Using Interactive Notebooks in the Classroom for Student Success

June 06, 2023

Amy Vaughan-Roland, Ed.D.

Ed.D. in Leadership

Photo of an interactive notebook

During COVID, we found ourselves glued to our computers, which led to both innovative learning and short attention spans. Now that many classrooms are back to in-person schooling, a typical worksheet doesn’t always cut it. In my classroom, we love using interactive notebooks to sustain student attention and engagement. Interactive notetaking has become so helpful when it comes to building concept attainment and diving into new concepts.

So, what is an interactive notebook? On the outside it may look like a simple composition book or spiral notebook, but a quick peek under the cover will reveal organized, colorful note pages that activate the senses and allow students to think creatively about the topic. Although adding color, graphs and nontraditional notetaking habits may seem excessive or wasteful, these skills can actually be quite helpful for students when learning, engaging and retaining information in the classroom.

Like any good reference book, an interactive notebook starts with a table of contents. Since this is meant to be a living reference for students, the table of contents allows students to remember where they took notes on certain topics and reference those pages as they dive deeper into concepts. It is also built so that as students learn more about a topic, they can go back and revisit pages and make additions and changes. It truly is a breathing document open for change, which can make student learning more comprehensive.

What goes into an interactive notebook? The short answer is “anything and everything.” This can include graphs, sketches, worksheets, comic strips and more! But don’t worry – your students’ notebooks won’t be total chaos. In addition to the table of contents, interactive notebooks have one main rule: The left side of the notebook is for concrete documents and the right side is for reflections. Say, for example, that you create a class data graph. The graph would get glued into the left side of the notebook, while your discussion and analysis of the graph would go on the right side. This allows students the opportunity to have an in-depth understanding of various topics while maintaining organized notes.

Even though the notebooks may look different than a traditional worksheet, they can still be a great tool for assessments, data collection on learning and parent conferences. Rubrics that are used to grade written responses are a great grading tool for interactive notebooks, and the data the notebooks provide can help both teachers and parents understand student growth.

Interactive notebooks can be a tool in your classroom to help create imaginative thinkers who work to build their own understanding of concepts in a way that works for them. Not only that, but a student’s interactive notebook is a great learning portfolio that can grow with them, even after they’ve left your classroom. Try using interactive notebooks in your own class and explore how you and your students can learn in engaging, collaborative and exciting new ways!

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.
Amy Vaughan-Roland, Ed.D.
Amy Vaughan-Roland, Ed.D., Ed.D. in Leadership

Amy has a strong passion for educating all learners and has over 12 years of experience in special education. She works on her family's dairy farm and is currently a doctoral candidate.

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