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Tips for Starting Interactive Notebooks in Your Classroom

Interactive notebooks are designed to enable students to be creative, independent thinkers and writers. Interactive notebooks could also be used for class notes or for activities where the student will be asked to express his/her own ideas and process the information presented in class. Requirements vary from teacher to teacher, there is no one right way to implement them.

Some teachers have a love-hate relationship with interactive notebooks (love because it invites student pride and hands on learning; hate because it requires gluing), some teachers are intimidated by them, some teachers could not imagine their classrooms without them.

If you’ve heard the hype, but are still unsure, here are some tips to adjust the learning curve so that you ease into interactive notebooks.

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Tip #1) If you are intimidated by the change, you can skip the composition notebook at first and start with a binder that contains loose leaf paper. This leaves room for traditional classwork as well as INB activities so that you can slowly incorporate.

Tip #2) If you like the method described in tip #1, then stop there.

Tip #3) In a traditional interactive notebook, the left and right sides are categorized.
Typically, the left page is for the student to personalize with some guidance from the teacher. This is referred to as the output side. Examples: pre-assessments, quick writes, KWLs, demonstrations used to provoke student thought, post reflections, summaries, student made diagrams or charts). A quick way to remember this is the left side LOVES creativity. Students may need guidance with the left hand side the first couple months of school. As they get used to it, they will become more independent.

The right side of the INB is the information side (notes, vocabulary, lab procedures and data, concept maps). This is typically referred to as the input side. A quick way to remember this is the Right side is Restricted- only information given by the teacher belongs on the right side.

The right side is traditional. The left side gives it that interactive feel.

Tip #4) If the left and right pages seem challenging for your students, or if you are unsure if you’d like to start off with this design, you can certainly implement the INB using the sequential method. This simply means that students add content as it is received. This is a good method to start with if you’re biggest hurdle is assigning “sides”.

Tip #5) Always keep a table of contents no matter if you are using a binder or a composition notebook or using left-right pages or sequential pages. Have students number their pages.

Tip #6) Ask students to provide their own markers, glue sticks, scissors, rulers, and colored pencils/markers and to be responsible for their materials (but have some backup materials of course). You can also have students keep post it notes for the left side of their notebook.

Tip #7) Encourage students to use color on the personal side of their notebook. Color can help organize thoughts and information.

Tip #8) Some of the notebook components can be peer-graded to help you save time. You can do random or announced notebook checks. A common practice is to fold the upper corner of the page you left off at to mark the grade. This way you know where you left off.

Tip #9) If you are using a composition notebook, you can resize PDFs by scaling them down so that they fit. Another option is to try to incorporate it over 2 pages.

Tip #10) The only right way to do interactive notebooks is the way that works in your classroom!  Each year you can make changes as needed as some ideas work and some do not.

If you’re still not sure if you want to take the plunge- do some additional research. I recommend taking the interactive notebook plunge published by the California Science Teachers Association to help address some of your concerns. Good luck!

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