Question Detail

Advice for interactive student notebooks

Apr 1, 2013 2:55pm

I am excited to implement interactive student notebooks next year and have been looking into different blogs and sites on how to do it. However, I struggle with how to organize them and KEEP USING them. I'm famous for starting out a practice, but letting it lapse in use when I'm not very clear on how to introduce it, how to organize it, and how to assess it. I worry about leaving room for one topic, but also being able to use it for another area of study later that day or week (for different subject areas). Also, I am concerned about the time it takes for students to write/record in them. Finally, I struggle with how to get the students to actually use them after we have recorded in them--both for immediate review, and for looking back later during the school year. I teach elementary, and would appreciate any advice or help from people who have used them at any grade level!

  • English Language Arts / Math / Science / Social Studies
  • 3-5
  • Differentiation / Engagement / Planning


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    • Sep 1, 2013 1:01am

      I use interactive notebooks in my HS math classes. I started, as you have with the 2 page approach, and ran into a similar problem when the input side spilled over to the next page. I allowed my students to continue on the next consecutive page as needed. Each lesson then required only one page for reflection. My stipulation was that each lesson should begin with the two page format.

      Although most literature on INM (Interactive Math Notebooks) that I read was in the form I have seen here (RHS for notes, etc and LHS for reflection) I reversed the pages to make it clearer and easier for my students to remember. Thus, the LHS was for LEARNING and the RHS was for REFLECTION. This worked well, but I agree with Emily, that it did take a lot of modeling in the beginning, even with 12th graders, since they had not used this technique before.

      I have since gone to a 2 column approach to allow students to reflect and connect on each page. Students leave a 2" or so margin. The margin in for reflection and the main part of the page for notes/homework etc. Handouts and class activities get folded and glued or taped in to the notebook to become their "notes" for the class. Each page in numbered in the lower outside corner and I have students designate the first few pages of their notebook for a table of contents. This makes it easier for them to locate notes and information for a specific concept when they are working on homework or studying for a test.

      Once the students get accustomed to using the IMN, they really like it and find it useful. Many continue to use this format even after they leave my class.

      • Aug 22, 2013 10:04am

        Like yourself, I am implementing INS (Interac. ntbk for sci) this year but is struggling to commit. I really have no solid solution to your leading post. I am, however, considering that the left side of the spine (output) may be a place where students can synthesize what they have based on the right hand side. They may stick in a page or a handout that has something to do with the RHS. For example, they may take notes on some terms on the RHS but on the left hand side, they may decide to synthesize something about a few key words and create a word-cycle, some thinking map. These thinking maps or graphic organizers are so versatile because I can imagine using them as the input or the output.

        What I am wondering is what if the input side has more than one page of notes? Is it necessary to carry over to the RHS of the next page. I have the same concern for their output side. In the past, I've struggled with the correct timing to collect their binders and my students had to remind me that they are still using their notes for some reason which makes it difficult to collect.

        • Apr 1, 2013 5:09pm

          I'm really interested to see what you come up with here! I teach high school, so it's a slightly different context, but I've tried to do some sort of journal/notebook system every year with variable success.

          One thing you might look at is using a modified Cornell Note format. I don't know how familiar you are with this, but this is sort of how I use it:

          I could see this working really well as a model for an interactive journal, especially if you want them to return to their work. The wide column could be for a journal prompt and the skinny column could be for reflection later that day or the following day. Feedback from a teacher or another student could go where the summary normally would go.

          If you want to help them keep a single notebook with separate sections for each subject, maybe try having them use sticky-notes as dividers.

          Anyhow, please share what you come up with! I'd love to hear it.

          • Apr 2, 2013 2:53am

            Thanks for the idea about Cornell Notes, Maia! I love that idea, especially for my youngsters. I could give them some of the notes to start with (until they learned the process of taking notes), but they could write/draw their own notes on the side! Love it! I also love the idea of the post-its to help keep the subjects separate. That would be great for time management and organization.

            I thought about doing a binder with loose-leaf paper. That way, they could go back and add in if needed, but then I wasn't sure how to work the page numbers to keep it all organized.

            • Apr 2, 2013 11:37am

              Emily, that's great advice about just doing one subject for next year! That would be much less overwhelming and more manageable. And thanks for the idea of non-perforated paper. So many notebooks have that now and I wouldn't have thought to look for that.

              • Apr 22, 2013 11:34pm

                In my eleventh and twelfth grade classes, we use dialectic journals , which my students prefer to Cornell Notes.