How to Use Interactive Notebooks as Reading Support

Learn how to use interactive notebooks as reading support for all students in any subject.

Interactive notebooks seem to be a love/hate issue with teachers. At first, I just thought they would waste a lot of class time. What I didn't realize was how much they would increase student engagement or how I could use them to support the content in any subject.

Who Benefits from INBs?

Interactive notebooks can help turn a very dry or boring subject into a fun and engaging class for students. Interactive notebooks have something for everyone:

  • Kinesthetic students can move around.
  • Visual learners end up with organized notes. 
  • Creative kids can color and doodle.
  • Social kids can talk to their neighbors while they prep the interactives.
  • ELLs/LD/Exceptional Education students can receive reading support.

The purpose of interactive notebooks is to enhance learning. Instead of students sitting and zoning out during your lesson, they can use the interactivities to get involved in the lesson by taking effective notes and drawing related graphics.

One word of caution is to not force daily coloring - not every student likes to color. If it is a map or a subject-related activity, I expect students to complete it. Otherwise I allow them the choice.

Using INBs as Reading Support

While this sounds like a simple solution to student note-taking, the problem does arise of how students take notes and what they should specifically take notes on.  Students are often given interactive notebook or lapbook templates with a general topic on the sections.  However, this doesn't help them know which facts are the most important and which details are just supporting information.

For my students, I found that providing guiding questions on the templates helps students to break down the reading. I think most teachers and students agree that textbooks are really dry and overwhelming. With guiding questions, students are better able to determine which details need to be remembered. Depending on the grade or ability level of my students, I also take this concept one step further and provide cloze-style notes, where they have to complete the blanks in the sentences.

Effective interactive notebooks can be used as a support system for reading comprehension. This helps my students that have reading comprehension issues to become more independent, as they can use the keywords to help them locate information. Like any strategy, students need to be taught how to use them. After we practice setting up and taking notes, I slowly give them more responsibility. Sometimes I even break the class into groups and have them complete a section of the notes while I circulate. That helps me to see who needs more support and who is on their way to independence.


Learn how to use interactive notebooks as reading support for all students in any subject.

Assessing Student Learning

An important part of interactive notebooks are formative assessments. Grading all of their notes is one way to see how they are doing, but as I have said in other posts, I sure find it time consuming. There are many other ways to add assessments in interactive notebooks.  A few strategies that I use are:

  • Sort concepts into categories or events in time order.
  • Matching definitions and vocabulary terms.
  • Writing short response essays.
  • Completing maps.
  • Creating time lines.

Interactive notebooks also help keep students' notes in one place. My biggest resistance was from the students that didn't like to read or write.  I repeatedly explained to my classes that the purpose of the notebooks was to pull out the main ideas as they read. By doing that, they didn't need to reread the chapter to study for the summative test. It does take time, but after a while they do catch on and see the value of it.

Disorganized Students

So what do you do for students that - no matter how much help you give them - just cannot put the notes in order? You know who they are. Maybe it is your ADHD kids or your kids with learning disabilities or even your gifted kid whose mind is always somewhere else. It will take a little more effort from you, but you can switch those students to a note-taking app, Microsoft OneNote, or Google Drive. Instead of a traditional cut and fold interactive, allow them to type their notes.  Don't have internet access?  Print the note sheet for the student and collect the notes after each class.  Store that student's notes in a binder or folder. Middle school students will need to gradually have more responsibility over their notes, but this is a good place to start.

Core classes such as science and social studies classes can be a lot of lecture or reading. Interactive notebooks are a perfect way to liven up these classes. Turning those notebooks into guided reading activities helps them to develop their nonfiction reading skills.

To read more about interactive notebooks, check out my other blog posts:

How to Use Interactive Notebooks as Formative Assessments
The Best Supplies for Interactive Notebooks
Time Saving Tips for Interactive Notebooks

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