ISN for the Win

Have you ever seen one of those episodes of Oprah where she gives everyone in her audience a few of her favorite things? I’m talking about anything from “Here’s my new favorite skillet to scramble eggs in” all the way to “Here’s my favorite car!”

While it’s been years since I’ve even seen a clip of one of those shows, the idea has stuck with me. One time, I even did a smaller version of this for a girlfriends’ get-together (trust me, my version looked a lot more like gifting my favorite chapstick and ink pen brands and less like my favorite car or TV, but the basic concept was the same). LOL

Well, that is how I feel about a few of the things this little teacher has incorporated into her classroom. In a previous post, I shared my love for choice boards (another of my favorite things), but today, it’s all about the ISN.

Animal Cell ISN page

The Interactive Student Notebook (or “ISN”) is one of the coolest things we do in our science, math, and language classes. Our version of the ISN is simply a blank composition book reserved for only our most important notes for a particular subject.

For math, it would be the place where we keep our most important formulas and a few sample problems. For English, it would house things like grammar rules and research paper guidelines. For science, it would be a one-stop shop for vocabulary, diagrams, and even paper dissections!

The goal is to help students practice picking out the most important information from all of the input they are receiving (textbooks, lectures, labs, etc.). Then, by basically creating their own mini-textbook (or study guide) for each subject, they can quickly review without becoming overwhelmed by the volume of information.

Then (and this is my favorite part), they can carry these small composition books with them throughout their educational career. Their Algebra I ISN, for example, makes a fantastic resource as they head into Algebra II. These student-created notebooks can even be carried with them to college! (and they take up way less space in a dorm room than a stack of high school textbooks)

Another way I’ve found that these ISNs help students review is that many really enjoy spending time making their notes as aesthetically pleasing as possible. In addition to color-coding, highlighting, and underlining, many students also enjoy using fun lettering techniques to create page titles and call attention to other important information. As fun as all of these things are, they also ensure that students are spending even more time with the concepts covered in class, and that is a giant win for me!

So, even if you are new to ISNs, I highly encourage you to give this fun note-taking strategy a try. You can make it your own and have fun along the way as you review.

Here are some examples* of student work from our science classes:

Science ISN: Firefly Life Cycle


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*These (and many other) ISN resources are available for purchase at Teachers Pay Teachers.