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Quick Thought Thursday: Beyond the Interactive Notebook

Over this past weekend, I attended and exhibited at the South Carolina 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.

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. 

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.

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.

Happy Thinking!