In the summer of 2009, we had the most fortunate luck to land a professional development workshop that literally changed our lives. That summer, we spent two weeks on Skidaway and Sapelo Islands, studying the coastal Georgia ecosystems alongside ecologists and UGA students. We were immersed in work and studies as we attended lectures, participated in labs, went on excursions, and participated in REAL research.

We left having made good friends, amazing memories, and most importantly, a new-found respect for what it means to be a student. One of the requirements of the course was to chronicle our experiences in a field notebook. The experience changed the way we thought about teaching and we brought with us the idea of incorporating interactive notebooks and journaling into our secondary science classrooms. From there, we came up with a plan to make interactive notebooking in the science classroom successful.

Unlike many teachers, we were fortunate to have the rest of the summer to think about the process of incorporating interactive notebooks into our secondary science classes. However, that doesn’t mean that our first implementation was without flaws. The first time trying anything new is always difficult – “what do we do about worksheets that don’t fit in a small composition notebook? What about students that are determined to use a spiral bound notebook? How do we organize them? What if students lose them?” All of these worrisome questions were answered with real solutions through trial and error, and we’re happy to report that after MANY years of working with INBs, we’ve created a system that truly works!

Once we figured out how to incorporate our notes sheets successfully, we started expanding into more interactivity – flaps that open and close, lots of colorful pictures or those that students can color in themselves, sorting activities, cut and paste, mini-books, diagrams, free write, group work, individual work, drawings, charts, comics, poems, Q & A, Cornell notes, etc.

Mel at Skidaway learning about Interactive Notebooks for Secondary Grades

Providing more choices of activities helps with student differentiation and overall buy-in to the notebook, which allowed us to reach students of all learning styles. Imagine how engaged students become when they have so many various ways to learn!  We found that the more involved the students were with their note taking, the more ownership they took of the material. Students were paying attention in class, coloring to improve memory, asking questions, getting involved in discussions, and engaging with the content. As a result, we found that test scores improved, our administration began to take notice of our methods, and parents were ecstatic to see the textbook their children created during the year.  Even more impressive, students would visit us once they entered high school to tell us how much their INB helped them in their Biology courses. It was a win-win for ALL! There is no doubt that INBs are perfect for the secondary student.

Gerdy at Skidaway learning about Interactive Notebooks for Secondary Grades

To give you an idea of the kinds of activities we do with our students, check out the photos below showing a compilation of our interactive notebook activities found in our Complete Interactive Notebook Bundle for Life Science & Biology. INB activities are a great way to get the real world incorporated into your classroom. They’re not just about coloring and cutting – they’re about taking the time to learn material while making and doing.

What are you doing to implement more interactivity in your classrooms? What are your favorite INB activities?  Do you have any cool INB tricks or tips?  Please share in the comments section!

And if you’d like to get started right away and don’t know what you would need for your students to get them on board, check out our blog posts:

We also offer a product on Introducing Interactive Notebooks in Science which is complete with handouts and PowerPoint to guide you through the process. If you’re looking for resources and don’t have time to create your own, we have a curriculum that’s comprehensive and ready to go! Check out our assortment of PowerPoint and handouts on every life science topic here in our store. If you’re interested in interactive notebooks, we have accompanying INB activities too!

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