What Is Interactive Notetaking? - Ideas By Jivey: For the Classroom

What Is Interactive Notetaking?

Interactive notetaking is the BEST way to get information to "sink in" for your students. I first learned about it five years ago at a staff development session and never looked back. Give it a try with your students, and I bet you'll feel the same- especially when you see how much they ENJOY it!

If you do a search on the internet for this topic, you will find that there are all different types of strategies. I am going to share the one that has worked for me in my classroom. In my room, we use colored pencils to key our paragraphs, then we use those same colors to write phrases and draw pictures that represent the important information learned in a passage. I LOVE using this strategy in science and social studies, but you could use it in any subject! It is really just a fancy way of doing close reading. :o)

Interactive notetaking is active learning because it helps students understand what is important in a text and allows them to represent what is important in their own way. It also helps students use BOTH parts of their brain!
Interactive notetaking strategy with Ideas by Jivey.
The left brain "controls" the right side, and the right brain "controls" the left side. For this reason, anything I give them gets glued on the right side of the notebook- this is the "control." And anything they write or draw goes on the left side of the notebook- this is their "connection and creativity."

Interactive notetaking strategy with Ideas by Jivey.

Color is VERY important with interactive notetaking. Students will box each paragraph with a different color. As they read, paragraph by paragraph, they should use the color of THAT paragraph to represent what they have learned. I highly recommend colored pencils- markers bleed, and crayons are hard to read when they start getting rounded ends. I have my students keep a handheld pencil sharpener with a shavings catcher at their desk- this keeps them from jamming my nice electric ones, and from getting up and down to sharpen. (They sharpen every five minutes at first, but then once they realize they are "eating" their pencils, the novelty wears off and they only use it when necessary!)

The first several weeks of school (and even sometimes later in the year when I really want to make sure they understand what they are reading), we do interactive notetaking together. Once I see they have the hang of it, I let them work in partners to read, dissect, and represent their passage. This is one of their favorite activities, and little do they know, they are learning so much by talking about what they are going to write/draw and why!

Sometimes there are more words and phrases than drawings. It depends on the topic.
Interactive notetaking strategy with Ideas by Jivey.

You can find great {free} articles on k12reader.com on several science, social studies, and math topics (the two examples above are from there)- and they are sorted by grade level readability! You could do this with any article, of course.

**Copy Hack: If the page is too big for the notebook, copy it at 85%, cut off the white edges on the bottom and side, and BOOM. Perfect fit!**

We sometimes use annotating symbols as we do interactive notetaking, too. You'll see in the passage below, I had them draw a cloud around tricky words, then we defined them in the margins.

Using annotating symbols in interactive notetaking with Ideas by Jivey.
Get this Columbus Passage and Organizer for free!
You can also see above that this can be done with a graphic organizer! Students are guided to find information in their passage, and they use the color to show where the information came from.

Once students have finished their notes, they should be able to read back what they have learned. I have them sit with a partner and talk in complete sentences to summarize the notes they have drawn and written on the left side of their notebook.

This is also a great study tool. When we do interactive notetaking, my students are required to take home their notebook that night... they fold their notebook in half so that they can see their notes and a parent or older sibling can see the article. They should do just as they did in class and summarize their notes- and the person on the other side of the notebook should be able to follow along in the article, so they know if the child is not understanding.

Need passages? Check out the freebies in my store, as well as the complete sets!

I'm linking this up with another fabulous blogger and teacher- Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching! Interactive notetaking is absolutely a motivator for students... who wants to just "sit and get?" Not me! My students absorb so much using this strategy!
Do you have any fun notetaking strategies you use? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!


  1. Excellent article! My son's teacher does this for reading comprehension. I love that it is connected to brain research. Thank you for sharing!

  2. We do this for editing in writing (each color represents a part of the rubric and students color code by checking off, circling or underlining evidence to correspond with the sections of the rubric). I love the idea of carrying this over to reading too! Thanks for the great idea. We annotate during close reading but have never tried interactive notetaking. I love it!

    Wild About Fifth

  3. Great ideas! I want to implement Interactive notebooks this year with my small language groups. I love the idea of how to use colored pencils with the graphic organizer.

    My Bright Blue House

  4. My students LOVE using the colored pencils for interactive note-taking too! I started it two years ago after you blogged about it and it's a win-win for my students and me! Thank you for linking up and sharing a MUST DO in our classroom, especially with non-fiction reading material. xoxo
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

  5. I love the idea of adding color! So simple and yet so effective! I also love the rationale for using the left and right sides of the notebook. Thank you so much for sharing!!

  6. We have our kids use a highlighter to find important information. I like the use of different colors to differentiate ideas and concepts. Thanks for sharing your practices.


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