Setting Up Interactive Math Journals Part 1

Getting started with interactive math journals can seem like a daunting task, even if it’s not in kindergarten. I decided to create a 3-post series all about interactive math journals, specifically for use in kindergarten. But of course these tips, ideas, and freebies will work with any grade! All of these are only suggestions and guidelines based on what I have learned over the past several years implementing interactive notebooks in math. I’ve found that the best way to use interactive journals is to pay close attention to what is working and what is not working in your class and make changes based on what you observe. You can follow these suggestions directly, but don’t feel like you cannot try something else or change something to make it your own. What works best for my students may not be best for yours.


Composition Notebooks

I prefer to use a composition notebooks as opposed to spiral notebooks because I think they last longer, but either will work. Each student in my class gets a journal and they keep it in their chair pockets. 

Teacher Sample Journal

I also keep a journal of partially completed pages for students to reference during independent or math centers time. Typically, I would introduce an activity to students by completing it in front of them in my journal. If students were already familiar with the activity, I would complete it ahead of time. I never fully completed the activity, but just provided a small sample of what they should be doing incase they needed help getting started. By having this, students have something they can reference before coming to you and asking. 

Glue Sponges

Glue Sponges are so convenient mostly because you do not have to deal with glue sticks, dried up glue, missing glue, missing caps, spilling glue bottles, dried up glue bottles..Basically they are a life saver and once I started using them, I never went back to glue sticks.* All you need are sponges, liquid glue, and some kind of container. I used disposable tupperware.

*I can’t say I never used gluesticks again. I used them in small group because it was a controlled area, but I never used them in whole group again. 

  • Cover the bottom of the tupperware with glue, about a fourth of a bottle. I bought the containers on sale at Target, 5 for $1.97!
  • Place a sponge on top of the glue. These sponges are from Target- 4 for under $2!
  • Pour about a half of bottle of glue on top of the sponge. Spread it around with the glue bottle.
  • When the sponges are covered, close them up and let them sit overnight.
  • When the sponges look like they are starting to dry up, just add some more glue on top or flip the sponge over! It also helps to keep the sponge moist by spraying it with water every now and then.

I also made individual sets for students to use independently. They were a huge hit!

glue sponges

colored paper

This is definitely not a necessary material, but interactive journals look so great when they are colorful! My students loved cutting on colored paper! It also helps me to organize differentiated piles.

Prepping work for the Week

pre-cut materials for students

This is important- especially when you are first introducing interactive journals. I pre-cut around the outer edge of activities so students only have to focus on cutting the few lines inside. I cut all of the pieces for my small groups- these students could not afford to waste time on cutting and gluing. Throughout the year, I gradually gave the responsibility of cutting back to students. Remember the point of the activities is math, not fine motor. Make sure students understand the math before they have to deal with cutting.

prep for the week

This is a life saver- especially if you plan on following the previous step! The best way to stay organized with interactive math journals is to prep all of the work ahead of time. Interactive math journals make differentiation so much easier so it’s possible that you can have 6 different activities going on at once. I always made enough copies of each activity for the entire class, that way if someone finished early, needed a “reteach” lesson, or ended up in a group you weren’t expecting, you still have enough copies for everyone. 

overall organization

I keep all of my interactive activities in a binder and make copies as needed. The binder is organized by standard, so I can easily access what I need and when.

Continue reading about these journals in the PART TWO post!