What are Interactive Notebooks?

Interactive notebooks.

Nope, I’m not talking about a laptop or netbook. In fact, it uses some of the oldest school technology available – paper, pencil, and your students’ creativity.

It is a binder, spiral, or composition notebook that becomes a working portfolio of student work. It contains lessons that are broken into two pieces

An interactive notebook is a teaching strategy made popular by History Alive!, a program of the Teacher’s Curriculum Institute.  Like chess, you can learn the basics and implement very quickly – and you can take many years developing your individual processes and assignments. It’s what cooks would call a “base” recipe.

The idea is based on the two-page spread created when you open the notebooks.

One side is the “teacher-side” – the stuff you want the students to learn, this can take many forms. I use the left side for this, “left is for learning”.

The other side is the “student-side” – on this side the student processes the information in a varitey of creative ways – mind maps, drawings, poetry, etc.

Some things to consider:
Be clear in your purpose for using an IAN. I use mine for several reasons:

They keep the kids organized. I got really, really tired of copies of my handouts all over the floor. It is also REALLY obvious (even to the kids) when they are missing assignments.

They keep me organized. No piles of loose assignments. Yeah!

They keep me on track in my planning. The left side (teacher side) is really lower levels of Bloom’s – the stuff they need to “know”. The right side I see as the higher levels of Bloom’s – a chance to interact and make sense of the material. After the first quarter I give them lots of choices as to the student side – it is a simple way to differentiate and allow them to choose the most meaningful way to work with their notes.

Decide the basics: What type of notebook will you use? (Binder, Composition book, Spiral) How many will you use? (I use one for each semester) How will you put in handouts? (Glue, Tape, no handouts, handwritten notes only) How often and how will you assess them? How will you keep a record of what you’ve done for absent students/yourself for next year? What type of assignments will help your students process your material best? What will you keep in the IAN? These are some of the basic questions you need to answer for yourself.

I have used IANs for seven years now, and I just about have the process/procedures where I want them al. Notebooks are a process, and my favorite thing about them is that they are infinitely “tweakable” to fit your students and your needs.

Most of my students really love their notebooks and take a great deal of pride in them. I’ve gotten really good feedback over the years about things that worked and things that didn’t work for the students and the parents. I keep all of their work (except the occasional odd loose homework) in their notebooks so it really becomes their working portfolio for the year.


4 comments so far

  1. Melinda Sprinkle on

    I have used Interactive Notebooks for years, and I absolutely love them. I guess I have used them for so long that I really needed to step back and take a second look. I love your blog. You have given me some great ideas, and I will have to spend many a day looking through all of them. I am currently working on my national board renewal and part of it is research and staying current. I am curious-How do you think I.N. improve student learning. I would like to stay in touch with you as I find your posts great. Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Melinda Sprinkle on

    Oh-have you tried using Foldables within your notebooks. Foldables are an awesome output side. Check out foldables.blogspot.com for more information.

  3. Melody Downie on

    When using Interactive notebooks, what do you do with a section worksheet (social studies)? Would you always have it be part of the input or do you also have loose assignments that student turn in separately from the notebook? I realize that goal of the notebooks is to have less ordinary textbook assignments, but this will be my first year using them and I want to allow myself to use some routine assignments throughout the year.

  4. mrsgannon on

    I would only put them in the notebook if I wanted students to use them as a study tool. A quick way to do something like this is to put a business envelope in the back of the notebook, open side facing in. This makes great short term storage!

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