Modern US History students are
required to create and maintain an
Interactive Notebook. The
instructional purpose for this is to
cause students to "interact" with
concepts and skills learned in class.
Below are several frequently asked
questions about the interactive
notebook with answers to help you and
your parents better understand the
importance of this research-based best
practice learning tool that will be
utilized in Modern U.S. History.
|Interactive Student Notebook
1. It causes students to use both their visual and linguistic intelligences. Students are encouraged to draw and to
find images to link to content learned in the left sides and unit pages of their notebooks. They are free to apply
concepts learned, to develop a deeper understanding, in the way they best learn. This could be visually, using
graphic organizers, or processing current articles on a topic learned – they choose. In the past I’ve had students
compose poems, write lyrics for songs, draw a political cartoons as they “process” (i.e. revisit information studied
multiple times in order to link it to their schema or prior knowledge so that they can more easily recall this
information for quizzes and tests) it.
2. For students, note-taking becomes an active process. Whether they are taking notes during a lecture or when
they are reading, students take a more active role with their notes. In my experience students “take notes” and do
not normally revisit them until right before an announced assessment such as a test. Educational research has
shown that students need to revisit a newly learned concept at least 7 times to be able to have embedded it into
their long-term memories. Using the interactive notebook, students take their notes initially, then are supposed to
revisit them that same day (or else they will retain less than 20% the next day) with some review questions in the
Cornell method, and then the next day they should complete a left side activity which causes a 3rd visit to the
concept learned the previous day. Just by doing this, students are halfway to achieving a long-term connection
with the new material. Later we’ll write about the information, conduct a debate, discuss it in groups, or graphically
organize it which helps cause synthesis of the learned material. Interacting with the notebook, students revisit the
material more often than they normally would otherwise.
3. It helps students to systematically organize as they learn. Because they include all notes taken at any time,
reading or in class, in their notebooks, students will have all the materials they need to review at their fingertips.
As well, students are encouraged to highlight and outline their notes using any of the research-based note-taking
methods taught in class. Moreover, all the critical worksheets or handouts distributed in class are included in the
notebook. This enhances student organization when it comes time to review for tests and semester exams.
4. The notebooks become a portfolio of individual learning. Ask your child to show you their interactive notebook.
Parents will be surprised at the growth students will have made from the beginning of the school year. If a diligent
student has been keeping up with their notebook, they will be prepared for the unannounced quizzes and notebook
checks that occur. Further, they will KNOW their content and will show development in the skills learned in class.
Also, there is a direct correlation between the diligent student who works on their notebook consistently and their
overall achievement in the class. Lastly, portfolio learning is an ever increasing alternate way to assess student
growth over time. Using the interactive notebook, I am able to include non-traditional assessment into my
5. As an instructional component of Modern US History, the notebook enables the course to address the rigorous
academic college preparatory standards and mission set by ACS. This includes critical thinking, skills
development, and ongoing assessment in multiple modes.
|Why is an interactive notebook employed as an instructional learning tool?
|Where did the idea for the interactive notebook first originate?
The notebook concept was initially devised in the 1970s by several teachers in California and later it was
adapted for the History Alive program created by the Teachers’ Curriculum Institute in 1994.
For those familiar with teachers employing History Alive active instruction methodologies, they know that the
following educational research-based theories have inspired and influenced the activities of that successfully
Theory-Based Active Instruction
Lessons and activities are based on five well-established theories:
Understanding by Design – Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe believe that teaching for deep understanding
requires planning backward—first determining the big ideas students are to learn and then working backward to
identify methods to reach those goals and ways to assess the effectiveness of teaching.
Nonlinguistic Representation – Many psychologists believe that we think and remember better when we store
information in both linguistic and nonlinguistic forms. Research by Robert Marzano and colleagues demonstrates
that teaching with nonlinguistic activities such as graphic organizers, mental images, and movement helps to
improve students’ understanding of content.
Multiple Intelligences – According to Howard Gardner’s revolutionary theory, every student is intelligent – just not
in the same way. Because everyone learns in a different way, the best activities tap more than one kind of
intelligence. Gardner has described these seven intelligences: verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-
spatial, body-kinesthetic, musical-rhythmic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal.
Cooperative Interaction – Elizabeth Cohen’s research has led her to conclude that cooperative groupwork leads
to learning gains and to higher student achievement. Cohen has found that if students are trained in cooperative
behaviors, placed in mixed-ability groups, and assigned roles to complete during a multiple-ability task, they tend
to interact more equally. This increased student interaction leads to more learning and great content retention.
Spiral Curriculum – Educational theorist Jerome Bruner championed the idea of the spiral curriculum, in which
students learn progressively more difficult concepts through a process of step-by-step discovery. With this
approach, all students can learn once a teacher has shown them how to think and discover knowledge for
Bower, Bert and Jim Lobdell. History Alive: Engaging All Learners in the Diverse Classroom.
San Francisco: Teachers’ Curriculum Institute, 1999.
Given the answer to the previous question's line of reasoning and the research-based educational theories that
underpin it, the interactive notebook is a critical component of my classroom. Because I consider it essential to
student achievement in Modern US History, any evaluation of the interactive notebook constitutes a test grade.
This causes students to take the notebook seriously.
Due to its importance and daily use in the classroom, students are told that it is a standing requirement to bring
their notebook to class at all times.
Further, notebook checks are not announced in advance. The reason why is due to the fact that students will
typically procrastinate in working on it if they know they will be informed in advance of their notebook checks. The
main result is that the continual revisitation of concepts learned and their application will be lost. From experience I
have observed how many students waited until the last day to complete it and then came into class the day of the
announced check telling me that “I worked all night on your notebook Mr. Greer.” How does this help a student
attain their learning outcomes in this situation? Sadly, it does not because their grades have borne this out.
Students are given a unit homework calendar at the inception of each new unit as well as reminders of due dates
on my website, www.mrgreer.net. (Please visit my website frequently as it is updated on a regular basis and has
valuable parent resources also.) The typical homework assignment involves students reading a section in their
textbook of between 3-6 pages, answering the 5 review questions at the end of the section for a homework grade
(based on completion), and also taking Cornell style or other research based reading notes in their notebook. If
students read and take notes in their notebooks first, then answering the questions will be much easier and
completed faster. In all I would expect students to complete their typical homework in 30 to 40 minutes on the night
the homework is assigned.
Then the very next night of the day they do not have US History class, the diligent student might revisit their work
by finding an web article related to concepts on the right side, highlighting it, and pasting it on the left side. Or they
might design a cause and effect chart to link the concepts from the notes they had taken on a right side of their
notebook. This should take no more than 15-20 minutes. Therefore, students are studying Modern US History
content and skills about one hour every two days. Additionally, they are studying a little every single night, rather
than 1-2 times per week, thus enhancing retention of concepts learned. This means that students would spend, on
average, about 2 hours per week studying for Modern US History. With all the other classes and demands placed
on students at ACS, this is a realistic and achievable expectation that will enable students realize their leaning
goals in class.
As well, the number of notebook assignments per week tends to follow the number of class meetings in a given
week. Modern US History, depending on the numbered days of the block schedule, meets 2 or 3 times a week for
your child. This means that, on average, there are 2-4 assignments per week for the notebook. Sometimes, I also
assign the left side activity, so students do not have to do anything more than complete all the questions
assigned. And, if there are multiple assignments given for the notebook (i.e. the typical homework calendar
assignment that’s done at home in the evening and an in-class assignment) in a single class, students are given
instructional time in that class to work on the in-class notebook assignment.
In this case it might be wise to periodically ask your child how they take advantage of this in-class time in this
situation. Throughout the years, I’ve observed that some students will spend this notebook instructional time
engaging in off task behavior rather than working to complete the in-class notebook assignment. In this way, they
actually create more homework for themselves to finish at a later date. This is one way that some students get
behind with their notebooks.
|What are my general expectations for student use of the notebook?
|What is an interactive notebook?
An interactive notebook is a instructional learning tool that requires students to revisit concepts learned in class
and or for homework. Using a left-side spiral bound notebook, students will include in-class notes, reading notes,
and other teacher directed assignments on the right side pages of the notebook. Then later, when studying
outside of class, students are required to revisit those right side concepts by completing a review activity directly
across from that right side page on the left side page. In this manner, students will caused to actively "interact"
with concepts learned on the right sides of their notebook.
This notebook is maintained for the entire year and no other subjects should be included in them. As well
students should not rip out pages for work in class or for other classes.
|What should I do if my notebook is misplaced or lost?
|What should I do if there are no more available right side pages in my notebook?
|Will a running list of the right side assignments be posted in class or on Mr. Greer's website?
New students should follow the set up guidelines and then create a unit page for the unit currently being studied.
They will be required to complete all the assignments for that unit (as they will be tested on that material at a later
date) up to the time of the next random check and maintain their notebooks from that point. They will not be
required to make up all the assignments from the first semester, if arriving in the second. It might be a good idea
for them to see a peer's notebook because some of the material they missed, that they are not required to make
up, might appear on the semester exam, if, for instance they arrive in November and the semester exam in
December will cover all material from August to December.
|What if I am a new student that has started to come to class after the school year has begun?
If you have lost your notebook, you should inform Mr. Greer immediately and purchase a new notebook. You
should follow the directions for initial set up at the beginning of their new notebook and then make up all the right
side assignments that are due for the next notebook check. See other students for what must be made up.
There are a couple things that can be done. It is best if you purchase another notebook and then staple the front
of the next notebook to the back of your current notebook. Staple the corners and along the sides.
Secondly, pages can be added by taping or gluing them to other pages. This is a good strategy especially if you
discover that an assignment is missing but you have already used the next right side page for the next
As it is the students' responsibility to maintain their own notebooks, a list of assignments will not be given to
students at any time before the next random check.
|My child complains that he/she is spending too much time working on their notebook. Why?
In most all cases, the student did not take advantage of instructional time in class and or did not continually
maintain their notebook. They are probably anticipating a notebook check in the next few days so that they are
now "under the gun" to update all the assignments they did not do when each was assigned.
Ask your child to show you their notebook to see for yourself how many assignments or how many left sides they
are currently working on to better understand this. If they are working on several assignments, that is a good
indication that they have fallen behind in maintaining their notebook. Ask them are they using their time in class
wisely and if they are working on their notebooks frequently during the week.