Guide To Using Interactive Notebooks in the Science Classroom – Part 1

Blog, General Science19 Comments

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.

Getting Started Guide to Interactive Notebooks in Science

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.

roller coaster potential and kinetic energy

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.

Science Interactive Journal - Topographic Maps

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.

Primary and Secondary Sucessions and Energy Pyramid Templates

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.

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19 Comments on “Guide To Using Interactive Notebooks in the Science Classroom – Part 1”

  1. Do the students copy notes from the power point then fill in the templates and the vocabulary blank is used for the vocabulary listed with the objectives.

  2. Hi There,
    I have two small children (3 and 1) that keep my wildly busy! Do you happen to record any of the webinars so someone like me could listen/watch in short snippets as I have time. I am incredibly interested but none of the time slots seem to work for me. We start school August 9th and I would like to incorporate INB this year.

  3. I really like the INBs and would like to expand them into my Computer Science classes. Do you know of any resources for this?

  4. I love the INBs and would even like to introduce them to my Computer Science classes. Do you know of any resources for this?

  5. Dear Mr. Kesler,
    In the fall, I purchased your interactive Notebook on the topic of cells. I cannot find it anywhere.
    I am unsure how to go about this as I am new to TPT.
    Can you please advise?
    Thank you!

  6. I’ve been using the INB in my Social Studies classes and I agree of all the benefits of the notebook, specially as a review at the end of the year when students are taking their SOL tests.

  7. Logistics question…..What kind of glue do you use? I have been using glue sticks and the pages don’t always stay in place? Maybe it is just cheap glue.

    1. Small bottle of white glue. I use the smallest ones possible because students seem to not waste it as much when they are smaller. The glue sticks didn’t work for me either.

  8. Thank you for the wonderful ideas! I am teaching fourth grade science. We are a departmentalized grade. I am struggling as to how to manage the absent kiddos. We seem to have them every day and quite a few. I have told them “if you are absent, you need to get with a buddy and make up what you missed.” They don’t seem to care or do so. Any suggestions? I have 98 kiddos between the four classes and am already struggling with absences and missing work.

    1. Amanda,
      Not sure if this would work for you, but I make a copy of one student’s notes for the day. (or send a trustworthy student to make copies for me). I make about 10 copies of each set of notes.
      I keep a file box on a bookcase by the door. The notes go in there. That way students can get a copy of the last lab and glue them in. It puts the responsibility on the student, but gives them a reasonable way to follow thru.
      Side bonus: It fulfills the role of providing an exemplar set of notes for my students with IEP’s.
      Hope this helps

  9. Do you have a book of templates that are geared toward high school chemistry only or are they all combined?

  10. I have found that students are excited about their INBs, and have gotten used to using them as a study resource.

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