Yeah, I’ve tried them. And read articles and tried again. I know they work for some teachers and I give them ALL the credit. But they don’t work for me. Teachers are not cookie cutter and neither are teaching styles. Interactive notebooks just weren’t for me, no matter HOW MUCH I wanted them to be. The time they took, the lack of student effort, the scraps of paper- everywhere, the scissors, the tape, etc. It was all just too much for me. If they work for you, great! More power to ya- do what works for you.

In case INBs don’t work for you… here are some alternatives that work for me and would maybe also work for you…

  1. Sorting Cards. If you’re unfamiliar and would like to be familiar, I wrote a whole post on them HERE. There is a list of uses in that post. My favorite use is for warm up(s).
  2. Hands-on anything. Middle school kids LOVE to do. Sometimes- the simpler the better! I once had a student, Talia, who came into science and asked if we were doing a lab or activity (because we do them often). Unfortunately, the answer that day was no. She began to whine. I have to admit I was a little annoyed. But what she said next helped me understand. “But if we’re not doing anything in science, then we’re not doing anything all day!” I was their one chance a day to do. I felt better (and a little guilty for getting annoyed.) This gave me a whole new perspective.  I’ve also found that the more SIMPLE the lab, the better! And students love them just as much- if not more- than the complex. A class favorite every year is modeling types of faults with play-doh.                                                  Slide88
  3. Workbooks. (Links at the end of this post). These babies are glorious for SO. MANY. REASONS. My son’s teacher does not use workbooks or INBs. Here is what my 8th grade son’s science folder looked like one night when he went to study for a test…

    Yikes. Bottom line- middle school kids are not stellar at organization. There are exceptions, but they are not common.

    I use workbooks for the following reasons.

    1. All copying done at one time. For the entire chapter. Done.
    2. You’re more organized- no piles of paper everywhere. No figuring out who-missed-what when they were absent. Students check their workbook.
    3. Students are more organized. No more folders like the pictures of my son’s.
    4. They have EVERYTHING. Notes. Homework. Warm-ups. Review. Long-term project directions and rubric. Labs. Activities. Review. Copies of task cards. Here are some pictures of some of my favorite workbook pages.


    5. Grading is actually easier. You can walk around and spot check, leaving a grade in the bottom corner. A number, + or -, a C for complete or INC for incomplete. Whatever floats your boat. For a longer assignment, have students stack them open. Follow the same procedure- leaving a grade in the bottom corner. When the test day comes- or during other down time, go through and record the grades on your computer, or if you’re old school- in your grade book.
    6. It’s SO nice and neat! Students can highlight, color, take notes, draw pictures… ALL IN THEIR BOOK! Hooray! And there’s no cutting and taping. Freedom from INBs.
  4. Keepin’ it real. Variety is the name of the game in middle school. Using workbooks, sorting cards, class projects (that topic will get its whole own post soon) and a variety of other activities, students remain engaged… and they LEARN. Yay! Best part- it’s enjoyable to teach and enjoyable for your students. Winner, winner, chicken dinner. All of my earth science activities have a coordinating page in the respective workbook. For example…

    After students build the volcano types, they use the information and visual representation of the size and shape to complete the coordinating workbook page. So while the workbook is really a compilation of all the student pages, it still is jam packed with other activities. You can find this volcano activity HERE.

Links to my individual workbooks:

I have some other tricks up my sleeve, but if you want to read about them, you need to sign up for email reminders on this blog! Check the side column (or the bottom of the post if you’re on your phone), add your email, then check your email to confirm! You’ll only get an email when I post!

Enjoy teaching again!

Lisa, CrazyScienceLady


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: