Interactive Student Notebooks are not just for lower grades. They are extremely beneficial for high school students if we implement them mindfully. They are valuable organizational tools and provide tangible visual learning opportunities. Click through for frequently asked questions and answers about using ISNs in the high school classroom.

Most high school teachers have strong opinions about Interactive Student Notebooks (ISNs). They either love them or hate them. They see the benefit of using them or they see them as too juvenile and a time drain.

Students are the same. When first trying to implement them a few years ago, I heard the common complaint from students, "Why can't we just get a three-ring binder and a three-way hole punch? It would be so much faster."

I'm going to answer that question for you, as well as a series of other frequently asked questions that I get about ISNs in high school. But if you have no idea what ISNs are, you might want to start with this video, and then come back to this post. I promise, ISNs are worth at least considering.

Q: Why are you still doing paper ISNs when your school is 1:1? Isn't that a waste of paper and time?

A: I implement Blended ISNs mindfully. This means that I take the best of both formats and merge them. Research has shown the benefits of interacting with physical materials and the positive effects of writing, coloring, and doodling on memory. In digital format, many of these benefits are lost--especially in note-taking. My friend and colleague, Math Giraffe, has written an excellent blog post about these benefits and the problems with going completely paperless.

Q: How do students stay organized going back and forth between digital and paper? That sounds confusing.

A: It's not confusing if we plan upfront and implement it mindfully. I use a table of contents for each unit to keep everyone on the same digital and traditional page. I divide it into three columns, "Paper, Concepts, and Digital." I organize my digital platform (i.e. Google Classroom, Blackboard, etc.) by unit, so all students have to do is click on the appropriate unit to find the digital resources they need. Here is an example of one of my blended table of contents (always the first page of every unit in my ISNs):
Interactive Student Notebooks are not just for lower grades. They are extremely beneficial for high school students if we implement them mindfully. They are valuable organizational tools and provide tangible visual learning opportunities. Click through for frequently asked questions and answers about using ISNs in the high school classroom.
Be sure to download my free Blended Interactive Notebook Handbook here.

Q: Why do you waste time cutting and gluing when it's so much faster to use a three-ring binder and a three-way hole punch?

Interactive Student Notebooks are not just for lower grades. They are extremely beneficial for high school students if we implement them mindfully. They are valuable organizational tools and provide tangible visual learning opportunities. Click through for frequently asked questions and answers about using ISNs in the high school classroom.A: I've tried it both ways, and the cutting and gluing works best, especially for students who struggle with organization. Here are reasons why:
1. They can't take the papers out, so they don't lose them.
2. It's nice to be able to say, "Turn to unit 3, page 5," and everybody has the same thing there. Papers have a tendency to move around or become lost in a three-ring binder.
3. Students take ownership of these--they become their creation. They have built it. In building it, they are more likely to be aware of contents and more familiar with the material.

Read on to find out how I avoid making the cutting and gluing a waste of time.

Q: When do you give the handouts to the students? 

A: I give students most of the handouts on the day we begin the unit. I have a table in my classroom where I place handouts, and students pick them up when they enter. My desks are set up in groups of four, and each group has a box containing scissors and glue. Here is how I set up my classroom and free desk labels.

Q: Do students have an empty notebook where they glue all the handouts? 

A: I tell students to purchase a large 100 to 200 page spiral notebook. By large, I mean 8.5 x 10 or 11. They can go smaller, but then they have to trim pages. I keep all of this from wasting time by teaching them how to put it all together at the beginning of the semester. Then, any day we begin a unit, I set a timer for 15 minutes because I have found they will take all the time I give them and if I don't give them a time-limit, they will drag it out. So all of the class time I give them to set up each unit is 15 minutes. Here is a great timer to use. 

At the start of a unit, the first thing I have students do is to look at the table of contents (always on page 1) of each unit. They go ahead and number each page in their notebooks right away to "hold" pages for handouts they may be getting another day (such as more complicated foldables we will put together as a class--I use these sparingly and, again, mindfully).

Q: Aren't ISNs more for elementary and middle school?

A: The ones that are made for elementary and middle-schoolers are. A high school ISN will have coloring and foldables, too (though mine aren't heavy on foldables--I use ISNs more as an organizational tool), but the content is geared for high school. 

We are trying to help our students' learn, and the research says that visual note-taking, doodling, and coloring help them to process the information better. Here is a video (again, from my friend Math Giraffe) that explains this phenomenon. 

These are a couple of examples I implement instead of traditional worksheets or digital content to help students visualize and better understand concepts:
Interactive Student Notebooks are not just for lower grades. They are extremely beneficial for high school students if we implement them mindfully. They are valuable organizational tools and provide tangible visual learning opportunities. Click through for frequently asked questions and answers about using ISNs in the high school classroom.
Preview this resource HERE.

Interactive Student Notebooks are not just for lower grades. They are extremely beneficial for high school students if we implement them mindfully. They are valuable organizational tools and provide tangible visual learning opportunities. Click through for frequently asked questions and answers about using ISNs in the high school classroom.
Preview this resource HERE.
Q: Do students glue the bellringers in their notebooks? How do you check their bellringers and other work? 

A: I think routine and consistency are important, so I have students glue bellringers into page 4 of each unit in their ISN. I walk around the room during the bellringer and initial pages (homework or classwork) for on-time completion. At the end of every unit, on test day, I take up their ISNs and grade the unit using a rubric (students glue it onto p. 2 of each unit). This is tedious at first, but it becomes very fast once you get used to it. I haven't taken a box of these notebooks home in years. The grading and feedback of the ISN are important because it ensures students keep up with them.

Q: Do students turn-in any work at all to you or does everything go in the notebooks?


A: Most things go in the ISN, but projects, exit tickets, and digital assignments are turned in directly to me. As I said, I initial assignments for completion when they are due to keep students on track, but I grade everything on test day using the rubric, which is glued into their notebooks. Here is a sample rubric:
Interactive Student Notebooks are not just for lower grades. They are extremely beneficial for high school students if we implement them mindfully. They are valuable organizational tools and provide tangible visual learning opportunities. Click through for frequently asked questions and answers about using ISNs in the high school classroom.

Do you use interactive notebooks in high school? If so, how do you implement them? If not, what are your reasons? Leave a comment and let me know!

And if you're looking to dig deeper into blending and ISNs, check out my course here.

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QR Codes may seem like old news to many teachers. But there are so many more ways to use them than just linking to websites. Teachers can embed text and images within QR Codes to create a more interactive classroom. Click through to discover 10 creative ideas for using QR Codes in the classroom. Don't forget to download the Cheat Sheet and the editable templates!

These days QR Codes are old news, and in 1:1 classrooms, they may seem redundant. Why not just share the link digitally with students?

But there are so many ways to use QR Codes in the classroom besides linking to websites that can really spice up your lessons and make learning more interactive. You can hide questions and answer keys within QR Codes. You can also hide pictures and further information on a given topic.

Below I'm going to give you ten suggestions for using QR Codes to make your lessons more interactive. I'm also going to give you a free template for making a fun scavenger hunt with QR Codes. But first, I want to show you a super easy way to create them using Google Sheets and a free add-on.

Make QR Codes in Five Free and Easy Steps

Step 1: Open a Google Sheet.
Step 2: Get the free QR Code Generator add-on.
Step 3: Type what you want hidden in the QR Code into a cell.
Step 4: Highlight that cell and open the QR Code Generator.
Step 5: Select the format you want the QR Code in (a doc, an image, etc...).

QR Codes may seem like old news to many teachers. But there are so many more ways to use them than just linking to websites. Teachers can embed text and images within QR Codes to create a more interactive classroom. Click through to discover 10 creative ideas for using QR Codes in the classroom. Don't forget to download the Cheat Sheet and the editable templates!

QR Codes may seem like old news to many teachers. But there are so many more ways to use them than just linking to websites. Teachers can embed text and images within QR Codes to create a more interactive classroom. Click through to discover 10 creative ideas for using QR Codes in the classroom. Don't forget to download the Cheat Sheet and the editable templates!

And now for some fun things you can do with your new powers....

10 Ways to Use QR Codes to Build An Interactive Classroom

1. Round-Robin Discussion Starters

After delivering a lesson, place students in groups of four. Give each group an envelope containing four QR Codes. Instruct each student to randomly draw a QR Code, scan the code, and take two minutes to jot down their responses to the question or prompt that the QR Code obscured. They don't
QR Codes may seem like old news to many teachers. But there are so many more ways to use them than just linking to websites. Teachers can embed text and images within QR Codes to create a more interactive classroom. Click through to discover 10 creative ideas for using QR Codes in the classroom. Don't forget to download the Cheat Sheet and the editable templates!
This Item Is A Part of My Active Learning Pack
talk during this part. When their time is up, give them 10 minutes to have a round-robin discussion, each student focusing on their prompt or question.

Tips: 
  • Type the instructions and glue them to each envelope. 
  • Write first in the cell of one of the QR Codes when you generate it to ensure the students don't waste time deciding who starts the conversation and instruct them to go clockwise from there.
  • Use the timer and traffic lights on classroomscreen.com to keep everything moving. Here's a tutorial for using classroom screen.
2. Activity Cubes

Hide activities inside QR Codes, and glue them to the sides of dice. 
    QR Codes may seem like old news to many teachers. But there are so many more ways to use them than just linking to websites. Teachers can embed text and images within QR Codes to create a more interactive classroom. Click through to discover 10 creative ideas for using QR Codes in the classroom. Don't forget to download the Cheat Sheet and the editable templates!
  • Place students in groups and have each group roll the dice to decide what they will do.
  • Place a different cube in four corners of your room, each for different learning styles. Place an activity obscured by a QR Code on each side of the cube that has to do with that learning style. Instruct students to go to the corner of the room that represents how they feel they learn best, and roll the die to see what they need to do. For example, in the kinesthetic corner, the cube could have (1) act out the story/event and record it, (2) mime your vocabulary and record it (3) make a model of a scene/event (4) create a card sort with people/characters/places/vocabulary (5) make a map of a book/place (6) mimic the poses of portraits/photographs/literary descriptions, and take pictures.
  • Use the above as station activities for various topics.
  • Roll a reward--when students are rewarded, have them roll the die and scan the QR Code to see what they won (homework pass, restroom pass, sit where you want for a day, free quiz answer, extra points on an assignment, extra xp [if you gamify], candy)....
Tip:
  • Order foam dice from Amazon. Don't worry about getting blank ones (they are more expensive), as you will be covering them up.
3. Answer Keys for Self-Guided Work

For station or group work, embed the answer key or suggested answers in a QR Code on the handout. As students finish, instruct them to check themselves and reflect on why they missed the questions they did.

Tips:
  • If your students are prone to changing their answers so they don't have to reflect, instruct them to write in pen.
  • If your students will scan the QR Codes and simply copy the answers, put the answer keys on separate cards that they will not get until they show you their completed work, or have them check their phones and devices until a certain amount of time has elapsed. If you are circulating the room, you'll have a good idea of who is actually working.
4. Project Exemplars

Whenever a student hands in an excellent project, take a clear, well-lighted picture of it. Save the pictures on a secret board on pinterest. Right click the image, select "copy image address," and paste it into a cell in Google Sheets to generate a QR Code. Include a QR Code of relevant project examples on project handouts.

Tip:
  • If your school blocks pinterest, load the images to a Google Site and grab the links from the published site, or use this method on Dropbox:
QR Codes may seem like old news to many teachers. But there are so many more ways to use them than just linking to websites. Teachers can embed text and images within QR Codes to create a more interactive classroom. Click through to discover 10 creative ideas for using QR Codes in the classroom. Don't forget to download the Cheat Sheet and the editable templates!
Download The Cheat Sheet HERE.

5. Make Interactive Bulletin Boards and Posters

Add QR Codes to your posters and bulletin boards to direct students to films, images, music, or readings about the topic.

6. Virtual Tours and Gallery Walks

Set up a virtual tour or gallery walk inside your classroom using QR Codes. For example, each corner of your room could be dedicated to a specific country. You could post QR Codes that lead to Google Maps, pictures, music, and other relevant information from that place.

7. Jigsaw Learning and Review

Jig-Saw Reading is a tried and true method for covering a lot of information in a brief amount of time. Type page numbers into a Google Sheet and generate the QR Codes on a doc. Cut up the doc, and give each student or group a QR Code. They scan the code to find out what their part is.

Likewise each student or group could get a QR Code that leads them to a video or a reading over a specific topic (say a particular unit for end of term review) that they then will present to the class.

8. Pick Your Own Path

QR Codes may seem like old news to many teachers. But there are so many more ways to use them than just linking to websites. Teachers can embed text and images within QR Codes to create a more interactive classroom. Click through to discover 10 creative ideas for using QR Codes in the classroom. Don't forget to download the Cheat Sheet and the editable templates!This is like Choose Your Own Adventure and it requires more effort on the teacher's part if you come up with a different scenario for each potential choice."Make choice 1 and scan this QR Code. Make choice 2 and scan this QR Code."

But how about having students create their own using your guidance? I'll use history as an example, but you could do this with character choices in novels or short stories, too.
  • Pick a historical example, and think of a series of choices that led to a certain point. Think of one counter choice for each decision. For example, "Henry VIII has a choice. The pope has refused his request for an annulment of his marriage with Catherine of Aragon."
  • The two choices could be (1) obey the pope and stay with Catherine OR (2) leave the Church and divorce Catherine.
  • Place a QR Code beneath each choice with pros and cons of each decision. Instruct students to select one of the choices, scan the QR Code to read the pros and cons, and construct their own scenario of what happened based on that decision.
  • Have students share their scenarios with the class and compare their scenarios to what actually happened.
Tips:
  • If you use this to introduce a topic, after students present, give a presentation or show a short film about what actually happened. Give students a Venn Diagram to compare their scenario to the actual event.
  • This can also be used to review a topic. It's interesting here, because students who paid attention generally (though not always) select what really happened. This is a good opportunity for students who missed something to clarify and review.
  • Save student scenarios to create one big Pick Your Own Path review for exams, embedding student scenarios in the QR Code for each choice.
9. The Take-Away

This is a spin on the exit ticket. At the end of class, post three QR Codes near the door, or project them on your screen. Post one for "I Got It!", one for "I Kind of Got It", and another for "What Did We Just Learn?"

"I Got It" could lead to a fun Gif. "I Kind of Got It" could lead to a form where they can explain their confusion. "What Did We Just Learn?" could lead to a summary of the lesson.

QR Codes may seem like old news to many teachers. But there are so many more ways to use them than just linking to websites. Teachers can embed text and images within QR Codes to create a more interactive classroom. Click through to discover 10 creative ideas for using QR Codes in the classroom. Don't forget to download the Cheat Sheet and the editable templates!
Grab This Editable Template.
10. The Trusty Scavenger Hunt

I've blogged about this one before, but that was in terms of using it for a lengthy exam review. I also like to use these for review over shorter topics. It's way more fun for the students that a worksheet.

I type a series of questions into a Google Sheet (being sure to number them), generate a doc with the questions as QR Codes, cut them up, and hide them around the school or my classroom. Students scan the code, and answer the questions on the numbered answer grid I provide. 

I have a template for this. I like it because I type the questions into the template, copy and paste them into the spreadsheet, generate the QR Codes as images, and then insert them into the next page of the template. Then I have two options for implementing the hunt--with or without QR Codes.

You can grab the simple, editable template here for use in your classroom.

Do you use QR Codes in your classroom? How do you use them? Leave a comment and let me know!

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