Interactive notebooks provide students with a way to express and document their learning in a fun and engaging format that appeals to even the most reluctant learners. These simple spiral notebooks are transformed into a valuable resource where students have access to class notes and handouts that have been recorded by students using sketches, bits of writing, or other cues designed to assist recall and demonstrate understanding of the concepts taught.
Choose a notebook for each class. If you teach more than one subject, students need to create a notebook for each class. Interactive notebooks are wonderful for language arts, science, and social studies; but, they can be used for any subject.
Allow students to create a front cover that represents the subject or class. Encourage the use of images from old magazines or printed from the Internet. Be sure students title the notebook with the subject and their name. Students may choose to draw or sketch images and fill them in with colored pencils or markers. The cover should be completely covered with words or images that represent the subject.
Create an "about me" page on the inside of the front cover. Allow students to create a collage of images and words to express who they are. Be lenient here and avoid dictating how it should look. As long as the images and words are not inappropriate, anything goes. This page is meant to be for free expression and to engage students in the notebook. Spend as much time as necessary in creating the front cover and "about me" page. The more involved students become now, the more involved they will be in the process of keeping the notebook up to date throughout the year. Laminate or cover the cover with clear contact paper to preserve the page.
Reserve the first 2 sheets for the "Table of Contents." Instruct students to label the pages and leave the rest blank. Beginning with the first page after the table of contents, students should number all pages from the beginning to the end of the notebook. The upper right hand corner of the page works well, but the lower corner is fine too, as long as students label all pages in the same manner. Insist on pencil or erasable ink and encourage students to work carefully to avoid skipping pages.
Instruct students to take traditional notes on the right hand pages of the notebook only. This is also a place to glue or staple handouts from class. You may wish to provide a handout of the notes for the day to begin the process. Once all students have attached the handout to the right hand page, it is time to illustrate the left hand page to reflect learning. This is where students become creative and express their learning in a way that makes sense to them. The possibilities are limitless as students draw sketches, images, and word art to illustrate concepts. What the student draws should provide visual or written cues to activate memory and should demonstrate understanding.
Explain to students that they should be able to answer any questions about the lesson by looking at their illustrations that accompany the class notes. Challenge them to fold the right hand page under and answer your questions by looking at their illustrations. Students will quickly see if what they have drawn is useful or if they have missed vital information.
Consider allowing students to use their notes for tests and quizzes on occasion. This will encourage them to complete the notebook and get into the habit of selecting and illustrating important concepts. The process of creating their own page to demonstrate understanding will reinforce important concepts and provide you with clues to misunderstandings or areas that require further teaching.
Remind students to complete an entry into the table of contents each time they add a page to the notebook. Briefly review entries on a daily basis and collect notebooks for review and grading on a weekly basis. You don't need to read every word or scrutinize every page to grade the notebooks. Reviewing that students have made the proper entries, that the table of contents is up to date, that entries show time and effort and are neat and appealing is what you are looking for. You may select one or two entries for closer review. Providing a grade for the notebook will encourage students to do their best work as they will soon learn that if they do their best they are guaranteed a good grade.
Provide class time after the lesson for students to begin working on illustrating the notes or concepts discussed in class. This also makes a wonderful homework assignment that will reinforce the skills taught in class and will engage students in academic tasks that require him to review and assimilate information.
Keep a master notebook with a copy of all entries, class notes and handouts, in a visible location so those who are absent can quickly catch up. Students can use the master notebook to see if they have all the required entries.