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Monday Mapping: Defining Interactive Notebooks

While I have used an Interactive Notebook structure in my classes for over fifteen years, the IN method has become all the rage in every subject area over the past few years.  Teachers love to provide inserts to flip, quick tidbits to flap, and pages to attach, but for some, the Interactive Notebook has gone too far - or maybe it's not going far enough.

Traveling on business this past week, I had the opportunity to take a look at student work samples from the top middle schools in a mid-ranking state.  Every writing sample shown was less than a page and neatly copied from a notebook page or insert template.  Math, Science, Social Studies, and even ELA lessons were carefully structured to fit into the space allotted on that single piece of paper.  There were no research papers, no lab reports, no well-developed journals, and no creative pieces.  Yet the schools boasted of their well organized students and their dedication to the use of Interactive Notebooks across the curriculum.

In talking with teachers, I learned even more about the IN reality.  Lessons are now designed to "fit" and excuses are given that the shorter lessons help "all students" achieve at higher levels.  Poppycock!
  1. The Interactive Notebook is a tool.  It is NOT the lesson.  It's simply the "binder" or "folder" where the student's collection of knowledge is retained.  
  2. The Interactive Notebook can help students learn routine and will help them find greater classroom success by practicing similar steps through the learning process.
  3. The Interactive Notebook can be set up in a way to help students relate classroom lessons to the real world or to their individual lives.
  4. The Interactive Notebook structure creates a semester or course-long study guide for students to reference and review for content retention.
  5. The Interactive Notebook is a valuable platform for formative assessments where students and teachers can add feedback on lessons and daily activities.

A true Interactive Classroom will have more to show than a binder of glued or stapled paper.  There will be projects displayed on the walls, writing journals marked with on-going revisions, creative assessments showing student knowledge and application, and real-world assignments that push students to greater success than they could ever expect to find in the pages of a notebook.

Happy Teaching!