Dear students, teachers, and parents,

The SHS administration, in consultation with the school Leadership Team, is implementing a school wide plan to improve student success.    The plan represents the key academic initiatives and focus for Smithfield High School.  The goal is improved academic achievement.  Administration reviewed all pertinent classroom data, achievement data, and regulatory requirements in developing the plan.    It emphasizes well known and effective practices supported by best practice and research that if reinforced consistently and reliably will improve student success.  The plan will also simultaneously meet the goals of any current and future outside agency goals, including the new teacher evaluation system.
            One aspect of this plan is the interactive notebook.  Some students and teachers have questioned the use of the interactive notebook as a strategy for success.   I would like to share some thoughts on the interactive notebook and why it will be used as a school wide strategy this year. 
            Note taking is an extremely important skill that students will utilize in college.  Research demonstrates that:
  •        Students have to analyze information at a deep level in order to decide what information to delete, what to substitute, and what to keep when they are asked to give a summary (Anderson, V., & Hidi, 1988/1989; Hidi & Anderson, 1987).
  • ·         Notes should be in both linguistic and nonlinguistic forms, including idea webs, sketches, informal outlines, and combinations of words and schematics; and, the more notes, the better (Nye, Crooks, Powlie, & Tripp, 1984).
  • ·         When students review and revise their own notes, the notes become more meaningful and useful (Anderson & Armbruster, 1986; Denner, 1986; Einstein, Morris, & Smith, 1985).

The purpose of the interactive notebook is to enable students to be creative, independent thinkers and writers. Interactive notebooks are used for class notes as well as for other activities where the student will be asked to express his/her own ideas and process the information presented in class.

 Interactive notebooks engage students:
·         Students use both their visual and linguistic intelligences. The left side of the notebook allows visual learners to use their best medium to explore and share ideas, and encourages non-visual learners to become more proficient with graphic approaches in a nonthreatening way. Both types of learners will work with their writing skills.
·         Note taking becomes an active process. These notebooks invite students to become engaged in their learning. Students will spend some time passively recording ideas from a lecture or the board, but most of their time doing something with ideas-putting them into their own words, searching for implication or assumptions, transforming words into visuals, finding the main point of a political cartoon, etc. This is especially true of the left side of the notebook, which is reserved for their active exploration of ideas.
·         Notebooks help students to systematically organize as they learn. With the teacher’s encouragement, students can use their notebooks to record ideas about every activity they engage in during a unit. Student may use a variety of organization techniques-topic headings, colored highlights, and different writing styles-to synthesize concepts and make coherence of what they learn. The notebook permits assignments to be kept together in a regular place and in logical order.
·   
     
Notebooks become a portfolio on individual learning. These personal, creative notebooks become a record of each student’s growth. The teacher, students, and even parents can review a student’s progress in writing, illustrating, recording, thinking, and organization skills.
            Some students have commented that interactive notebooks work well in social studies and English but do not work for other subjects.  I disagree.  Let’s take a look a science for example. 
Science Interactive Notebooks are important for many reasons.  The first is that writing is an integral part of the process of learning science.  By using notebooks, students model one of the most vital and enduring functions of scientists in all disciplines – recording information, figures, and data.  Scientists across the world record their observations, data, and conclusions, as well as comments on their research, readings and reflections.  They rely on their notes, figures and diagrams when sharing their findings with colleagues and when preparing papers to share their work with the scientific community.  The notebooks of famous scientists such as Galileo and Einstein have become part of the world’s cultural heritage.
            A second reason for maintaining a Science Interactive Notebook is that it provides the student with a ready reference for each unit as well as a resource to consult when reviewing materials at the end of the unit.  The notebook is also a means of communicating with the teacher and parents/guardians. 
Keeping a notebook enhances students’ writing skills.  It gives them practice in organizing material and in expressing themselves clearly.  At the same time, notebook writing can encourage students to connect science with other areas of the curriculum.  A Science Interactive Notebook also encourages creativity.  Extensions in the notebook can include any of the following; Venn diagrams; flow charts; t-charts; bar graphs; drawings; stories; songs; and notes from research on any given topic.
            Another advantage of the notebook is that they get students more involved in science.  Students assume ownership of their notebooks.  Students are required to bring their notebooks with them to science class daily, to add work and review their notes.  With each new entry, their sense of pride in what they have accomplished grows.  Their confidence in science learning, as well as in their overall knowledge and skills, also grows.  They are becoming life-long learners.
            Lastly, the science notebook offers the teacher a unique means of assessing student progress in the classroom.  The notebook, beginning with the first lesson of the unit and continuing to its conclusion, is a tool that can be used to assess the growth in students’ understanding of science as well as in their ability to summarize and express their thoughts and feelings.
            One last idea in regards to note taking in science comes from Doug Reeves (2008) book Reframing Teacher Leadership to Improve Your School.   In schools where writing and note taking were rarely implemented in science classes, approximately 25 percent of students scored proficient or higher in state assessments.  But in schools where writing and note taking were consistently implemented by science teachers, 79 percent scored at proficient level. 
            In the end, this interactive notebook strategy puts together aspects of what students and teachers are supposed to be doing already.
1.  Utilizing an essential question daily
2.  Ensuring students copy down important notes and listen critically to peers
3.  Processing in writing that they understand the objective for the day
4.  Filtering the information through their own lens and making it their own
5.  Providing closure to a lesson
6.  Checking for Understanding
The administrative team looks forward to working with students and teachers to implement this strategy.  We will continue to provide any support necessary to ensure this strategy is put into our daily practice. 
Sources:
Focus – Mike Schmoker
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