Interactive Notebooks ≠ Craft Projects

I’m really excited about today’s blog post. I am linking up with 4MulaFun and some other amazing interactive notebook curriculum authors to bring you some tips to help you make the most out of your interactive notebooks. Make sure to check out all the posts to gain some more insight about these amazing resources. 

Interactive notebooks can be an unbelievable tool in your classroom. They can help you build better math lessons that reach, engage, and accommodate the needs of every learner in your room. That’s no small task. 

In order for interactive notebooks to reach their full potential in your classroom, it’s important to understand what they are and what they are not

Jennifer’s post does a great job explaining some of the reasoning behind INBs and what they are, so I am going to focus on one particular thing they are not

Interactive Notebooks ≠ Craft Projects

I know a lot of teachers (not to mention administrators) have a common misconception about interactive notebooking: Cutting + Gluing + Coloring = Craft Project. Right? In this case, wrong! 

Interactive notebooks are tools that allow you to provide input about important concepts and allow students to produce output through targeted activities. What I love most about them is that, over the course of the year, the INB becomes a living, breathing document. It is a place for students to practice, explore, review, and revisit each of your learning objectives throughout the year. An interactive notebook is not a craft project.

So why all the cutting?

Cutting is a hands-on activity that gets students involved in their learning. Research supports the use of hands-on learning activities because they help us process information and gain a deeper understanding. Cutting and manipulating foldable pieces gives students a deeper connection with the material.

So why all the gluing?

Glue binds things together. We want our students to “glue” important concepts into their brains, we want them to fuse concepts together. We glue our notebooks in order to create a long-lasting reference tool that students feel a sense of pride and ownership over. This makes the notebook so much more powerful than a ripped up folder stuffed with crumpled old worksheets they will never look at again. 

So why all the coloring?

This is the point I really want to stress today. Here’s the thing – I am a believer that coloring in math class should ONLY be done purposefully, strategically, and in an effort to promote understanding. It should not be done to make things pretty. There are too many things to teach and not enough time in the school day to decorate. 

What do I mean by coloring strategically? Before we bust out the crayons/markers/colored pencils in class, I ask myself: Is the use of color going to promote understanding of this concept for this specific task? Here are some examples:

If coloring does not promote conceptual understanding for a specific task, here’s what I do:

This picture comes from another post here on my blog with more tips for using INBs effectively. Click {here} to visit that post. 

Make sure to also check out this post: Interactive Notebooks: Tips, Tricks, and Why We Love Them, which includes some really great ideas (like the ones below) from real teachers who are using them successfully in their classrooms. 

Interactive notebooks are an amazing way to provide every type of learner with hands-on experiences that will help them connect with their learning in a meaningful way. They are tools, they are custom-made textbooks, they are powerful and engaging resources allowing students to interact with difficult material. They are not crafts. 

One other piece of INB news to share with you: I have added an editable vocabulary flapbook template to all of my INB mega-bundles. If you have previously purchased a mega-bundle, make sure to redownload the file to access the editable template. This is perfect for anyone using the notebooks in a non-CCSS classroom, or who wants to supplement the given vocabulary with curriculum or district-specific terms. Click on each grade level to get to the mega-bundle:
1st Grade
2nd Grade
3rd Grade
4th Grade
5th Grade


  1. says

    Well said. I completely agree about the purposeful coloring too. I think another reason all that cutting and gluing helps is just that it slows things down. I know we, as teachers, often see that as a bad thing, but it really gives them more time to just look at the absorb the topic.

  2. Nicole S. says

    Hello Blair: I love the concept of INB, but every time I try to start using them they consume a lot of time with cutting and gluing. How do you weave this into your classroom?

    On another note, I love all your products and have been collecting much of them. I can’t wait to use my newest ones….working on creating the reference cards for next year! 🙂 I do wonder when seeing all your products, how does she use them all? Could you tell us what a typically schedule looks like in your day. In other words, if I were a fly on your wall, what would we see? Thanks!

  3. Amy Scaling says

    I love this idea, do the coloring at home. I will still provide time to do some coloring as I firmly believe it helps the right brain, left brain connections happen fluidly. Maybe finish the coloring at home, with only strategic coloring in class.


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