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Interactive Notebooks: Engaging the Unengaged

Every year I get questions from teachers asking about how to use interactive notebooks in their classrooms. Interactive notebooks are a great way to teach students how to take notes in a more engaging manner. I’m the only teacher in my building that uses interactive notebooks, so when the students realize that they get to use markers and can cut and paste the boys become really interested.

Now as a 5th grade teacher I try to help my students take useful notes on the left side with an illustration or some kind of explanation on the right side. Most of the books that I have read about implementing interactive notebooks suggest that you use the right side for teacher notes and the left side for students. I found this to be very confusing for me and the students so I switched it so it would make more sense to the students.

When I conduct professional development training sessions using interactive notebooks I strongly urge teachers to set the purpose for using interactive notebooks so that they don’t become  a coloring book for students.  Each year when I tell my students that we will use interactive notebooks I show them my interactive notebook from the previous year. Since I teach 5th grade I tell them that I will be teaching them how to take notes because they will have to take notes in middle school. This automatically sets the purpose for creating the notebook and sends the message that this is not a notebook for for cutting and pasting but is a learning tool.

line segment and student
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Interactive notebooks are a great tool for engaging students who  lack intrinsic motivation. For example, this year I have a male student in my class who used to fall asleep in his 4th grade classroom all last year.  Well this year during the first 2 weeks of  he began to do fall asleep. When all of the students brought either their notebooks  or money to school, I began to implement the interactive notebooks and since then I haven’t seen him fall asleep in class. I’m not saying that interactive notebooks are the solution for every class but for my math classroom they have helped me to keep my students engaged even with the difficult skills math skills.

When I discuss implementing interactive notebooks urban teachers a teacher will always say that the parents won’t buy the notebooks. I know that this is a common issue but I have found that when I send the note home asking for the notebook I also give the parents the option of sending the money and I will go and purchase the notebook for their child. This has worked with every group of students that I have taught because I have realized that it’s not that the parents don’t have a $1.00 or a $1.50 to send to school most of the time it’s having time to go to the store to get the notebook. Are their some that don’t bring the notebook or money? Absolutely! In my experience it has never been more than 2. When this happens I tell them to bring whatever they amount of money that they can get and then I give them the notebook.

If  you would like to implement interactive notebooks in your classroom I have an interactive notebook starter kit  in my store.

5 thoughts on “Interactive Notebooks: Engaging the Unengaged”

  1. I use interactive notebooks in all subjects but I say the picture of the goal setting in the notebook. This is something I have not thought of. Currently, we keep all of our goal setting and tracking sheets in a folder. I think the notebook is a better idea 🙂

  2. What books did you find? I am exploring the use of interactive notebooks and have made that my PGP for the year. I would love to have some professional books to read.

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I help math teachers who teach high need students to effectively manage their classrooms and deliver high quality math instruction. Learn more about me


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