Learning Contracts and Interactive Notebooks

My student’s success in taking good notes from text using the Q-Notes strategy lead me to wonder how I could apply that to my interactive notebooks. I was approaching my World War I unit and had access to ten copies of America Enters World War I. The book addressed most of the I Can statements my students had to master for the unit, so I decided to jump in and see what happened.

The process:

I created a chart to represent left side/right side assignments. The left hand assignments were all Q-Notes from the book, and I chose appropriate right hand assignments from the list I put in the front of their notebooks. I then decided what I would supplement with whole class experiences, and planned to meet with them individually about their notes. Then they had a week and a half to get it done – using combined school/homework time.

The results:

  • Students were very capable of taking the notes to met the I Can statements.
  • During class discussions/review I found more of my students participating and seeming to retain more content using this method.
  • While the notes were fabulous, right-hand sides seemed to suffer – either not getting completed or students misunderstanding the instructions – even though I purposely kept it to assignments we had completed before in class.
  • My “go-getters” were constantly conferencing with me as they finished their notes pages, and some children I never saw individually as they were late completing assignments.


Summarizing and note-taking are part of Marzano’s nine instructional strategies that work, and the students did seem to retain more information. I am excited as the I Cans become the student tasks and I help them find resources – articles, websites, nonfiction books to meet them. For my next contract, I’m going to try the following:

1) Provide one task at a time and provide short term due dates. I believe some of my students were simply overwhelmed, and others kept thinking that they would have class time tomorrow without realizing that time was going to run out eventually. This still allows students to work ahead, while providing a safety net for those still developing their time management.

2) Use checkpoints. I was re-reading How to Teach Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom to refresh my memory on learning contracts. The author used a “study guide” format which seemed similar to my I Can statements, and every 1 – 2 objectives there was a “checkpoint”. For me this is a small quiz that I create on Edmodo – I am not going to allow students to progress to the next task until they pass the checkpoint.

3) Meet in small groups by informational text RIT band. I want to meet with everybody in small group, twice a week. This ensures that I will see all of my students and have an opportunity to question them and lead small group discussion on the content and to troubleshoot right hand assignments. Since I am their Language Arts teacher as well, it is a great opportunity to work on their informational text skills while working on the content.

Note: a great deal of my growth this year is due to my risk-taking teammate, who is flipping her classroom this year. While I’m not doing that, I have admired the self-pacing and individualized instruction that is happening in her classroom. You can check out her blog here.

2 comments so far

  1. mistercooke on

    Reblogged this on mistercooke's teaching blog.

  2. mrsgannon on

    Mr. Cooke, I’m glad this is something that you’d like to try – what about it appeals to you? I’m in my start-up phase and would love to bounce ideas.

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