Five Reasons To Use Physical Notebooks In Your Digital Classroom

Notebook about Graphs

When I think back to what I remember learning about most in school, I think about faults in 6th grade and genetics in high school. Those two topics had something in common – both teachers drew everything and actually taught in class. I wasn’t overwhelmed by how many words I had to read or feeling like I had to rush because the teacher was going to move on to the next slide too quickly. 

When I realized this, I quickly implemented interactive notebooks in my middle school classes. My students draw, write, listen, and use color when they learn something new.  Of course we do other things but when it comes down to what I want them to put in their notebooks, we draw. 

And then school shut down.

Chart showing eye color and dominance of the trait

Then COVID hit and my classes went completely virtual. Suddenly I felt swamped and overwhelmed by so many digital notebook options. I love tech, and constantly implement it in my classroom, but I chose to continue using my interactive notebooks as normal – drawing and writing. It was totally possible and effective with my laptop and a doc cam. 

These are five reasons you should definitely use physical interactive notebooks in your digital classroom!

1. They take no prep time! 

I made so many Powerpoints my first few years of teaching, spending at least an hour (if not more) on the most perfect slides. Then I’d spend all day teaching that same Powerpoint. When I use an interactive notebook to draw and write, I spend almost zero prep time because I teach live with students. 

2. Students are more likely to follow along (and understand). 

When you create notebooks with students, you’re writing and drawing with them. You emphasize what is important by how you lay out your notebook. Adding small drawings or diagrams creates another layer of understanding when they reference their notes. Which students will really draw pictures you add to a Powerpoint?? I don’t think so. 

3. Students are so tactile. 

A physical notebook gives students something they can touch! While digital options are awesome and only getting better, a paper interactive notebook is something they can pick up, open, and flip through. Since it’s not on a screen (that they’re probably sharing with 5 other tabs), they can access it easier.

4. Drawing and writing help students process and learn information differently. 

Did you know drawing actually makes you remember something better? The way your brain processes information through the movement increases memory! 

5. It works! 

A couple years ago, my previous years 7th graders went on their 8th grade trip to California. One of the chaperones came back and said he was so impressed – the kids answered all the instructors questions and even offered up more information about tides. When he asked the students where they learned so much, they responded, “Miss H’s class last year.” WHAT?! Isn’t it every teacher’s dream to hear that? Why do I think they remembered? Because we drew it in our interactive notebooks! As we talked about it, we drew it. They actively participated! 

Notes comparing independent and dependent variables using plants and different amounts of salt water.

I’m a huge fan of interactive notebooks. When we went digital, I panicked for a minute. I wasn’t sure what to do. But then I realized all these amazing reasons why paper notebooks are so great!  Not an artist? No problem. Just give it a shot. I always tell my students, “This is not an art project.” Your student will take your lead and try their best too. 

One more thing. Don’t think I’m over here ragging on digital interactive notebooks. I love them! They are great tools and definitely have a place in the digital classroom. I just don’t want you to forget a super awesome low tech tool you have at your fingertips. 

Digital Learning, Middle School, Notebooks, Uncategorized
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