Using Interactive Notebooks in the Content Areas

Guest post

Note taking is boring and many students just copy from the board and do not understand what they have written. I have students create and use Interactive Notebooks as an instructional strategy to emphasize content and concepts. In previous grades students are required to take notes which have been in paragraph style, so they are familiar with recording discussions. I use Dinah Zike’s books, Notebook Foldables, and Big Book of Science to create foldable organizers to help students categorize notes they take in class. Her web site,,  has some useful information which includes an introduction to foldables (which I call flipbooks) and directions for making a few of them.

This instructional strategy becomes part of the Interactive Notebooks. When students are learning about solids, liquids, and gases, they start by folding a piece of construction paper in half on the shortest line of symmetry. They cut two lines on the front flap so there were three sections on the front of the flipbook. Each flap was labeled: solid, liquid, gas. Behind each flap they drew the particles and wrote a short description of each. For example, behind the liquid flap the students drew circles that were spread out to demonstrate the particles in a liquid, moving and free flowing but not too far apart. They added, “A liquid has a specific volume but also takes the shape of its container.” Students were then instructed to turn and talk about what they knew about liquids with a partner. The steps were repeated with each state of matter.

The great thing about flipbooks is they can be used in all subject areas! I have used them in science, social studies, and math.  Below you can see a flipbook we made while studying the Cartesian plane. The students glued a piece of graph paper on the inside and labeled the origin, x-axis, and y-axis. They were also able to plot some points on the graph paper. On the outside flaps they labeled the quadrants and whether the ordered pairs were positive or negative.

Please click the following links to see the images:

Cartesian Plane Flipbook

Cartesian Plane y / x axis

This is another example of a flipbook my students made while studying mixtures and solutions. This is a pyramid book that folds flat to fit inside the interactive notebook. As you can see, this student labeled each side of the pyramid: dilute, saturated, and concentrated. The student also included notes discussed in class about each. Flipbooks help the students organize the information so they are able to locate it during experiments and to study for tests.

The CUBE flipbook was created while studying the best way to solve word problems. As you can see, the students created 4 flaps and labeled the inside and out. In case you are interested the CUBE strategy is:

  • C- Circle the numbers.
  • U- Underline the question
  • B- Box the key words.
  • E- Eliminate extra information.

Pyramid Flipbook Cover

Pyramid Flipbook Inside

I tried using the flipbooks several years ago without the Interactive Notebook. When it was time to study or add to a flipbook some students were unable to locate them. As a result, I have the students glue each flipbook in the corresponding notebook. This prevents the flipbooks from being misplaced.

The best thing about using flipbooks in an Interactive Notebook is that my students know exactly what to study when it comes time for the test. No more pouring over the textbook and hoping they have found all the important information they need to know. It also prevents me from having to create study guides for my students since the flipbooks serve as study guides. This is a wonderful, hands-on way to get all of your students involved in learning!

~Michelle Ownby White

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