Many student notebooks are drab storehouses of information filled with uninspired, unconnected, and poorly understood ideas.
Interactive Student Notebooks, however, allow students to record information about science in an engaging way. As students
learn new ideas, they use several types of writing and innovative graphic techniques to record and process them. Students
use critical-thinking skills to organize information and ponder scientific ideas/questions, which promotes creative and independent
thinking. In Interactive Student Notebooks, key ideas are underlined in color or highlighted; Venn diagrams show relationships;
cartoon sketches show people and events; timelines illustrate chronology; indentations and bullets indicate subordination;
arrows show cause-and-effect relationships. Students develop graphical thinking skills and are often more motivated to explore
and express high-level concepts.
1 Make sure students have appropriate materials. To create Cooperate Student Notebooks, students
must bring these materials to class each day:
• an 8 1/2-by-11-inch spiral-bound notebook, with at least 100 pages
• a pen
• a pencil with an
• two felt-tip pens of different colors
• two highlighters of different colors
• a container
for all of these (purse, backpack, vinyl packet)
2 Have students’ record class notes on the right side of the notebook. The right side of
the notebook—the "input" side—is used for recording class notes, discussion notes, and reading notes. Typically,
all "testable" information is found here. Scientific information can be organized in the form of traditional outline notes.
There are many visual ways to organize scientific information that enhance understanding. The right side of the notebook is
where the teacher organizes a common set of information that all students must know.
3 Have students’ process information on the left side of the notebook. The left side—the
"output" side—is primarily used for processing new ideas. Students work out an understanding of new material by using
illustrations, diagrams, flow charts, poetry, colors, matrices, cartoons, and the like. Students explore their opinions and
clarify their values on controversial issues, wonder about "what if " hypothetical situations, and ask questions about new
ideas. And they review what they have learned and preview what they will learn. By doing so, students are encouraged to see
how individual lessons fit into the larger context of a unit and to work with and process the information in ways that help
them better understand history. The left side of the notebook stresses that writing down lecture notes does not mean students
have learned the information. They must actively do something with the information before they internalize it.
Here is a simple example of the right-side, left-side orientation of the Interactive Student Notebook in action. The student
began by taking class notes on late nineteenth-century industrialism on the right side of her notebook and then, for homework,
completed a topical net on the corresponding left side using information from her class notes.