Lesson 2: Creating and Utilizing Input and Output Activities



Now that you have analyzed and evaluated the most effective methods for notebook setup and introduction, it is time to move on to perhaps the most important part of this mini-course: learning how to use the crucial right side/left side, input and output activities in the Interactive Student Notebook on a daily basis in your classroom. Each activity has a distinct purpose in the learning process. While the first unit introduced you to this basic principle of ISNs, this lesson will provide you with in-depth information on how to do this successfully in your own classroom. Different teachers use these activities and different ways and it will be up to you to determine the most effective ways for you. However, universally, when implemented effectively, ISN activities can increase understanding and transform teaching into something that is co-owned by teacher and student.

Throughout this lesson, it will do you well to recall and reflect upon the following information, as learned in previous units/lessons:

  • The basic principles of ISNs


At the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Differentiate between input and output activities in ISNs
  • Identify and explain characteristics of effective output activities
  • Generate an input/output activities for your content area, explaining why the activities would be effective


Discussing, crafting, and implementing input and output activities are essentially the "meat" of using Interactive Student Notebooks. Without these activities, the other characteristics and benefits of ISNs are only "showy" features in regular notebooks. As you complete this lecture and read through teachers' short articles and website examples, remember the most basic principle of ISNs: the right side/left side orientation. Before moving on, review: what does this orientation mean?

In crafting input and output sections of the ISN, decisions on these activities and types of learning largely rest with individual teachers. No two teachers will have the same types of activities included in their notebooks, just as no two students will produce the same types of products. Although personal choice plays a huge factor in creating these activities, teachers must consider a few general rules and questions as they generate them. As you look through some of the examples below, ask these questions of each teacher's activities. Some of these questions/rules include:

  • Engagement Are these activities going to encourage student engagement in the lesson?
The goal of most instruction is to keep students engaged in the material to provide for deeper learning; instruction with the ISN :is no different. In other words, effective instruction should be a model in the creation of effective activities.
  • Challenge Are these activities going to make students think deeply about the lesson and topic at hand?
Remember, the goal of any instruction is to help students build deep understandings of the topics being taught. ISN activities :need to encourage this type of thinking and mean more to students than just "busy work."
  • Choice Am I going to allow for choice in the completion of output activities?
How will choice affect students' engagement, learning, and use of ISNs? How will it affect your own instructional and assessment practices?

While formal "peer-reviewed" research is limited on input/output activities, and ISNs in general, an online community of educators has much to offer you as you seek to better understand "input" and "output" and use ISNs in your classroom. Read the articles and browse the websites below to access a sample of this rich informational network. When finished viewing the sites, discuss the questions below with your classmates on the class discussion board Understanding and Integrating ISNs Discussion Space.

Readings and Examples

  • File:Integrating Interactive Notebooks.pdf This article provides somewhat of a different setup of input (referred to as through activities) and output (referred to as in and out activities) activities, but follows the same general ISN principles. Read pgs. 51-52 to acquire an overview of different notebook activities.
  • Mr. Saunders' ISN Activities Explore this site to examine some of the typical input activities this teacher provides for his social studies students as well as view almost endless examples of output activities associated with those inputs. This site provides a concrete example of ISNs "in action."
  • Mr. Greer's Left Side Activities This short webpage created by a teacher who uses ISNs provides simple, succinct suggestions for and examples of output activities.
  • Mr. Roughton's Activities While Mr. Roughton does not use ISNs, he uses the typical input/output principles in his classroom. Explore his assignments and sample activities to uncover more types of "output" students can engage with.


Visit Understanding and Integrating ISNs Discussion Space and in a 200-word discussion post, reflect on and answer the following questions. Read each of your classmates' posts and comment on at least two. Continue the discussion until the close of the lesson. Remember the goal of these discussions is to foster deeper understandings and personal meaning with the content. Your active participation is important in order to reach these goals.

1.Pen-explain.jpgExplain the most important aspects of input and output activities. How do they differ from each other? Which is more important?

2Reflecting.jpgReflect. In your opinion, which of the activities created by the teachers above would be the most effective for student learning? Why?

3.Lightbulb-idea.jpgPredict what difficulties you might face in the planning and implementation of these daily activities. Why might you have these difficulties?


Now that you have discussed and explored the possibilities for input and output activities in ISNs across the curriculum, it is your turn to design some of these activities yourself. Develop at least two paired input and output activities you would consider using with your students during a certain unit in your set curriculum. Feel free to revisit and analyze the examples above to give you some inspiration for this task.

As you design your examples, consider the following essential questions:

  • How will I use choice in my activities? (or, will I use choice?)
  • Are my input activities providing students with relevant information?
  • Are my output activities actually making the students think? Are they doing something other than reorganizing the information I gave them?
  • Will students enjoy completing these activities?

When you have completed this task, post your activities on the discussion tab of this page. Following each set of activities, provide a short justification of why you believe the activity would be effective. It will be helpful for you to view your classmates' work to gain a greater understanding of the material.


Continue to Unit 2, Lesson 3: Assessing the ISN

Return to Unit 2, Lesson 1: Setting up the ISN

Return to course homepage Understanding and Integrating Interactive Student Notebooks in the Secondary Classroom

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