Social Sundays: Discovering Interactive Notebooks in History

Welcome back to Social Sundays!  I was going to share some back to school tips (which I promise to do soon), but I just finished my first full year with interactive notebooks in my history classes.  It was an experience and as you begin (or probably continue) to plan the upcoming school year, I thought I would share my absolute LOVE for using INTERACTIVE notebook organizers. After a year, I feel comfortable saying YEAH for interactive notebooks mostly because my students reflected how much they liked using them.

I first got interested in INBs (as they are often called) because while I love using hands-on activities and inquiry based learning, I found that students needed more structure for organizing and analyzing information.  Basically, students benefit from having a place to organize, draw, write and analyze ideas and information. 

What interactive notebooks are for:

  • graphic organizers on topics for notes, doodles and illustrations;
  • a place to build an individualized reference like a personalized textbook;
  • a tool for learning, practicing and analyzing topics and skills;
  • a place to write and draw about investigations into topics, reactions to primary sources and other pieces of information.

What interactive notebooks are NOT:

  • a place for notes received by lecture (video or otherwise);
  • a set of cutesy folded notes that are little more than a worksheet;
  • an opportunity to see how many 100s of pages you can say your students did on "you name it" unit;
  • a replacement for hands-on activities, projects and inquiry-based learning.
  • yet another opportunity to give points, grades, etc. (This is my opinion.  Many teachers like to grade notebooks.);
  • fill-in the blank forms.  If students don't write the bulk of the material, they will not retain it. 

What interactive notebooks look like in my class:

  • Students engage in hands on inquiry based learning on a topic such as the inventions of Mesopotamia.  The activities usually involve a combination of reading or visual information such as photos, hands-on activities based on the information and then writing about it.
  • After completing the inquiry activity, students use the graphic organizers (I'm partial to flippables) to write about the topic, organize ideas and make connections. This becomes their textbook and reference. It's where students can turn when we are later talking about a topic.  Students quickly read their thoughts on a topic or reference for a project.
  • A student's personal take on the topics we cover in an individual course.
  • Some inquiry activities go right into the notebook such as a newspaper article on the Great Wall of china.
  • Some organizers are used during or after a gallery walk.

In summary:

Think you might want to try INBs in your class this year?  Grab 8 tips from teachers on implementing interactive notebooks.  Find out what works (and doesn't). 

Social Sundays is a bi-weekly post sharing tips, ideas, resources, and products for teaching social studies.  If you have questions or think there is something I should share, you can leave me a message in the comments below or at the store in the question and answer section.  



  1. This is very helpful and as this will be my fist year attempting INBs I'm looking forward to reading your future posts on the topic, thanks for sharing!!!

    1. Good luck this year. I really enjoyed INBs and am very much looking forward to using them again this year. I feel like my students got so much out of them that I had not predicted.


  2. Great information. In my district, we are required to use Interactive Reader Writer Notebooks in ELA (we call them IRWNs), and your list of what the IR is and is not nails it.

  3. I used them in ELA last year and they worked well. It's nice to see they work a as the curriculum. I hope my SS teachers start using th too.

  4. Ugh! Autocorrect on iPads. Forgive my typos.

  5. I really appreciate this run-down on INBs. It sounds like they are an awesome consistently hands-on activity for kids to really get involved in and through their learning. I love it. Also, thanks for all the photos that show what your interactive notebooks looked like. It really helps to see examples!

  6. I have used interactive notebooks for years in Science and Math. I love them. They are a great resource for students when reviewing and studying and also keep students engaged during the learning process. Your list of what they are and are not is great!


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