Laura Bartlett's Portfolio

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For this mini-course I wanted to create something useful for teachers across content areas to help make their instruction more engaging and meaningful for their students. I chose Interactive Student Notebooks (ISNs) to fulfill this purpose because teachers could find them intriguing and I found them very effective. During my student teaching, I was introduced to and used ISNs with 10th grade history students. I found the strategy challenging, yet engaging for the students and myself. In an effort to learn more about the strategy, understand how other teachers use it, and teach secondary teachers the promises of this strategy, I developed Understanding and Integrating Interactive Student Notebooks in the Secondary Classroom.

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Instructional problem

There is a need to develop knowledge and awareness in secondary educators of the main function and development of Interactive Student Notebooks (ISNs) in content area classrooms. Educators need to become knowledgeable about the potential ISNs hold for encouraging student achievement and deep understandings, reaching multiple intelligences, and promoting active learning across the curriculum. While immensely popular among the students and teachers who use them, ISNs have yet to be considered a "mainstream" practice. This fact has the possibility of changing if the correct instruction and knowledge about the notebooks are provided to teachers across content areas.

The nature of what is to be learned

Participants will learn the main components of Interactive Student Notebooks and how they are used in the classroom. They will learn how to implement ISNs in their classrooms and develop appropriate notebook activities to encourage student learning and engagement with teacher-provided "input" materials. Further, participants will learn about relevant theories and research that indirectly support the use of ISNs, such as teaching for understanding and teaching for multiple intelligences.

Learner profile

Participants will include secondary (7-12) content-area teachers who wish to learn more about creating engaging, meaningful instruction through the use of cutting-edge strategies that appeal to multiple intelligences and different learning styles. Participants will range in teaching experience from very little (one year or less) to significant (15 years or more). Depending on the location of learning and job placement, learners may or may not have a teaching certification. However, it is assumed that they have at least a bachelors or possibly master's degree in a content area or in education. It is likely that participants will be intrinsically motivated (wishing to better their own teaching practices for their own growth) or extrinsically motivated (wishing to better their students' achievement)to complete the course.

Instructional Content

For the sake of organization and ease of use, each unit or lesson will begin with an overview of what is to be learned, followed by instructional objectives learners will be expected to meet. Learners will be expected to participate in the course by reading lectures; reading, viewing, and listening to various types of media; and discussing issues on the course discussion board, Understanding and Integrating ISNs Discussion Space. These activities fulfill several of Gagne's (2005) suggestions for optimal online learning. He recommends that online learners be exposed to a wide variety of outside materials and also to analyze those materials to make learning more personal. He also suggests that communication is crucial to the development of "new insights and understanding" as well as higher-order thinking (p.33). The discussion space and unit/lesson activities will fulfill this purpose.

The course has been organized primarily around a belief in Problem-Based Learning (PBL), as there are several driving questions that encourage participants to look to resources to fulfill their inquiries. The design of each unit or lesson follows in this fashion, allowing participants to learn more about ISNs as other teachers and their online resources model the strategy for the participants. Darling-Hammond (2008) suggests that PBL helps learners to transfer their learning to new situations and use the information they gain more proficiently in daily practice. Because of this, participants will be asked to complete a variety of authentic tasks that encourage them to apply the principles of ISNs to their own practice.


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Throughout this course, learners will meet several objectives:

1. Given information on ISNs, their use, and the possible benefits of the strategy, participants will identify and explain how ISNs can be used effectively across the curriculum by drawing on several teachers' examples and general principles of use in the classroom.

2. Given information on the benefits of ISNs, participants will identify and explain why ISNs are powerful tools to use in content area classrooms by drawing on pertinent teaching and learning research.

3. Taking their knowledge of their content and the ISN strategy, participants will adopt the strategy by generating a unit plan rooted in the use of an ISN.

4. When planning for instructional strategies in their classrooms, participants will choose to utilize interactive notebooks with their students.


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Course Purpose

The purpose of this course is to help secondary school teachers understand how to make their subject and lessons more accessible, effective, and interesting for their students through the use of an interactive notebook in their daily classroom activities.

Unit Goals

To address specific objectives, the course will be broken down into four separate units - some with multiple lessons, each with a distinct question or purpose for participants to investigate.

Unit 1: What are Interactive Student Notebooks?

This unit will provide a short overview of ISNs and their history, including the components of a notebook and how notebooks are set up for learning.

At the end of this unit, participants will:

  • Explain how ISNs differ from traditional notebooks across content area classrooms by completing the lesson's discussion assignment.
  • Identify the main components of ISNs in a discussion post by reviewing and evaluating teachers' different presentations on ISNs in their classrooms.

Unit 2: How are Interactive Student Notebooks Used in the Classroom?

A series of three lessons in this unit will provide participants with a deeper understanding of ISN set-up, input and output activities, and typical types of assessments for ISNs. The goal of this unit is for participants to actually "see" how ISNs are used in different classrooms. Several examples will be provided on how ISNs can be used across the curriculum.

Lesson 1: Setting up the ISN
At the end of this lesson, participants will:
  • Explain how ISN organizational structures can vary across content areas by completing the lesson's discussion assignment.
  • Evaluate different ISN set-up strategies by analyzing teacher examples and completing the lesson's discussion assignment.
  • Generate an example worksheet or video detailing how to set up an ISN in their classroom
Lesson 2: Creating and Utilizing Input and Output Activities
At the end of this lesson, participants will:
  • Differentiate between input and output activities in ISNs by completing the lesson's discussion assignment.
  • Generate an input/output activity for their content area, explaining why the activity would be effective.
Lesson 3: Assessing the ISN
At the end of this lesson, participants will:
  • Identify the pros and cons associated with different types of ISN assessment by completing the lesson's discussion assignment.
  • Choose the best method of ISN assessment for their classroom by generating an assessment philosophy including their stance on holistic assessment, student self-assessment, and the use of rubrics.

Unit 3: Why Use Interactive Student Notebooks?

This unit will provide participants with research-based reasons for using ISNs in their own classrooms, drawing off of pertinent learning theories such as brain-based teaching/learning, Multiple Intelligences, and .

At the end of this unit, participants will:

  • Identify and explain why ISNs are powerful learning tools, building off of their knowledge of learning research, in a 200-word discussion post.
  • Generate a presentation intended to persuade parents/teachers/students/administrators to adopt the ISN strategy by using relevant teaching and learning research as a justification.

Unit 4: Personal Implementation: ISNs in Your Classroom

This unit is mainly activity-based. It will give participants an opportunity to work with the content of the previous lessons to develop a unit of study based in an interactive notebook, eventually intended for developmental try-out by their students.

At the end of this unit, participants will:

  • Generate a unit of study in their content area (by either modifying an existing unit or creating a new one) based in an ISN by creating several input/output activities, an assessment, and a justification for the activities chosen.

Prerequisite Skills

Essential Prerequisites

Participants will need to possess:

  • A general knowledge of the content area to be taught
  • A familiarity with students' interests and abilities
  • At least some classroom teaching experience
  • An understanding of different ways of teaching, learning, and assessing

Supportive Prerequisites

This course will be more effective and useful for those participants who:

  • Have an interest in improving their classroom instruction
  • Wish to modify existing lessons to make them more engaging and interactive
  • Have an interest in organizing their instruction in a new way
  • Have prior knowledge of multiple intelligences
  • Are intrinsically-motivated to complete an online course


Check mark.gif Instructional Curriculum Map

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Check mark.gif Resources and General References

Armstrong, T. (2000). Multiple intelligences in the classroom (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Bower, B., Lobdell, J. & Swenson, L. (1999). History alive! Engaging all learners in the diverse classroom. Teacher's Curriculum Institute.

Caine, R.N & Caine, G. (1991). Making connections: teaching and the human brain. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Darling-Hammond, L. et al. (2008). Powerful learning: what we know about teaching for understanding. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Endacott, J. (2007). Social studies interactive notebooks: helping to meet the needs of middle school students. Social Studies Research and Practice, 2(1), 128-138. Online: http://www.socstrp.org/issues/PDF/2.1.13.pdf

Gagne, R.M., Wager, W.W., Golas, K.C. & Keller, J.M. (2005). Principles of instructional design (5th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadworth/Thomson Learning.

Gregory, G.H. & Herndon, L.E. (2010). Differentiated instructional strategies for the block schedule. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Kaufeldt, M. (2010). Begin with the Brain: orchestrating the learner-centered classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Marcarelli, K. & Bybee, R. (2010). Teaching science with interactive notebooks. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Waldman, C. & Crippen, K.J. (2009). Integrating interactive notebooks. The Science Teacher. 76(1), p. 51-55.

Wist, C.(2001). Putting it all together: understanding the research behind interactive notebooks. Paper presented at William and Mary college, online at: [1]

Wolfe, P. (2001). Brain matters: translating research into classroom practice. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Young, J. (2003). Science interactive notebooks in the classroom. Science Scope. 26(4), p. 44-47

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