Using Interactive Notes

The idea behind Interactive Notes is to put intriguing demonstrations in your students’ hands, which makes them curious and actually want to listen to the explanation.

A set of Interactive Notes consists of four demonstrations that students, in groups of 4’s, do with your guidance.  After each demonstration students take notes that summarizes the event and applies it to the science happening.

Getting Ready & Set

1. Put students into groups of 4.  Since each set has 4 demonstrations, each student will take the lead on one.

2. Have each group get the materials they need.  (More on this later.)

3. Once they have materials, go through and name each item.  Now everyone knows what’s there and you can find out what’s missing.  This also gives you a chance to voice any safety concerns up front.

4. If you’re going to be doing a reading from the textbook that connects with a demonstration, have students open their textbooks before the first demo.

5. Open the PowerPoint file then press the F5 key to begin the show.  Use the right arrow key or spacebar to advance.

Now you can Go!

6. Explain to student #1 how to do the first demo.

7. After the demo, advance the PowerPoint notes to reveal the drawing, and have all students sketch it in the first draw box on their note sheet.  This helps transition into quiet listening time, and focuses them on the event.

8. Next, go through the notes (Do, See, What’s Happening) and have them write these down as you elaborate.  That’s demo 1.

9. Go through the next 3 demonstrations in like manor: have the next student in the group perform their demonstration. Then everyone sketches it and takes notes.


Helpful Hints

  • Never, ever do a demonstration with your students that you haven’t done yourself beforehand.  First of all, that’s just not safe.  Secondly, doing them yourself gives you insight as to how each works best and what to expect.  Plus this gives you a student perspective, which will cause you to be that much more descriptive in your explanation of how to do each because you’re now speaking firsthand.
  • A few words on materials:

-Use plastic boxes or trays to hold materials for each student group.  This greatly simplifies the management of materials.

-As I say on each video, it’s always best to have your own set of materials so you can show students what to do.  You’d prefer to be shown what to do also, wouldn’t you?

-Having your own materials also serves as a nice backup in case someone is short or needs a replacement.

-Set out all materials the day before (or sooner).  The morning of is too late because there’s too much to do and the most important thing- your mind- needs to be sharp, prepared and focused.  If this is not your norm, try setting things out early just once, and notice how confident you feel walking into school the next day.  That’s huge.

  • You have the flexibility to do these demonstrations any other way you please- in larger or smaller student groups, or as something you perform for your students.  With or without notes.  Whatever works best for you!
  • Print extra copies of the notes pages for yourself and for students who are slow writers or can’t see well, and for absentees.  Click “File”  “Print”   then where it says “Print what:“  select “Handouts”  and then “OK”.  That’ll print 4 slides to a page.  Perfect.
  • A word about classroom management- Interactive Notes can reach every student, especially your non-readers.  But they will not prevent deviant students from having deviant thoughts.  If your students are not under control, you will not have a good experience (yes, this has happened to me).  Take care of those issues first before using Interactive Notes.
  • You may make any changes to the Interactive Notes you feel would be beneficial to your students, including changing words and drawings.  Example- if you think your students would be better listeners if they didn’t just copy the notes, then remove those words and dictate to them what to write, or have them put things in their own words.
  • For reasons of copyright protection is expected that you will not distribute or re-sell Interactive Notes, revised or not.
  • Most sets of Interactive Notes will take you a full 45-minute period to do.  Plan on starting with the beginning bell.
  • Ideally you have a multimedia projector connected to your computer so students can see the drawings and notes on the classroom screen.  If you don’t, then see the media person in your building about borrowing one.  If you don’t have access to one, it also works to print the notes pages and copy them onto transparency to be used with an overhead projector.  Uncover it one section at a time.
  • Interactive Notes are great to use near the beginning of a chapter because the demos illustrate meaningful things about a topic, but they won’t lead to as much information being shared as traditional lecture (unless you lengthen the notes and discussion).
  • If your students in afternoon classes insist on doing a certain demo because they’ve heard it’s the best one, solve that problem by tossing numbers 1-4 in each box of student materials.  Before begining, have each student in the group draw a number.  Then, before you do demo #1, draw a number from your own set (1-4).  Whoever matches that number gets to do that demo.  Do the same for the remaining 3 demos.
  • Each set of Interactive Notes requires PowerPoint to run.  If you don’t have it, you can download a free version of the PowerPoint Viewer:




Good luck.  Prepare yourself well. And have some fun.