I’ve been working with science interactive notebooks for several years in the classroom and the question that I see come up over and over is, “How do you use them effectively in your class?” I’m going to answer that in this series of blog posts.
What are Interactive Notebooks?
When I first showed my INB pages to another teacher on campus the response I received was that they “a colossal waste of time”. The initial mindset I was met with was that students would be wasting valuable time cutting and pasting rather than learning. I respected that narrow-minded opinion, but wholeheartedly disagreed with the conclusion. I have personally seen tremendous growth from a wide-variety of students in my classroom and would never consider teaching without them.
The short answer is that interactive notebooks are a fun and engaging way to get students interested in the content they are learning about.
Interactive notebooks allow for the information being discussed to be compartmentalized into chunks of information. I have found when information is broken down into smaller bits that students retain the information at a much higher level. When you throw in an interactive element into the graphic organizer the retention is that much more effective.
Interactive notebooking is not simply a student copying notes from the board into a cute template. That can certainly be one aspect of it. The true interactive part of the notebooks are when students use the information provided to elicit their own responses in the journal. This requires higher level thinking and ultimately allows the students to make a deeper connection to their learning. Some teachers who use INB’s choose to use the left side/right side method, but I found that to be a bit limiting and was often a waste of space. If my classes are any indication there will be a point early on in the year where the students bond with their notebooks and truly take ownership over them. Prior to interactive notebook I only saw that connection with the higher achieving students.
Another huge advantage to interactive notebooks is that it allows students to be totally creative with their notebooks. Creativty is often pushed out of our classes in exchange for more inputs. Knowledge is great, but looking back at my own schooling I wish I had been given the time to cultivate my own creativity. I didn’t learn the creative process until I was an adult and feel I may have been somewhat cheated in school. Creativity and innovation are at the forefront of the skills that many employers seek. We should certainly be valuing them in the education system.
The last piece of why I believe in interactive notebooks is that they become an all encompassing resource for the students. I wrote an article about why students should be allowed to use their notes on all assessments and feel strongly about using an interactive notebooks in these situations. The INB will become a comprehensive resource throughout the year that should be used whenever possible.
If the student’s learning is the number one concern in the classroom then I fully believe interactive notebooks will allow them to grow with your content. They are highly versatile and can be used in elementary all the way through high school.
Secondary Benefits of Interactive Notebooks
Student achievement is the primary goal, and INB’s help to achieve that. There are also some byproducts of using interactive notebooks in class.
INB’s allow the teacher to visually see growth or deficits within a student simply by taking a glance at the notebook. I’m able to praise or help a struggling students in real-time with a quick walk around the classroom.
Administrators and parents are also very appreciative of interactive notebooks. There is an immediate feedback they receive by looking into the students notebook. Parents can make a quick assessment on their students performance in class. Administrators can also evaluate the teacher very quickly without even having to be in the classroom just by looking at a students journal. This is a win-win for the teacher.
Want More Tips and Strategies for Interactive Notebooks?
Part 2 of this blog post will address getting started with interactive notebooks and I’ll share some strategies and tips I used to manage my time effectively in an INB classroom.
Looking for Interactive Notebook Templates?
I’ve created hundreds of interactive notebook templates for science notebooks. Each template comes with a student copy, answer key, and high quality image showing how to use it.