I don't require my earliest beginners in the Intro to Piano Class to have the lesson books. Instead, the students who do not have the writing book do a similar activity in a small notebook. This past week, the students traced their hands and labeled the finger numbers. I wrote the numbers that they did not know how to write.
Before class, I always lay the notebooks out with a pencil for each student. They are always excited to find out what we are doing with the notebooks that day. The stickers on the front page get added each time they do an echo clap activity.
Try this with your own group class- Simply purchase or make notebooks for each student and use them each week for stickers, drawings, and activities.