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Quick Thought Thursday: Beyond the Interactive Notebook

Over this past weekend, I attended and exhibited at a middle school conference where I had the opportunity to talk with new and student teachers about their experiences in the classroom.  What I heard was so disappointing, and it all stems from the adoption by many districts of the Interactive Notebook.

Teaching beyond the Interactive Notebook should be the goal for every middle and high school teacher. Read to help define the interactive notebook for your classroom.

It seems that many schools have become very confused about the structure and function of the Interactive Notebook.  I used an IN every year in my Social Studies classroom, and I loved using it as an organizing tool for my struggling students (of all levels).  However, my classroom was one filled with activities and student-centered lessons that were simply recorded and retained in the notebooks.  The notebooks themselves were not the sole resource, nor were they the sole lesson, for my students.

What IS and Interactive Notebook
  • A tool for student organization
  • A tool for enhancing student participation
  • A very valuable study resource
  • A guide to help students focus with routine and structure
  • A lesson in endurance
With IN resources abundant online and even in published textbook supplements, the shift has moved toward these notebook inserts being easily added to fit the structure, and often eliminating "bigger" activities or assignments that require more than a page. The side effects of this limited use of the Interactive Notebook are devastating.

What an Interactive Notebook is NOT
  • A class activity
  • An inclusive learning tool
  • Collaboration among peers
  • A lesson that reaches the multiple intelligences of students
  • A COMPLETE learning opportunity
Students must be given the opportunity to learn in small chunks, but also in great lengths.  They must write short thesis statements and research to develop thoroughly developed papers or reports.  They need to analyze facts, but also evaluate whimsy.  Students must be given the opportunity to learn outside of the box, and off of the page.  The Interactive Notebook is an incredibly valuable tool for teaching our students organization.  But, not everything in life will fit neatly onto a single sheet of paper, and neither should any lesson.

Teaching beyond the Interactive Notebook should be the goal for every middle and high school teacher. Read to help define the interactive notebook for your classroom.

Happy Thinking!