Interactive Notebooks – First assignments

  • New information = use a familiar strategy.
  • New strategy = use familiar information.

This is my mantra when introducing the notebook assignments. My students come to me used to reading the book, doing some worksheets and answering questions, spiced up by the occasional project. While the notebook assignments are not revolutionary, they are different, and I find I’m more successful if I take the time to model them. I like to start with assignments that we’ll use frequently. I use the most familiar information they have – information about themselves.

This year I have dedicated the first ten pages of my notebook as a “mini-me” unit. It serves two purposes – a great get-to-know-you and models those frequently used assignments in a concrete way. Let me say I do not plan to do this for all 50+ assignments in the assignment table – just the most common ones, and just to help them “get it” initially.

The first assignment we do is a personal title page. The students set up the first page with their name and class period, then decorate it with six pictures about themselves and the things they like. It is a “high success” activity and helps personalize their notebooks. They will do a title page at the beginning of each unit we do, and this will teach the the procedure and give them a sample. I will post pictures later this week.

I like to start with a fairly straightforward and multi-purpose assignment for their first content assignment, the Illustrated Outline. I wrote about these in a previous post. Today I had them create a four column one for themselves first – school, favorites, friends, and family. Then we read a chapter (3 pages)  in Reconstructing America, and created an Illustrated Outline based on the text. It went really well because the students had a solid understanding of the requirements of the assignment.

Our first right hand assignment will be a poster. The requirements are simple and straightforward – a title, five pieces of information on the topic, and an illustration.  My recommendation is build comfort and success at first, and don’t be afraid to repeat the same assignment 2 or 3 times in a row at first. Choice and the more complicated assignments can wait – you’ve got all year!


4 comments so far

  1. Amy Collins on

    Hi! I’m a 3rd-year high school teacher but every year I get stuck with almost completely different preps so I never have much of a foundation and I’m always very overwhelmed. This year I am the only teacher at a new magnet school so I’ll be teaching American Gov’t, Econ, and World History 1st semester and then World History and US History 2nd. I’m nervous but I thought that interactive BINDERS might be the way to go. I’d already told the parents to provide one with section dividers as well as a composition book to write bellringers, daily agenda’s, and homework assignments so I’ll have to use both. What do you think? Could I use the binders as interactive notebooks effectively? Thanks for the advice!!!

  2. Amy Kileen on

    I like your interactive notebook idea! Many of my teaching colleagues use similar techniques, but not combined in one inclusive notebook with such detail. It would, especially, be helpful for English language learners who are struggling in various subject areas. Also, your methods would encourage more informative note-taking and studying skills. My eighth grade language art students would definitely benefit. Thank you for sharing!


  3. mrsgannon on

    Hi Amy – sorry I’ve taken so long to reply, we’re starting our fourth week of school and you know what a busy time this first month is! Some people use binders with this concept and they swear by them. I would recommend choosing either the binder or the composition notebook – one of the beauties of this system is that everything is in one place. For further reading on on binders versus composition notebooks, you can refer to my earlier post here.

  4. mrsgannon on

    You’re welcome! Interactive Notebooks are not my original idea, they were created back in the 1970s and then adopted by the History Alive Curriculum run by the Teacher’s Curriculum Institute. The strategy has since been shared and tweaked on the internet by many – this is just my adaptation/version of it. I’m glad this is helpful to you.

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