Interactive Notebooks: Teaching with INs

Our amazing lessons are planned. Our notebooks are set up and ready to go. Now it's time to TEACH! 
I have a SMARTBoard in my room, and I create a lesson for each interactive notebook lesson I teach. These SMARTBoard lessons not only guide me during my teaching, but they show the students what their notebooks should look like.

I am required to use a lesson plan format called GANAG. Having used this format for 5+ years, I will admit that it has made me a more focused, goal-driven teacher (as opposed to a-bunch-of-activities-strung-together teacher), and even though I'm required to use it, I do actually enjoy it.


Here's what a typical lesson would look like in my class. This is a math lesson on triangles from my Geometry IN unit. I took screen shots of my actual SMARTBoard lesson for you to see what my kids see.


First we read through the goal/objective for the lesson on our table of contents. We look for key words. Sometimes we underline them or highlight them. We talk about if we know what the key words mean. Then my kids give themselves a "Before Learning Score." They rate their knowledge of the goal. I use a 3-point scale:
   1 = I know nothing about the goal
   2 = I know a few things about the goal
   3 = I know many things about the goal.
I know many people use a 4-point scale, with 4=I know many things about the goal AND I could teach it to someone. I use the 3-point scale to maintain consistency with my grading system.
Then they flip to the next open page in their notebook and write the heading for the lesson in the top margin of the Learning/Information page. This is usually the topic of the lesson or maybe a few of the key words from the goal.


My next step is a quick 1-3 minute activity to jump start their brains. I talked about this a bit in the application activities post. It may or may not include writing in the notebook, but if it does, we do this writing/drawing on the Thinking Side of the notebook.


After that, we dig into the new information. I gave tons of examples on the learning activities post of ways I present the new information. We work on the Learning/Information side of the notebook during this step. A lot of this is guided by me. As a second grade teacher, my ultimate goal is to teach my students how to take notes to prepare them for the upper grades. We discuss what we want to write in our notebooks (with a lot of guiding from me to make sure we get the important info), I write it on the SMARTBoard, and they all copy it down. I would say that 90% of the time, all of my students' notebooks all look the same on the Learning/Information side. Keep in mind, though, that since I'm a primary teacher, my kids don't have experience taking their own notes. So we do it together :) If you teach the intermediate/upper grades, you would adjust your involvement according to your students' ability.


The fourth step is when the true "interaction" of Interactive Notebooks happen. It's when the students take what was learned and apply it in a way that makes sense to them and makes the information stick. This post was all about strategies and activities we use to apply the new information.
For this activity, students were also supposed to draw their own example of each kind of triangle, but those directions are not written on the slides.
I mentioned in a previous post that I will oftentimes give new information in small doses and then we complete the application activity. Then more new info, then more application. Rinse and repeat as often as necessary :) That way I don't find myself lecturing for 20-30 minutes and my kiddos falling asleep on me!


The last part of my lesson is when we go back to review the goal. Think of it like wrapping up a present and putting a bow on it. We go back to the table of contents, read the goal, write the page number that has the information on it, and students give themselves an After Learning Score. While they are doing this, I am circulating the room and checking to see who thinks they still need more practice with the goal. My students self-score every day, several times a day. At this point in the school year, I don't really have to worry about kids who are generous with their self-score; they tend to be pretty honest if they don't understand. We also have lots of discussions about how if they tell me they understand a concept, but they really don't, then I can't help them because I don't know they need help. Other ways I check in with my kiddos are exit slips, pair/share with your neighbor: 2 things you learned, one question you still have, etc.
Is it a lot of work to create these SMARTBoard lessons? You bet! Thankfully I have an awesome team, and we all work together to divide and conquer the work. And the nice thing is that we have these lessons for the next year too, so it makes our job a lot easier.

In my next post, I'm going to talk about why I don't grade my interactive notebooks. I know that it's a hot topic, but it's something I believe in very strongly. So stay tuned!
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For more Interactive Notebook ideas, check out my Pinterest board! 


  1. So fantastic!! I'm working on a mini-unit for math. The CCSS will be in NBT. I have started the process of planning the big picture. This post is SOOOOO helpful for lesson planning. I cannot wait to see these kids learning (hopefully next week).
    Happy Friday!!!

  2. I just finished reading all of your posts about interactive notebooks in order. So many great ideas and thoughts to ponder as I make plans for next year. Thanks for sharing!!

  3. This is fantastic! Do you have your Smartboard lessons for sale on TPT?

    1. I'm sorry, but I don't sell my SMARTBoard lessons. I make most of them at work, using my school computer, and I don't think it's appropriate to sell something I make while getting paid at work.

  4. I love the background of your smart board lessons. Is that in the gallery or did you find it somewhere else? Thank you so much for TPT lessons and this blog. I just found it tonight and I've already read all your IN blogs (I even read one out loud to my two year old because he was curious of what mommy was doing on the computer). I plan to purchase the geometry IN unit tonight to use with my third graders. I would love to incorporate what you did with the rotating moon / earth to use for my angles and line segment lesson. Is that something that is included in the geometry IN unit you sell on TPT?

    1. That's so sweet that you read my post to your little guy! Haha! :) The background for the actual slides is a candy cane theme I found in the gallery (I taught this unit around Christmastime). Then I took screen shots of the slides and inserted them into a PowerPoint slide show to make the images for this blog post. The blue polka dot background is a digital paper I bought from I Teach. What's Your Super Power? and I believe the border is from Kelly Benefield. The moon/Earth activity is actually something I used during my solar system unit, so you won't find it in my geometry unit. I've had a few people ask about it, so I'm thinking about posting it in the future :)

    2. Thank you, but I was referring to the notebook paper on the Smart board lesson. How did you create that look?

    3. Oh man...Hahaha!!! I did a Google Search, and copied and pasted it into the SB file. It's actually a blank notebook, so I made the blue and red lines and then grouped it all together. I added the red "My Thinking" and green "Information" tabs-- they're just rectangles and then a text box layered on top. Hope that helps! :)

  5. Thanks for sharing! Have you considered putting your smart board template on TPT? As a relatively new smart board user it is something I would purchase-anything to save time! Please let me know if you do post these on TPT!


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