Why I Don't Use Interactive Notebooks in my Secondary Classroom

So many teachers love using interactive notebooks to organize their classrooms and curriculum.  But I've found a strategy I love even better that will reduce stress, chaos, and wasted time.  Plus it is more appropriate for secondary students! An important read before back to school!

Interactive notebooks have been one of the biggest trends in education over the last few years, but are something I’ve never been able to buy into.  I've tried them in my classroom, and they just weren't a good fit.  Now let me preface by saying this - I know that I am about to create a controversy by saying I don't like INB.  I know so many teachers love them, and I love the heart behind using them, but I think I’ve found a strategy that is even better organizationally and more appropriate for using in a secondary classroom than interactive notebooks. I'm not saying INB are ineffective at all, I just want to offer another curriculum implementation/organization strategy for those teachers and students who aren't into them. 

I call them packets.  Essentially I create a packet for each unit – usually between 25-30 pages (depending on the amount of labs and activities) – that I give to each student at the start of the unit.  They contain all of the content the students will need for that particular unit: unit outline, Cornell notes outlines, homework, practice handouts, labs, activities, and projects.  Anything and everything that is a part of the unit comes in one complete packet, and students add new packets to a binder and separate with dividers each time they get one.  I believe they do all of the things that interactive notebooks do (reduce clutter, organize content, provide a resource to support student-parent-teacher communication, allow flexibility in learning styles, etc.) but are more appropriate for students who are on their way to college (where they will never see an interactive notebook again) and save even more class time!  


Here are eight reasons why I love using packets. 

  1. I only have to make copies one time each unit instead of copying handouts every day.  Even though it takes a while to copy the packets for each student, it saves so much time on a day-to-day basis.  (Also the last three years I’ve recruited seniors to be my “Teacher’s Aide” and have trained them to copy all of my packets for me.  I haven’t seen a copier in two years and it’s glorious!) - and now I have the packets in a DIGITAL PAPERLESS version so you don't have to make ANY copies!  You can read more about my new digital paperless classroom here.
  2. It puts responsibility back on the students to maintain their science binder with their packet, while also aiding them in practicing organization skills.  It has been incredibly effective for my lower level students.  Even though it is a lot of papers at once, I can watch them put it in their binder and leave it there, rather than having to hang on to 100 individual papers passed out each day.  I also rarely have students losing papers because they get everything at one time.  (or NEVER if you go digital!)
  3. It makes it so easy to be absent last minute if you have to. If you or your child gets sick, sub plans are a breeze.  You don’t have to send your teacher neighbor to make copies for you – because your students have everything they need already in their packet.  You just have to tell the sub which pages the students need to work on. 
  4. The structure gives them organizational skills that can transfer for use in college – and one of our goals as high school teachers should be to prepare our students for college.  The packet helps students learn how to structure notes (I give students Cornell-style note outlines for each concept) which I have found helps provide scaffolding for them to be able to write notes all on their own in later high school years.  And again, it is promoting student autonomy because they have to be completely responsible for everything they do.
  5. Time saver in so many ways – no more time wasted regularly passing out handouts, or having to cut and paste things into a notebook like with interactive notebooks.  Plus it is easier for you to grade than an interactive notebook because you can just collect a few sheets at a time, rather than taking a whole stack of notebooks home.
  6. Students do a better job keeping up with returned graded work because every page is numbered so they can put graded assignments right back into the packet where it came from.
  7. There isn’t a learning curve to implementing the packet strategy like their can be for interactive notebooks.  You really don’t have to take time to teach them how to organize it or use them as a tool.  You simply give your students their first one on the first day of school for you introductory unit and say, “This is your lifeline.  You are responsible for bringing this in your binder every day.  There is no day you will not need it.”  That is all.  Students also know if they forget their binder or lose it, they will struggle, so they take the packet and their binder seriously.  I never have to deal with students not being prepared for class anymore or looking through their backpacks for a crumpled homework sheet.
  8. You no longer need a filing cabinet – you can keep all of your curriculum and keys organized in binders!  I have a binder for each unit, as you can see below.  I use dividers to separate my CP (non-honors) packet from my honors packet, and my CP assessments from my honors assessments.  It is so easy at the start of each unit to grab a binder and have everything I need right there.  Plus I can easily take it home if I need to grade because all of my answer keys are together. 

So many teachers love using interactive notebooks to organize their classrooms and curriculum.  But I've found a strategy I love even better that will reduce stress, chaos, and wasted time.  Plus it is more appropriate for secondary students! An important read before back to school!


So many teachers love using interactive notebooks to organize their classrooms and curriculum.  But I've found a strategy I love even better that will reduce stress, chaos, and wasted time.  Plus it is more appropriate for secondary students! An important read before back to school!


I seriously cannot tell you enough how much I love using these packets, and how much my students and parents have appreciated them.  It can be a lot of work at first to compile your first packets but once you do, they are so easy to edit and manage year after year.  Plus if you teach biology or physical science, I have all of these already made them for you!  You can check them out by clicking below. 


So many teachers love using interactive notebooks to organize their classrooms and curriculum.  But I've found a strategy I love even better that will reduce stress, chaos, and wasted time.  Plus it is more appropriate for secondary students! An important read before back to school!

So many teachers love using interactive notebooks to organize their classrooms and curriculum.  But I've found a strategy I love even better that will reduce stress, chaos, and wasted time.  Plus it is more appropriate for secondary students! An important read before back to school!

If you teach a different subject and want to make your own, my advice is:
  1. The first page is an outline of your unit.  I separate my units into concepts, and on the first page of the packet list out objectives and vocabulary for each of the concepts.  My students have to make their own study guides from these outlines, and all my tests are built upon these objectives and vocabulary.
  2. Include Cornell note outlines.  I think they are such an effective note-taking strategy for secondary students.  I also think them writing notes by hand is extremely beneficial for their retention of the knowledge (Check out an article about this hereFor lower level students, I also include prompts in the summary sections to help them do this part of their notes.
  3. Include all labs, inquiry investigations, practice, projects - everything!  To really reap the benefits, it needs to all be compiled as a unit in its entirety.  No random handouts ever again!  You can see a sample from one of my packets below.

So many teachers love using interactive notebooks to organize their classrooms and curriculum.  But I've found a strategy I love even better that will reduce stress, chaos, and wasted time.  Plus it is more appropriate for secondary students! An important read before back to school!

It is important to note that how you make your packets AND how use you them are both critical in the success of the packet strategy.  This blogpost is NOT MEANT to encourage teachers to give students massive packets filled with worksheet after worksheet!!!  You can't just hand your students a packet of paper and sit at your desk and expect them to teach themselves (and if you are reading this, I know you aren't that kind of teacher, since clearly you are branching out and reading blogposts about different ideas for your classroom!)  I've designed this as an ORGANIZATIONAL strategy to administer content to my students in a classroom without textbooks the last 6+ years.  My classroom is still inquiry-based, student-centered, and FULL of discussions, labs, and engaging activities.  I just make copies once every other month and have a classroom full of students with everything they need every day to learn and participate.

If you are looking to try a new organizational strategy this year, I hope you will take the time to consider testing out this packet strategy for a unit.  I've never turned back since!

97 comments

  1. Good idea! I've heard about and have been intrigued by interactive notebooks, but haven't had a chance yet to use them. However, I was a bit worried about how much time they actually took up. This is a great alternative to consider. Thanks for sharing all of your work!

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    1. You are so welcome! Always think it is good to hear what other teachers are doing and what works in different classrooms, which is why I wanted to share. Thank you for reading!

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  2. I do the same thing so that everything to study is in one place, my only problem is that I do not have unlimited copies at my school so I can only print out so much for them. Great idea.

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    1. Ugh I'm sorry. I understand - my old school we only got 10,000 for the year, but I was able buy a couple thousand extra for $5 per every extra 1,000 so it was always worth it for me. Love hearing of other teachers doing the same thing though! Thanks for reading!

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  3. Great post! I agree that interactive notebooks are a great organizational tool and some students love them. I've also found that some high school students do not love them. All of the cutting and pasting sometimes seems a little childish when we are touting maturity and preparing them for the real world. I have used "mini INBs" for specific topics and have students keep them in their binders, which has worked well. I like your packet idea a lot!

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    1. Thanks so much Erin! Your mini INB idea sounds fun too! I like the idea of changing it up every once in a while!

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  4. Do you have issues with students trying to work ahead?

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    1. I honestly haven't! Maybe twice in the last five years I've done them. A lot of the content is notes or labs they can't do on their own, and my only two instances are students who tried to work ahead on the practice problems. When I noticed them doing it I checked and saw they weren't doing the work correctly and talked to them about staying on pace with us and not rushing through content they don't know yet and it wasn't a problem ever again! May be because I teach 8-12th graders though- who aren't normally looking to do more work than is required of them :)

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  6. What size binder do you recommend for students to house their packets for the entire year? Do you have students leave their binders in your classroom, or take them home each day?

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    1. Hi Anna! I give them three options (in order of my personal preference):

      1. Get a 1 inch or 1.5 inch binder to use for the current unit packet and to take back and forth each day. Keep a 3 inch binder at home with old units (separated by dividers) and add a packet each time a unit is completed.

      2. Just get one 3-inch binder and use dividers to separate all units and keep with you at all times.

      3. Get a 3 prong folder for each unit (this is the smallest option BUT it is harder to take papers in and out when turning things in.)

      I make them bring home because I want them to be studying and reading through notes every night, even if they realistically probably don't.

      I hope that makes sense!

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  7. So, how do you grade things? Collect the whole packet at the end, in the moment in the classroom, or have them rip pages out? If it's the later, it seems like you would be undoing the 'organization' part of the packet system....they rip it out, turn it in, I grade and return to them, and that just gets stuffed into a backpack and lost. Does this seem to happen if that's what you are doing?

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    1. Hi! I do not do the whole packet at the end. I collect assignments throughout the unit it to grade. When I return them, I have students open their packets and return graded assignment to its original place. Each page of the packet is numbered, so as long as you are consistent with students, they get in a habit of putting assignments back in the packet in the appropriate place. There is no ripping either since I put the packets in binders! There are always a few students I have to be more diligent with when I return things to make sure they actually put it back in their binder, but it hasn't been much of an issue for the most part!

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  8. Thanks so much for this! I've tried Interactive Notebooks before with elective classes and I could never really get the hang of it. I've done packets in my main classes for years and found them so helpful but kept thinking I "should" switch to interactive notebooks. Thank you for the encouragement that this really is a great system and I should keep sticking to what works best for me!

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    1. I love hearing of another packet convert!! I was the same way with INB. I felt like I was the only teacher who didn't like doing them, so I love encouraging other teachers that they don't have to! Thanks for stopping by!

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  9. I've been wanting to do something like this in the Elementary levels.

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  10. I do this for my math classes! Love it, though I separate notes and hw and such. When I started doing this I saw a dramatic change in my students performance. And I have actually had students tell me that the note packets have saved their lives. We don't have unlimited printing and print from home. It costs a lot, but find that it's worth it.

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    1. Candy, I also teach math (algebra 2 and geometry), just came across this site, and would love to hear more how you use this idea in your math classes. Do you do a "notebook" grade also? If you'd rather communicate by email, my address is ssnowden@pontotoctech.edu.

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    2. I would also like to see how you do this as well with your math classes! my email is Jessica.Leverson@k12.nd.us thank you!

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    3. Hello
      I would love to be able to apply this is my classes. I also teach algebra 2 and geometry (for the first time next year). Please help me to implement this strategy in my classes. I was considering using the interactive notebook. My email is margarcol@gmail.com. Thank you

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    4. Hey Candy I teach Algebra III, basically a college algebra class, and would also like to implement this in my classes! Can you also email me at sharon.picou@cpsb.org with how you use it in your classroom and grading ideas?!?!

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    5. To Candy and all of these math teachers...I would love to do this in my Algebra I and geometry class too! Please email me (kristina.a.oconnor@gmail.com) to let me know how you implement the packets in your classrooms. I would love to learn how you organize the packet, handle the grades, and those that may work ahead :)

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  11. I couldn't agree more! At my last school we had 10,000 copies a year, so I always had to spend about $15-20 a year to buy extra copies but it was SO WORTH IT! Love hearing how you use it in math, too! My students are the exact same! The love how easy it is to keep up with everything!

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  12. I use packets too! It is AMAZING :)

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  13. I have started with the packets this year with my Geometry classes. It has been so great! The figures, lines, shapes, etc are already there so we spend class time going over concepts instead of trying to draw the figures correctly. Their homework has improved, too, since they can't just log on to Slader to copy the homework from the textbook. We only do textbook work in class and it just pops in between pages of the packet for the section we're on. I also have a separate divider for graded quizzes and tests that are handed back.

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  14. I use packets for my junior and senior English classes and it makes life SO easy. The kids were, at first, resistant ("that's soooooooooo much paper!")... but they've come around and I love it!

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    1. I would love to see how you use these in your English classroom! I was trying to think of ways I could use this style of note taking.

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    3. I am very interested in doing this in my English classroom. Do you have any tips or can you send me an example? I teach 9th grade standard and pre-AP.

      kfaulk

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    4. Yes, I too would like to hear how you set yours up for English! I will be a high school English teacher this next year after having to do mandatory INB with 7th graders for 2 years. I never really got the hang of it, but it's all I know. PLEASE email me jordanmccown19@gmail.com

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  15. So...are you punching holes in all of the copies for the students?

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    1. I do!! We have an electric hole puncher at our school that can hole punch 30 pages at a time. So I have a Teacher's Aide (an upperclassman student) who does it for me at the start of each unit!

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  16. I am a virtual teacher and only see my students face-to-face for three hours once a week. I've tried doing the interactive notebooks and it's been useful when we've been able to fit it in, but usually there is so much that we have to do that the interactive notebook just falls by the wayside. I also work with three different grade levels and with students who are working way below grade level. I'm amazed at how hard it is for some kids to cut and glue things in middle school! All of this being said, I think the idea that you have presented here is a great idea! I am seriously going to look at how I can incorporate this for next year! I "collect" their notes by scanning them with an app on my iPhone. Then I can turn those scans into PDFs which I can then "grade" and write on with my iPad Pro. Then I can electronically share the graded PDFs with the students. So they won't necessarily have a graded assignment to put back into their binder ... hmmm, not sure if I like that idea ... I'm hesitant to collect physical papers and bring home because I only see them once a week so that is a long time for them to be without their notes. I think if I put my mind to it, I can tweak your idea and make it work for me! Thanks for sharing (and letting me "think aloud")!

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    1. I love hearing your think aloud! That scan in and grade strategy is SO interesting to me. I kind of love that they never have to lose their papers, and I think there is a benefit to having their original work and then being sent a graded version to compare off of or edit their original work from. I think this could really complement a packet strategy well! You should TOTALLY do it!!

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    2. Even better to distribute that digital conversion work, and have the learner submit digitized copies to grade. I have my learner's do this on a near daily basis. Some have a slight learning curve on taking a legible image of their work to submit via LMS (currently utilizing Canvas, Google classroom and Moodle).

      We are a 1:1 brick and mortar school, but I find my learners (9-12) still benefit by being forced to communicate via hand written work. This at least forces those who are getting answers from their peers (via chat, email, etc) to put forth some effort kinetic responses too and not just copy and paste.

      I have the added benefit of NOT having to scan in what sometimes can reach 120+ learner submissions each day. In stead my learners become responsible for this task. :)

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  18. Hi Rebecca! I was looking on your TPT site and can't seem to find the physical science packets you have pictured above (waves, matter, bonding, etc). Am I overlooking it? I love this idea for my ninth graders!

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    1. Hi Charleigh! Thanks for checking out my website and my store! I am currently working to make all my physical science packets + units "TpT-ready". I plan on posting each unit throughout the summer, and having the full curriculum done and posted as a bundle at 20% by August for the 2017-2018 school year. So make sure to click the "Follow Me" star on TpT or follow me on Instagram @its.not.rocket.science to be notified when I post it!

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  19. I understand where this is coming from- but doesn't it seem like you're going backwards. Don't we want to move "away" from packets. Don't we want to be teaching science in a more interactive natural differentiated way? I often find that older grades would benefit a lot from looking at best early childhood practices. When I think back to my days in high school the last thing I would want would be a gigantic packet that forces me to carry a binder. I hated binders and still do. Never used them in college, or during my Masters and post masters graduate studies. Students need to develop strategies that will work for them. Forcing anyone to all fit into one box - fails in the long run. Sorry, not behind this or interactive notebooks the way you explained them.
    Power to the students!!

    Thanks for sharing your idea though.

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    1. Hey Elissa! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I'd love to hear more about your strategy and specifically the age you teach, because I think that makes a really big difference! I'd also love to hear how you use interactive notebooks, because I feel like you provided a lot of critiques that I am reflecting on, but not a clear explanation of the chosen solution for your classroom, and I'd love to learn from your experiences! I do feel like you've made a lot of assumptions about me as a teacher and how I run my class from this one blog, so I'd love to clarify a few things from your comment!

      I teach 9th graders. One of the skills most essential for 9th graders to learn to be successful in higher education is organization, and I believe this packet strategy makes it seamless for them to do that. Maybe you never used binders in college, but I can definitely say with confidence that binders are much more common of a resource too in college than interactive notebooks. It is also critical that I teach them how to takes notes and study those notes, which is why I love using Cornell note outlines to do this. I have many students who write all of their notes as juniors and seniors still in this format, because they've seen the success from their freshmen year using them.

      I 100% agree with you that students need to develop strategies that will work for them and that we want science to be interactive and to support students developing autonomy, but I also disagree with you entirely on my strategy going backwards in time. The efficiency of the packet strategy, and the time saved distributing handouts and cutting and pasting, gives me MORE time to do inquiry-based lab investigations - something I am extremely passionate about and that drive my curriculum. I love having the time to allow my students the freedom to explore content using a variety of resources on the internet, and my curriculum is entirely driven by labs, online simulations, and QR code lab stations. My class is extremely interactive and the packets give me even more freedom for differentiation than I ever had before, while also maintaining organization that keeps it running seamlessly.

      I also agree that you can't force anyone to fit in a box - but all teachers have to choose a strategy to run their class - and you could argue that INB are forcing students into a box that you've created just because you personally hate binders. We all have preferences and we all allow those to influence are teaching strategies. Not every student is going to love every teacher's methods but that is the beauty in exposing them to a wide range of teaching styles so they are prepared to learn in ANY environment when they head on to future education and career paths.

      My hope in writing this was not to hate on interactive notebooks, but instead to bring to light another option for teachers looking to try something different, and I hope it will continue to do that!


      Sincerely,

      Rebecca

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  20. Hi Rebecca, Soooooo much paper!
    I'm a fan of modified interactive notebooks for high school and have used them successfully for two years. Because I wanted my math 8's to keep their notebooks over two years we even left room for grade 9 level work of the same concepts. I used to do packets for years many years ago for elementary grades 4-7 and even 8-11 BUT we are a very environmentally conscientious school and the fewer the photocopies the better. Hence a modified notebook. Students get the organizational skills because I model them from textbook readings, notes, hands-on activities, video responses, reflective journals, guest speakers, every class. Students have options for graphic organizers or Cornell notes. Some items are mandatory, others they can choose from options. Note books are small. Every page is assigned a value based on content. I give them their table of contents by unit so they know what's coming and what page to put it on. I assign enough pages per topic so that, while some won't fill the one to 3 pages, others will. They get an occasional graphic printed out when it is too difficult to reproduce. My notebook reflects theirs and they can look at mine anytime they've missed notes. As our curriculum has moved to more project-based learning right up to grade 12, we have more individualized programming and mini-packets (5-10 pages)are used for students to pick their topics for in-depth studies. The students do not write on them as they are directive and students are expected to respond in their notebooks- but with organizational strategies to work with.

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    1. Very interesting concept with the mini-packets! Thanks for sharing how you do this in your classroom!

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  21. Hi, I have been teaching environmental science for the past 2 years, and this year will be adding biology and biotech to my schedule and keep going back to your TpT biology curriculum bundle. As an environmental teacher, I would feel like a hypocrite printing SO MANY PAGES! Is your bundle easily and timely able to be edited in order to reduce the amount of pages I would be printing. I just can't imagine handing a student hundreds of pieces of paper in a year, and thinking that some may dispose of their notes at the end.
    -Michelle

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    1. I hear you completely. I don't think these packets are any more pages than the average teacher usually hands out anyways, but if you are already very conscience about the copies you make this probably would be more than you are used to. I figure too, if I didn't provide the papers and just had students use their own paper, it would still be killing the same amount of trees! But you totally need to do what you are comfortable with! The unit plans, tests, quizzes, and PowerPoints can be edited but the unit packet of student handouts cannot. This is to protect my copyright and the copyrights of the many artists whose work is used in my packets. You could definitely print double-sided, it would just make it a little trickier whenever you want students to turn something in.

      My one qualm with this strategy is the amount of copies, so I have a plan in the next year or two to adapt the curriculum to be a digitized version. It has always been in my mind, just been on the back burner because 1. I am writing up a physical science curriculum right now and 2. I have never been in a 1:1 school so a digitized curriculum hasn't been useful to me. But my goal IS to provide a paperless format of this product in the next (hopefully!!) year!

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  22. Hi! I am in LOVE with this idea. How do you decide what goes in your packets? Is there anything you don't put in?

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    1. Hi! I love hearing that!! I put any handouts that I would ever give to students in the packet, so I only have to pass out papers once a unit (other than graded work) which saves so much time! They also do so so well with keeping up with papers and actually USING the handouts to study from since everything is so neat and organized. I also add in a front page that outlines the unit with key objectives, vocab, and essential question + Cornell note outlines, but you could really save yourself some copies if you didn't include the note outlines and had kids make them themselves!

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  23. Great ideas!! I also print out a packet for each unit/chapter in teaching high school math. I LOVE your first page of objectives and definitions to summarize the unit. Because I want students to be accountable for their assignments (I do NOT grade or collect notes), I attach HW at back in reverse order. Students then can rip out each last page and submit when due......and their notes stay in tact!! Thanks for the new ideas!!

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    1. Ooo that's interesting about the HW at the back! I love that, especially for math when I am sure you have tons of practice problems!! Thanks for stopping by!

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  24. I do a version of this on my first grade class. In reading I make a packet for the week regarding the story we are reading and it covers all aspects of the story. I totally agree it mkakes planning for a sub much easier, I think it keeps everyone on a timeline, and it fosters independence on my firsties (which is huge). Unfortunately my new principal feels like they're busy work and I'm going to have to adjust. Sigh...

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    1. Oh no! So sorry to hear that. I HATE when people see paper and automatically assume it is busy work, and don't realize it is just a resource and a methodology for teaching organizational skills and presenting the content.

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  25. Hi! I love this idea and hope to implement it into at least a couple of my classes next year!

    What would you suggest doing if your students lose of misplace a packet? How do you go about catching up the packets if they missed days?

    Thank you so much!

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    1. Hey Kali! I've honestly only ever had 1 or 2 kids misplace a packet. I then email it to them (or their parents) and have them print out another! I keep track of everything we do on our class website, so students know when they are absent what pages they missed and need to catch up on. Certain labs I don't have them make up (depending on how long they've been out and if I've already cleaned it up!) but they can always get all notes by watching my YouTube lecture videos, and do all of the practice sheets. I hope that helps!!

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  26. Hello! I have used INB in my secondary classroom (Chemistry and Forensic Science). I tried it and feel like it wasn't very successful. Probably because I did not explicitly teach my students how to use the notebook system as I didn't want to have to maintain the Teacher version. I personally like packets when I was in high school, college, and grad school (digitized) and I had wanted to use a similar system when I started teaching in schools. Then, during my student teaching, some of the AP students severely and serially complained about the packet system my mentor teach used. So I felt I shouldn't try a similar system. However, I am so glad I read this article. It has given me the courage to go ahead with my ideas for packets. I definitely want to digitize most of what I give my students since we are a 1:1 school. And the few tips you've shared about how you use your system in a previous comment, have given me a few ideas about how to try this. Thank you so much for publishing this article. I will be on the look out for your P.Chem set.

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    1. Love reading this so much! LOVE your goal too of making functional packets for a 1:1 classroom. I've never been in a 1:1 school but that is my next goal after I finish this physical science curriculum - make a digital version of my two full curriculums! I just feel like I need to take some classes on how to really utilize Google classroom and such so I can maximize on all that's available. Would love to hear how it goes for you!

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  27. I love this idea!!! I teach high school geometry and had thrown around the idea of INB but am liking this idea! I do have a few questions ...
    1- how do you bind the packets?
    2- I use some foldables here and there ... do you use those? And if so how do you do that with the packets?
    3- I teach in Georgia and our standards are always changing. I think I finally have the course figured out but ... how do you handle changes that you make while in the unit?

    Thanks so much for this idea and any pointers you may have!!

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    1. Hi!!
      1. I hole punch them and students keep them in a binder, separating units with dividers.
      2. I don't use any foldables, but you could still include blank pages in the packet for foldables to be attached too if you wanted to!
      3. I honestly never make changes within a unit... I know that sounds crazy, but it is true! I write all of my curriculum in the summer to use for the school year. I have 5 preps, so it is impossible to create curriculum during the school year - I am just trying to survive coordinating all 5 different content classes! So if standards do change, I make adjustments in the summer. There are times things come up (random assemblies, testing interruptions, etc.) where I may not get to an activity in the packet so I just skip it. I suppose if I wanted to add something I'd just include page numbers on additional pages to add on to the original packet and pass those out so students could add them in and stay organized.
      Hope this helps!!

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  28. I teach high school history and I am very interested in doing packets! I did them a loooonnnnggg time ago and did assignment sheets for each lesson. I was wondering if you could provide an example or explanation of what is included in your assignment sheet for each unit? I know I would include a title and prob. essential questions but I am really curious on how you lay out their daily assignments if that makes sense.

    Thanks!

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    1. Hi! Shoot me an email at itsnotrocketsciencestore@gmail.com and I can send you a little sample!!

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  29. I like this idea instead of INB. I teach8th grade algebra in Asia, and composition books are not the easiest thing to find. This seems like a nice blend of providing the info, but still helping students to stay organized.

    Any math teachers that have done this successfully, with tips on how to implement, I. Would love to hear from you
    Susan.hewett@ais.edu.vn

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  31. Hello there! Thank you for this wonderful idea! I teach Physical Science. Are your physical science packets available for sale?

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    1. All but 1 unit are currently posted in my store!! Finishing up the last unit now and will have it + the full year bundle at a 20% off discount up by August 1st at the latest! Follow me on TpT or on Instagram @its.not.rocket.science to be notified when they go up!

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  32. My collaborative teacher and I are planning to use your biology packets and we are wondering what you do for students who have the accommodation to receive completed written notes?
    Does your packet come with a copy of the notes/outline completed?
    How have you differentiated for learners with learning disabilities?
    thanks

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    1. Hi Karen! Thanks so much for your interest and for reaching out! I currently do not have a set of the notes completed. Our protocol at my current school is for students with that accommodation to get the PowerPoint slides printed out, but I think your suggestion is very valuable and I will definitely consider adding it to the product in the future, but I can't give you an exact date. I just finished writing up my physical science curriculum and working 12 hours a day on it all summer so I had to promise my husband I'd take a month or two off from product creation so he can recover - haha! Totally don't want you to feel like I am trying to convince you to buy the curriculum because I absolutely want you to find what is best for YOUR classroom but, two suggestions to help with this could be providing the printed slides + the links to the YouTube videos for more support in terms of accommodations and/or getting a student in National Honors Society or another service organization who needs service hours to watch the lecture videos and write out a copy for you to have and distribute and use in future years. Hope this helps!

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  33. Thank you for responding. We typically have 40-50 students with that accommodation and thus printing the slides is just too costly. Using the ppt slides as notes does not assist the learner in focusing on key points and being able to see notes organized so that is not an option for me. We post notes/handouts/daily objectives etc. on our electronic classroom and that is also where I post interesting, animated, engaging video clips to enhance all the learner's learning so that will continue. It's funny how many of the learners who need that extra instruction don't use that resource, but we still post!
    We bought unit one, so I'll just complete the notes as I look over the ppt.
    thanks and Enjoy your "time off"

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  34. This is honestly the best thing that's ever happened to me! I usually never comment on blogs and things but I honestly have to say THANK YOU! I am a first year teacher and I did not major in education. I think interactive notebooks are "cute" but I've never been a fan even as a kid. I'm teaching 6th grade reading and english. My coteachers love it and all that but it's impossible to teach and manage. It makes too much of a mess and they're most focused on cutting and gluing than what I actually need them to learn. They can't even take it home to use because they need them in class every day. On top of that it's more work for ME. Not only do I have to figure out how to cut and glue the crap myself, but then I'm all frazzled trying to get my kids going on it and like I said they're learning NOTHING. I'm going to have a sub most of the week next week because of training stuff and there's no way I'm leaving this with a sub. I'd have to type step by step, hope she gets it, just for my kids to get it all wrong. NOPE! I was considering packets and then I thought I'd look up how other teachers make it work and I across this. My kiddos are younger than yours but they need more structure. I'll keep the foldable for intervention, tutorials, and enrichment on flex days.
    Sorry to run on and on just consider this an extreme THANK YOU for saving my teaching life.

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    1. You have nooooo idea how encouraging this is for me to read!! THANK YOU for taking to time to write all this out! You are speaking all of the thoughts and struggles I have. I LOVE foldables as a study tool and for intervention, like you mentioned, but it is SO MUCH on a daily basis - and the implementation learning curve is so high. You will have to do prep work on the front end to figure out your whole unit before you start, but literally the rest of implementation will go so smoothly. Especially with younger kids, their parents will LOVE this, as have all of the parents I've spoken to about this strategy over the last 5+ years. So excited for you to use!!

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  35. Hi Rebecca, you are a GENIUS!!!! I am a pre-service high school biology/ Human anatomy teacher! I am finishing up my last class on curriculum planning before I start my student teaching. I would love to purchase your product, but it is so expensive- which now I can see why because I just finished an in-depth 10 day unit plan and it took me FOREVER. I was wondering if you have any advice on creating my own packets, as I honestly do not even know which of my lesson plans will actually work or not? Also, are you planning on creating Human Anatomy and Physiology curriculum packets? Thanks!! You are awesome!

    Sincerely,
    Broke and confused Pr-service Teacher

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    1. Hi Brooke! Totally remember being a pre-service teacher and making my first unit plans - it is so much work and like drinking out of a firehose!! Just know it only gets easier with time and trial and error! Definitely follow those last 3 steps as you make your own packets. You need to make your assessments so you know what the goal is. Then develop that first page of your packet to outline objectives and key vocabulary so students know what they need to know. From there, make your lectures and include Cornell note outlines. Then find all of the resources you want to incorporate and input those into your packets. It is a lot of work to do all at once (I tested out my packets for 4 years in my classroom before getting them to a sell-able place, and then it took me 450 hours to actual compile it all) so maybe just start with creating note outlines and cover pages the first year and then you can add other activities/practices/ etc. as you go!! My hope is to do an A&P curriculum in the next year or so. I'm not creating as much this year because I'm teaching AP biology for the first time, so it is like being a first year teacher for me too again in some ways! But I am hopeful to begin creating again soon! Thanks so much again for your kind words, and good luck!

      Sincerely,

      Rebecca

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  36. As a science teacher I would have hoped you would keep cutting down on paper and supplies to a minimal, I guess not. :( The biggest benefit to the notebooks students use is they are cheap, cuts down on using paper and ink, and it takes the cost, burden, and time off the teacher. Not saying this is bad, but it in no way highlights a larger benefit to students just using their own notebooks. If organization is the issue, you can organize them and keep them in the classroom the same as you are doing with your method.

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    1. Hi! Thanks so much for popping in and sharing your thoughts. I've actually compared the sheets of paper, and I use less pages each year with my packets than are in a composition notebook - plus I don't use my textbook budget which saves on printing and waste there. Also INB users still make copies - just I make mine once a unit rather than throughout a unit. A packet strategy doesn't have to mean tons of extra copies. It is just an organizational technique for distributing content to students that has been effective for me, the hundreds of students I've taught over the years, and their parents.

      I definitely disagree about burden and time off of the teacher. I've tried INB, and they were way more work for me! Have you ever tried this strategy to see if it was more work for you?

      I think to say it "in no way highlights a larger benefit to students just using their own notebooks" is a bit of a harsh claim if you've never taken the time to try it yourself. I totally get that this strategy isn't for everyone - but I do know it has revolutionized my life as a teacher and I definitely want to share it as an option for other teachers who INB are not successful for so they know that there are other effective strategies! I hope that makes sense!

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  37. I've taught science for 21 years and still enjoy adding more tools to the toolbox. I used to do packets and got away from it thinking I was doing too much of the work and encouraging students to do the minimum. However, I can see now that I'm teaching 7th grade science for the first time that younger students can definitely benefit from organization that is modeled with unit packets. I too want to limit my use of paper, but with 5 preps (3 of which are new) I am in survival mode. I recently received a classroom set of chromebooks and have been using google classroom several times a week in each of my classes so now I have a blended class in many ways. At present I use an assignment sheet for each class that is used for the entire 9 weeks. I fill it out daily as I add assignments and students add to their assignment sheets as well. Once a week I grade notebooks (note pages, worksheets, etc) and once a week I grade google classroom assignments. I think after reading your posts I am going to add prime time starters daily and also modify my assignment sheet instead to having a bookmark style check off strip as a list printed off for each student of the assignments (with page numbers) we will be completing with each unit or section and a place for them to add due dates. I can pass out the resource mini packets at the beginning (with page numbers matching check off strip) then they can insert their own notebook pages into the appropriate spots with page numbers matching. I'm pretty excited and motivated to see if it saves me time in the long run and clarifies for students my expectations and improves their own sense of organization.

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    1. I totally hear you on survival mode! I have 5 preps as well (only 1 new - I can't imagine 3 of them being new!!) so if I am not INSANELY organized, the wheels fall off! I love the idea of integrating digitally and by hand. I'm hoping in the future I can figure out a way to do that so I can minimize copies, because I know that is the biggest downfall of this system I have going. I just know that so many of my kids don't always have access to technology, and at my school Wifi isn't always reliable, so I'd hate to put a bunch of effort into something digitally that wouldn't necessarily always work. I love hearing your ideas! Thanks so much for taking the time to share!! I hope it goes so well!

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  38. I wonder if I would be able to do this in a Spanish class.

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  39. Has anyone had succes with this with younger students? I teach 6th grade math and currently do an INB, but the cuttin and gluing can be time consuming and a pain.

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  40. I am in love with this idea! I am a first-year teacher, and I feel like I am constantly making copies for my students. (I have 5 different classes right now, possibly 6 next year, 9-12) So you make copies, but instead of stapling them together, you punch holes in them? Just trying to understand the logistics.

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    1. I totally feel your pain!! I have 5 different preps so this has helped me so much. I make EVERYTHING for the entire unit in advance, then have my T.A. (or a student in afterschool detention - ha!) make the copies for me and I hole punch them and give to students the first day of the unit. Then I don't have to make new copies until a few weeks later! I have 7 bio units so I only make copies 7x a year! I reuse tests so I only have to copy answer sheets for those which is so quick. It is awesome!

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  41. hello,

    I really like this idea, but am a bit 'freaked out' by being locked into a packet, as much as I love the idea and think it would be very helpful for my students.

    Do you have anything similar to a template, beyond the pictures you shared above? I am trying to put a sample together for myself, using the current unit I am teaching (Roman Republic and why it matters), and honestly we just do so many things, I fear I would forget something or feel I cannot make a differentiation to what I 'planned' because it would add a new document into the packet. I would really like to see what you include in there.

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    1. Lief Ericksson, I teach Aleabra 2. Here's my plan for implementing this next year. I'm going to number my unit notes and worksheets as I 'think' I will use them, but if I leave something out or decide to add something, no biggie, we can just label the "new" sheet 3a or 3b. That way, everything stays in sequence. I will keep a copy of exactly what I give my students so I will know what I need to tweek the following year. I'm excited to try this, and I'm okay with my students next year knowing they are my "pilot" class in this new process.

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    2. It totally may not be for everyone if you like to work a bit more spontaneously!! I just have 5 different preps, which would be IMPOSSIBLE for me to manage if I didn't do prepwork on the front end. It also has been easy for me to make decisions because I've taught these subjects for 6 years, and more than 6 times because I used to teach at a school on a semester schedule - so we "re-started" with a new group in January. I edit the packets each year with new ideas, I just come up with them in advance.

      Leif you can see more samples on any of the previews of the units I make in my TpT store!

      Ssnowden I really like your idea with the numbering! I think that is really smart and a great way to help have more flexibility if you tweak along the way!

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  42. Ok I'm in! I also am going to teach algebra 1and geometry for the first time next year sms would LOVE to be added to this email list please! My emailis mfrias@parkerusd.org. Thanks!!

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  43. I love this idea! I’m revamping my curriculum this summer. But I have a question; I know how to take guided Cornell notes, but can you explain how you provide guided Cornell notes to your students you have in your class for the first tome?

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    1. Hi! So sorry I am just now seeing this. I stopped keeping up with blog comments when I was on maternity leave! I lecture with PowerPoints and the Cornell note outlines are in their packets I give students. They mainly have a line included to create the margin, the summary section at end, and slide titles in the notes section. Any diagrams to label would be included too - which is my favorite part! The first time I lecture I really guide them through how to use the notes, and I walk while lecturing to provide feedback. I hope this helps!

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  44. Hi Rebecca, I'm very intrigued by ISN and your packets. I taught for 7 years, then was home 10 with my three children. I just came back to teaching with a part time math job last year, and a full time bio/physics job this year. I've been out of the saddle a while and trying to decide what to do, while also trying to (re)learn curriculum (I haven't taught bio and physics since 2001!). As a newbie, I'm not sure I could make a whole packet ahead of time. I'm afraid this next year I'll be one day at a time. I'm working hard this summer, but don't forget about those three kiddos of mine that I'm in charge of all "vacation". Any tips for for a first year subject? don't bother? maybe go through and set aside plans for packets or ISN for next year? I like the packet idea, and I heart three ring binders, but I also love a simple composition notebook. I mostly like what you're saying about HS teachers job to help students to learn how to organize themselves and I'm wondering about a ISN/binder(packet) integrated system with the benefits of both. Any thoughts?

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    1. So sorry I am just seeing this - I really fell behind on blog comments when I was on maternity leave and am just now catching up! You are a trouper for relearning two tough subjects! I definitely agree that with your situation, it would be really hard to prep it all in advance. Even if you can just do a modified version and give them the cover page of the packet and then a concept at a time (the notes outlines, practice, and lab sheets for that concept) I think that is a huge win! So just breaking into smaller chunks for you!

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  45. Oh my gosh! I'm a second year alternate route biology teacher and ended up making my own "packets" for each topic we were covering last year because my students had such problems with organization. Because I was a first year teacher provided with no resources, I was often flying by the seat of my pants (working an insane number of hours at home) and didn't have it all comprehensively together for each unit. But sweet heaven's your unit packet concept makes a profound amount of sense and I know it will work well with my students. Organization even for myself is an issue (hello adult ADD) and I've struggled with coming up with a system that would work for both myself and my students. I've been considering the INB method, but have been hesitant knowing it would likely take away so much active learning time. I'm strongly considering purchasing your entire biology bundle, but know I would also like to be able to add to it. Last year I found that I needed to adapt so many of the resources I found or purchased online for my specific students, trying my best to adpat to their level and needs. We are a 100% free lunch with very high poverty levels at my small rural Mississippi school. I've found that very little has been expected of my students academically and that heart-breakingly many of my students have just been passed through ... and that many expect this. I know that your bundle is largely not editable (and I completely understand protecting your work), but do you have thoughts about how to use your unit packets in a way that I can add or adapt for my kids? I put a lot of work into what I did last year as well and know that some things worked beautifully and really engaged my students. Thank you for all your hard work, experience and thoughts!!

    Sincerely, Jennifer Johnson
    jjohnson@phillytornadoes.com

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    1. So sorry I am just seeing this - I really fell behind on blog comments when I was on maternity leave and am just now catching up! My biggest suggestions for making adaptations would be just manually inserting any of the things you've already created and loved prior to making your copies. Then you can do a combo of your stuff and my stuff! Tests are editable too so that shouldn't be a biggie. I know this is way late which is why I am not doing your question justice, but if you are still thinking through this let me know and I can send ideas!

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  46. I do this too! I LOVE, love, love that I'm not passing out papers every day! Also, it's so much harder for kids to lose their notes since it's a larger packet and not one or two sheets of paper.
    I used to use an interactive notebook (before it was all the rage) and I really liked it too, but I'm a super artsy, doodler kind of person. I did find that my students who didn't really tap into their creative side didn't embrace the interactive notebook.

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    1. Really love hearing your thoughts having used both strategies! Thanks for sharing!

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  47. Hi Rebecca, I am teaching mostly at risk students physical and life science. I love packets and feel it is an excellent way to teach kids organization, especially these kiddos. I am new to this school, but not new to at risk students. Do you feel that your packets will be appropriate for my students. I am teaching 8th grade PS also. You can email me at Jolene.edwards001@gmail.com. I’m on the fence about ordering your two bundles. Btw, I’m also teaching Math to 8th-10th graders.

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    1. So sorry I am just seeing this - I really fell behind on blog comments when I was on maternity leave and am just now catching up! I thinkkkk we have already corresponded via email about your students, but reach out to me again if not!

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  48. We use notebooks but we do not cut and paste each day. They are not interactive at all. I like that notebooks allow students to be creative with their own notes. They are responsible for the notes. I don't use binders because of the copies and because I can't say that my students take the same notes each year or that I use the same handouts each year. There are always new things to learn and new ways to teach it. I also can't say that I received that many handouts in college. We took notes in a notebook.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I love hearing how other teachers teach, which is why I like to share my thoughts too! The way I make my packets students can still make their own notes and be more creative with them - I just provide a strategy for those who need it because I think Cornell notes are really helpful. I've also been able to limit copies by making a digital version of each packet, which has been great. You can easily change the packet every year, just like a notebook, so I am not sure what in my writing made it not seem that way. I love changing what I do each year, and constantly update my resources in my TpT store to reflect that. It is just nice to have a really solid organization strategy laid out to then easily make edits from. I also use this strategy with 8th and 9th graders, not my AP biology students, who have more autonomy. I think it is really helpful for allowing them to learn how to get organized, and I don't think it takes away from them understanding how to use a notebook. I hope that helps clarify my viewpoint but again, am grateful to hear yours!

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