Note Taking and Interactive Notebooks


        Interactive notebooks enable students to organize, process information and develop life-long

         study skills.  Using the left and right sides of the notebook fosters active engagement in the

         learning process.  The LEFT side of the notebooks students explore diverse methods of

         demonstrating learning through graphic organizers, poems, charts, etc. The RIGHT side is

         for the TEACHER INPUT information of classroom notes, presentations, and other

         information.  For students, teachers and parents, the interactive notebook becomes

         a portfolio of the student's learning and growth during the year.  Students and parents

         are able to review assignments and new learning concepts as well as student grades,

          thinking, writing, illustrations, and organizational skills.   Student interactive notebooks

          are graded.  A "master" copy of the notebook is in the classroom for students to review

          due to absences or if they should misplace their notebook.

               Learning study skills and taking notes is an acquired skill.  Students who develop these

          skills increase their learning curve and will have more positive assessment results.  The

          following internet links are for teachers, parents, and students who want to pursue

          this topic further and provide resources for note taking skills,  graphic organizers, 

           notepaper, and more.

            - this site will lead you to

         many other links and provide information about the positive features of interactive

         notebooks.  Cornell notes page


          page has many links for using diverse note taking and organizational templates from

          the Tucson Unified School District.

         - All

          subject areas are represented with lots of interactive notebook resources.

 -Interactive notebooks,

          Smartboards, and more.


   If you want interactive notebook activities

          already made for ANY subject, check out this site.  Although many of

          the notebooks are based on the Virginia SOLS, content for topic is pretty






           If you are a social studies/history/government teacher, you may want to visit

        the web site for HISTORY ALIVE (also GOVERNMENT ALIVE). I have used the History

         Alive social studies for fifth grade American history and will use Government Alive this

          year.  The learning activities are engaging and the interactive notebook for students

          is a wonderful tool.  If you have never incorporated an interactive notebook in your

          classroom, this would be the place to start since the materials, directions, and resources

           are excellent and quite complete.  All are kid and teacher friendly.


                            INTERACTIVE NOTEBOOKS

             Here are some starting points and organization ideas for beginning interactive notebooks

         with students in any subject area.  Two important things to remember are:

                         1.  MODEL, MODEL, MODEL all that you want students to do.

                         2.  Keep a "demo" or "master" notebook of all of the notebook's components

                             you expect students to have in their notebooks in the classroom.

           Interactive notebooks have a RIGHT and LEFT SIDE.  Here is an example of what

            these pages would look like as students provide INPUT AND OUTPUT.



   This is the 'OUTPUT" side of the student notebook used for student work.  On this side, students process new information from right side or INPUT side.  Students must ACTIVELY demonstrate their processing of ideas.  This side allows for all learning styles since the student has options in the way they interact and process information as they internalize the ideas.  Examples include:

  poems, cartoons, metaphors, diagrams, graphs, mnemonics, statements graphic organizers, songs, concept maps, writing, statements, flowcharts, reflections, data, riddles, biographies, posters, questions.




This is the INPUT side of the notebook used for recording class notes, discussion notes, and reading assignment notes. Teachers can also model how to think and organize information graphically on this side.  Any student handouts go on this page. Information on this side of the notebook contains information ALL students must know and are held accountable for learning.


  Space should be left for students to summarize the information learned.  I use this as a quick write before or after class activity.




                        What do you need?

                I have used a 5-subject spiral notebook, a 3-ring binder, and pocket folders with

           brads (one for each SOL or unit).  The choice you make is personal based on your own

           preferences, classroom management style, or age of student. The notebooks are used

           EACH DAY and may be kept in the classroom or brought with the students to class each

           day.  Additional materials include, pencils, pens, highlighters (no markers), colored

            pencils (or crayons), scissors, glue, and a pocket or file folder stapled into the

            notebook for work in progress. 

                             Notebook Organization

          The first week of school offers time to get students into the notebook, create

            pages, learn organizational skills, and classroom expectations. Since each page of the

            notebook is NUMBERED, students can begin with this process.  Model the numbering

            process as students are completing the pages.  The amount of time devoted to this stage

            depends on the age of the students and what form of notebook you are using.  If you

            are adding a few pages at a time, then number throughout the year.  The following

            represents the first five to ten pages of the student notebook

             1.  Cover Page - students create a personal cover page that reflects the subject, topic

           or themes. 

            2.  Expectations and Notebook Criteria - whatever your expectations for the year

           are for student notebooks should be glued on the next page.

            3.  Table of Contents - Topic, assignments, dates - use a table set up to create one.

            4.  Author page - Students can create a page about themselves using scrap booking

          materials, photos, etc.  I usually have them include their ideas about the subject they will

           study in class or what they want to learn.

            5. Grading - what your grading criteria will be for the notebooks

            6.  Assessment Scores - form that includes date, assessment name, score- charted

            7.  Communication Form - for home-school notes

            8.  Assignment Log or Calendar


                     2 examples from SOL 5e Voter Requirements Virginia

          Students used information from the INPUT side of their notes and created

         brochures for voter registration in Virginia.



                                    Voting Brochure for Virginia


                             Foldable for Declaration of Independence 

                           (Ideas, Arguments, Complaints, Conclusion)


          The following pictures are examples of an interactive notebook for students to remember

               how to read, understand, and gather information from expository text.  These examples

               were created by fourth grade students in my reading resource room class.


            My second and third grade reading resource students read a book about a fish tank (Reading A-Z). 

            Here are their interactive notebook examples of information organization and summarization.



           Students in my fourth grade resource reading class were reading expository

             text about coal mining.  The text was a integration of their phonics study

             of the long vowel combination /oa/.  The text for reading I wrote based

             on primary documents/letters/files.  The pictures that they used were

             primary documents.  They developed an awareness of point of view and

             interpretation by creating a sensory image of a breaker boy who worked

             in the coal mines.  The components of a sensory model was created as

             a whole group.  

                                  Quick draw model

              Student examples after reading the story I wrote about the breaker boys.


            Students also used primary sources (pictures, maps) about coal mining and 

            interpreted the information from the text to explain the pictures.



            These examples are representations of the output side of the interactive

            notebooks for a unit about Spanish exploration.  If you are a Virginia

            teacher, the unit for Spanish exploration for USI is on the main menu 

            page.  Arizona teachers - the unit is integrated into early exploration ofArizona 

               Students created a note taking organizer and sensory images

                      representing cultural interactions and changes.



              Pictures of our interactive notebooks and foldable books about the Alamo will be added 

              this month (March). 



                   Additional information and pictures will be coming soon..


                                   B.Sarah Froehlich, 2008, 2009, 2010