Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Interactive Notebooks in the World Language Classroom

If you've been searching on the internet recently for new ideas to try out with your World Language students odds are you've come across a tool called an interactive notebook.  So what is an interactive notebook?  It's a place where students can personalize notes on a variety of topics by using paper in different shapes, sizes, and folds.  Due to the variety and endless possibilities an interactive notebook allows students it truly creates a unique learning experience for all involved.  Some teachers have students create tabs or dividers in spiral or composition notebooks to organize the concepts covered in each course; however, interactive notebooks can also consist of an isolated grammatical topic or a unit of themed vocabulary as well.  And, the beauty of interactive notebooks is that they can be created anywhere whether its an actual notebook, a 3 ring binder, or a large poster.  

Here are some tips to help you get started on the journey of interactive notebooks:

1.  Use Colored Paper
Color is so important for visual learners and a best practice for interactive notebooks in the World Language classroom is to incorporate color into the pieces of paper that are to be attached to the student's notebook.  Be sure to purchase paper that allows one to read pencil or pen well.  Paper that is too bright or dark will cause issues with readability once students add notes to the pages.  For this reason pastels are encouraged.  Various hues will also help students differentiate the various concepts covered.  For example, you may choose to do a unit on present tense verbs but offer handouts for one type of regular verb in green, another in orange, and a third in blue, etc.

2.  Cut Down Margins
Interactive Notebooks are awesome for students to manipulate and study on their own time outside of class, but the truth is they take time to assemble.  No one wants to waste an entire class period watching his or her students cutting and pasting.  To eliminate this from happening use the paper cutter to trim off the margins as much as possible before the folds are distributed to students.  This will save valuable instructional time.

3.  Stay Away From Globs of Glue
Students will need to use glue sticks, glue, or tape to attach the various shapes, sizes, and folds to their notebooks.  All three have their advantages and disadvantages; however, the most annoying aspect of using regular tubes of glue is the reality that globs are easy to acquire.  If tubes of glue are what you have available for your students be sure to model and talk about the importance of using small dots.  Globs are dirty and can cause everything in the notebook to stick together.  It also impairs one's ability to jot down notes on the paper which defeats the purpose of an interactive notebook.  

4.  A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
Some folds in interactive notebooks are complicated to assemble.  This is where a picture can be so helpful for you and your students.  Consider taking pictures of the steps required to piece together the parts of the interactive notebook you plan to use.  These images can then be displayed on the interactive white board as you walk students through the process of creating the folds or placed on paper with captions explaining the steps for each and distributed to small groups of students.  

5.  Jump In and Try It Out!
Don't be afraid to take a risk on trying interactive notebooks out in your classroom.  It's okay to change up the routine from time to time and even if you try it and find out it didn't quite work the way you anticipated, you've still learned something along the way.  To help alleviate your fears here are a few resources to help you dive in and explore interactive notebooks with your students.  

by Madame H.

Feel free to leave a comment below to share your experiences with interactive notebooks in the World Languages Classroom.


  1. I'm trying out interactive notebooks this year with my level 1 students - these are really helpful tips! Thanks for sharing!

  2. No problem! Please let us know how it goes and good luck to you!

  3. Thanks so much for the shout out Madame H! I love your tips! I'm so excited to jump into interactive notebooking this year. :)

  4. No problem! So glad to hear of others jumping in and trying it out! Good luck!

  5. I am really curious to hear how successful teachers have found interactive notebooks to be at the lower middle school and upper elementary levels. We have created a series of Interactive Notebook activities available in our TpT store:


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