How to use an interactive notebook

Interactive notebook ideas

An interactive notebook is a visual way of learning and comprehending educational material. Interactive notebook activities generally consist of hands-on paper that is cut and folded. Interactive notebooks are differentiated based on your students' needs and how much assistance you want to give them concerning writing notes and learning/reviewing a topic. Since all the information is in one place, it also makes end-of-the-year review one million times easier!

Have more questions about interactive notebooks? Make sure to check out my interactive notebook guide to answer all your burning interactive notebook questions! Click here to read.

What types of activities could I use with my interactive notebook?

You can use maps, diagrams, and graphic organizers in your interactive notebooks. ANY type of activity can be put into an interactive notebook.

Will I have time to use an interactive notebook?

Interactive notebooks do NOT have to be time-consuming. Create interactive notebooks that do not use a lot of paper, and do not have tedious cutting. Interactive notebooks have the stereotype of using too much paper and taking FOREVER to cut. Guess what? Both of these things can be true. But are they always true? Nope. For example, my line of interactive notebooks only use simple cuts. Students do not sit around cutting out a teeny tiny heart. We do not have time for that! The purpose of an interactive notebook is not to be crafty, but instead to look at information in a new way. 

Before I did interactive notebooks, I was absolutely opposed to cutting and gluing. My kids were so SLOW at it, so I avoided any sort of cutting or gluing in my classroom. We stuck to purely handouts. It finally dawned on me that they simply did not have quick motor skills, this is something that I needed to help them work on. Yes, the first week or so you do these are going to be slow and a little painful. Just as we do any routine in class, practice makes perfect! The kids will quickly pick up on how to fold, cut, and glue each piece. They will know how to recycle the paper. They will know how to help certain students at their table who need additional help.

Of course, there is some cutting involved in an interactive notebook. Pass out the paper, and kids can do a few quick snips while you talk. It is only an extra minute more than passing out a worksheet! Plus, students get additional practice with fine motor skills.

How could I use an interactive notebook in my lessons?

These notebooks can be done whole-group, small-group, or individually. In science or social studies, I generally complete my interactive notebooks whole-group. We cut and glue together, then I place my book underneath the document camera as we fill in our responses as a class. In reading or math, I like interactive notebooks to be a center or station activity.

Not sure how you would use these interactive notebooks whole group?

Let's talk about civics. Civics is a social studies topic that is used in a broad range of grades. For example, American symbols are discussed in the beginning of elementary school, and levels of government in older grades. An interactive notebook works in every grade!

What about economics? Here is an example of how I would discuss this Economic Choice & Opportunity cost foldable in an economics lesson:
  • I would pull up a picture of an ice cream cone and a popsicle on the board.
    • Kids will vote which one they want.
    • Discuss which is their economic choice and which is their opportunity cost
picture of an economic choice and opportunity cost lesson
  • Pass out economics foldable to students.
  • Students will use four cuts to cut out flipbook
  • As a group, I will read the first three examples on the flipbook out. 
    • Students will raise their hand to answer, then fill out answer on flipbook
  • Students will fill out the next three examples on the flipbook
    • Students will raise their hand to answer after everyone finished to check our answers
  • As an extension activity and to check for understanding, I'd give students a choice of vanilla or chocolate. Then, pass out two Post-It Notes per student. They will identify which one they want by writing one per Post-It, then sticking them up on the board to identify the opportunity cost and economic choice. To make sure they understand the two vocabulary words, I'll also ask them to put a star next to the one they DO want.
picture of an economic choice and opportunity cost lesson
As you can see, the entire lesson is NOT about the interactive notebook. The interactive notebook is meant to act as a reference guide as well as practice for students. It supplements your lesson and learning, and provides a concrete place for understanding for your students.

What do you think?

Do you use interactive notebooks in your classroom? Do you think any of my suggestions would work in your own classroom? I would love for you to tag me @GlitterinThird on Instagram with how you use interactive notebooks in your own classroom!

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