Organizing Student Notebooks with Dividers

Today I’m sharing my newest step towards improved organization in the classroom: notebook divider tabs.  (I got the idea from a blog post by Sarah Carter and knew that I wanted to modify them to work for me in the upcoming year).

Notebook Divider Tabs: math-in-the-middle.com

I decided that this year I am going to make notes worth 2 points per day.  Students need to include a summary/explanation and completed worked-out examples for each lesson (which is where the 2 points are coming from).  In the past I made notes worth 20 points per unit, but in reflecting on it, it doesn’t really make sense because some units are 10 lessons long while others are only 6.  I collect and grade notebooks on days that students are taking the unit test.

So, here’s where the divider tabs come in…before each unit I will give students a divider to glue in their notebooks.  A little tab sticks out the side with the name of the unit on it.  On the divider I listed all of the lessons that are included in the unit.  I figure that will be an easy way for students to make sure that they aren’t missing the notes to any lessons (which will be especially useful for students who were absent).  It will also serve as a checklist for me while I’m grading.  Next to each lesson I can write 0, 1, or 2 for however many points students earned for that day’s notes and record their final grade for the unit on the bottom where I left a space for it.

Notebook Divider math-in-the-middle.com

The beauty of the tabs is that I can flip right to the correct unit without wasting time trying to find their notes.  I also think they will be useful to students, as if I ask them to refer back to an earlier topic, they should be able to find the lesson pretty quickly.

I made the dividers small enough that they won’t waste a page of the students’ notebooks.  I think I will have students write the vocabulary for the chapter on the first page (next to the divider) and then start with the first lesson’s notes on the back of that page.  The divider doesn’t cut into any of the useable space on the back of the page at all, which I am really happy about since I hate wasting paper!

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I made my dividers print 3 per page, so I just print them, cut on the two dotted lines, and hand them out to the students.  They fold on the solid line and then put glue on each side and make sure to leave the tab sticking out the side of the notebook when they glue it in, and that’s it!

If you’d like to try out similar dividers for your class, I set up a 3 per page divider template in PowerPoint that you can use.  Just click the image below to download the editable pptx file.

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Other school-related things I have been thinking about/working on recently:

Have you used dividers before with your class?  Are you thinking about trying them out this year?  Please share in the comments below – especially if you have any tips for using them since this will be my first attempt!

Thanks for reading,

Christina

37 thoughts on “Organizing Student Notebooks with Dividers

  1. Great Blog!. I’ve been an English teacher for 28 years and have never seen a math classroom filled with rich language. I also really like your idea for organizing the math units. Thank you for sharing the notebook dividers idea. I think I can make it work for ELA.

  2. Thank you for the download. I have been doing INB for 2 full years now and I am looking for ways to keep students accountable for their work. The table of contents in the beginning was not working after about 20 pages for most students. I had a few that made it all the way to the 70’s but not many. I’m hoping this will work for them and help them keep up. Thank you again.

    1. You’re very welcome! I’ve never tried a table of contents but I imagine this would be more manageable for students since it is only one unit at a time.

      Have a great school year!

  3. This is a fantastic idea! I teach science, so I’m going to adapt this to our science units. Thank you!

  4. I love this idea! I teach 5th grade, and we use notebooks in every subject. I think this will really help my students (and me!) be more organized. I am excited about trying them. Thank you for sharing the template.

    1. Hi Becky,

      I can’t post an editable version of my dividers because of copyright on the fonts I used, and the formatting would be off without those fonts.

      I didn’t post a PDF version of my dividers because I didn’t think they would be useful to anyone unless they were teaching the same units exactly the same way as me…However, if you would like the PDF version of my dividers send me an email at mathinthemiddleblog@gmail.com and I’d be happy to share them with you! (So far I have completed all my dividers for algebra and pre-algebra. I’m still working on 7th grade math and 8th grade math.)

      Thanks,
      Christina

  5. I have been using interactive notebooks in my adult education classes. I was planning to start using a table of contents this year, but I think this will work better. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Hi Mrs. Dain,

      If you click the picture above (the one of the blue page of 3 dividers), you can download the template free – it is an editable pptx file that will open in PowerPoint.

      I hope that helps! Let me know if you have any trouble.

      Thanks,
      Christina

  6. I’m teaching 7th ELA and am thinking of making a standards checklist and rubric to also have on this page. Students can record their progress towards mastery on different standards and refer to the rubric for the genre/style we’re working on for each unit.
    Thanks!

  7. This is a great idea! I might try this for the school year with one of my classes to see how it works. I tend to use the table of contents for students to find their notes. My only worry I would have is if I have to add an extra day of notes or an extra lesson, that would mess up the whole thing.

    Kimberly
    Stuck In The Middle

    1. Thanks for your comment!

      I think you could just have students hand-write in additional topics if that happens. Another thought I had that could work for you was to print out blank dividers for each unit and have students write in each lesson as you go (similar to a table of contents, but just one unit at a time).

  8. I absolutely love this! I just modified it to use with our US History Interactive Student Notebooks. We give learning goals with each unit, so I can have students put these to the side of those. I was trying to find a way to make them more accountable for their ISNs, and love the fact that I can grade them unit-by-unit. Thank you so much for the editable file!

  9. I am SO excited about this notebook dividers idea! It’s SO much simpler than tabs or binders (for me, anyway) or anything else complicated. Thank you for sharing these!

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