo in the sake of time. 

No grading

picture of a graded flipbook
For my students, an interactive notebook is a reference guide that we practice and learn from. I am a big believer in less grading = less teacher stress. I am picky on what I grade. Homework? No way. Tests? Yes. Projects? Yes. PBLs? Yes. Interactive notebooks? No, no, no.

Interactive notebooks act as a reference guide for students. I do not believe that they are something to be graded. Interactive notebooks are a way for students to better understand their learning. They can take their understanding and apply it in a different format, which could then be graded.

Less paper

I find paper stressful. Heaps of it on my desk look cluttered, and my brain finds this overwhelming. Struggling to carry a huge stack of paper to and from the copier is stressful. My big focus in teaching has been attempting to cut down on paper. This is why I love my Google Classroom resources so much, but I do love concrete and hands-on learning as well. 

My interactive notebook resources are each printed 2 to a sheet. That means each foldable/activity is printed 2 to one piece of paper. 1 piece of paper = enough for two students. Something about only copying 15 pieces of paper for 30 students literally brings me joy (trying to Kondo my life - school included). Slice them in half on your paper slice, or just pass out one piece of paper for two students and let them make the quick cut. Whatever, you choose, less paper is seriously going to make you feel happier. It's the little things.

Easy cuts

interactive grammar notebook
Hey, do you love cutting out tiny hearts and stars? Ummm.... me either. Simple cuts for rectangles and squares and a couple quick snips to make flaps is all you need. Kids get practice with their fine motor skills still, but you also aren't practicing to be in a silhouette cutting contest (have you ever heard of Scherenschnitte? It's intense). Remember, we are trying to learn about a specific content area. Spending 20 minutes trying to cut out a single resource is really not the best use of class time. Minimize the cutting time to focus on the content at hand.

Highlighters are your friend

flipbook activity on rights & responsibilities

Sometimes, you don't have the class time to be writing long notes or even filling-in-blanks. This is where the filled-in templates come in to play. Skip the note-taking, but get kids still interacting with the material by highlighting specific phrases in their notebooks. Demonstrate on your document cam or projector how to do this so kids get the hang of it. You could even have them underline in pencil. Just something that gets them interacting with the material and actually reading it. 

What do you think?

Eliminating a table of contents, utilizing highlighters, printing less paper, and making easier cuts dramatically decreased my stress level and prep time with my interactive notebooks. Try one or two of these suggestions, and see how it works for you.

Do you have any more questions? You can always email me at I am here to help!

Resources featured in post available at Glitter in Third on TPT

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