The Best Way to Integrate Interactive Digital Notebooks: Part 3

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My previous posts in this series (Part 1 and Part 2) explained the reasons why I have made the switch to Digital Notebooks because they are colorful, paperless and media rich.  I also gave examples of how Digital Notebooks should have added value for student learning while being connected to content and standards.

In Part 3, I want to give a concrete example of how to incorporate a Digital Notebook into your instruction.....




I want to show you that integrating a Digital Notebook with teaching strategies that you already use is the best way to get started.  In the examples I show below, you'll see how I incorporate 2 of my daily go to strategies for teaching reading (interactive read aloud and shared reading) and then move to the Digital Notebook.

You'll also see how I use the American Symbols Interactive Digital Notebook Sampler that I am offering as  FREE DOWNLOAD. The sampler has 3 slides dealing with the United States Flag.  Essentially, students will be finding the symbolism behind the flag, comparing the US flag to other flags and then listing how we honor our flag.

Slide 1:  US Flag Facts


I am a big believer in integrating social studies and science content with teaching ELA standards.  That is how I teach my entire year as my units are made up of social studies and science units.  Let's say I am working on this standard:

RI.3.1:  Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.


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I would start out with an interactive read aloud (teacher does all the reading) about the US flag, such as, The Flag We Love, by Pam Muñoz Ryan.  Lots of information in this book and easy to find answers in the book to our questions or questions that I ask.  From there, I would bridge it to a shared reading (the reading task is shared between teacher and students) about the US Flag.  There are several ways to do this.  Taking into account the general reading ability of my class, I can pick a shared reading from several sources:  a page from the read aloud, a short one page content related article on the flag (sometimes our Scholastic Weekly Reader has a timely article!) or a website.


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Whatever we read together in shared reading, it will focus on the standard RI.3.1.  Now that they have access to the text because it is projected, we can now zero in on "referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers."  I would have questions prepared ahead of time that could be answered directly from the text (or inferred from the text).  This is were I also model and practice using phrases such as, according to the text or in the text it states, etc.



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Now that my students have some background knowledge about the flag and have practiced referring to the text for the answers, it is time to go to the Digital Notebook.  On the first slide, students have to explain the meaning behind the different details of the flag, such as, the significance of the colors, the stars and the stripes.  They also have to give an important date and person connected to the flag.  I expect the students to be able to answer in complete sentences that start something like this:  "in the video it states" or "according to the website" or "the text states."


I would direct the students to watch the video FIRST.  Why?  I want the students to take video notes.  They are more apt to hear the answers they need rather than at first wade through many long paragraphs looking for an answer.  If this were the first time students practiced taking video notes, I would probably project the video to the whole class and show them how to stop and rewind so they could write down notes.

One of the standards that is also easily integrated by using this Digital Notebook is W3.7 and W3.8 which deal with research and taking notes.  By the way, though I am mentioning third grade standards, there are near equivalent standards for grades 4 and 5.  The Digital Notebooks I have designed are targeted for grades 3, 4 and 5 and are paired with the Common Core Standards for ELA grades 3, 4 and 5.

Back to the Digital Notebook!  The particular video I have chosen for this slide gives a lot of information that the students will need:

  • a date - June 14, 1777 the flag is adopted by Continental Congress
  • 13 stars and 13 stripes represent the 13 original colonies
  • red stands for courage
  • white stands for purity
  • blue stands for vigilance
But wait, if the video gives most of the answers then why do I need a web link.  To verify those answers of course!  The accompanying website verifies all those facts and gives us a name of a person connected with the flag (Elizabeth Griscom Ross aka Betsy Ross).  Verifying answers is part of research and it teaches students to seek answers until they are sure it is the answer.

Now that the student has the information needed, they now go into the Digital Notebook and type in the information into each text box using complete sentences.  Depending on the time of the year (beginning, midyear, end of the year), I would expect students to answer in their own words (unless they are quoting, which is another skill and standard in grades 4 and 5). Rewording into your own words needs modeling and practice.  At the beginning of year since the focus is to practice and master the standard, I'd probably wait a few months before starting the rewording lessons.

Slide 2:  Comparing Flags


I continue to preface each lesson with an interactive read aloud and shared reading.  The previous read aloud might be used or a new one introduced.  The shared reading piece (see this one by the American Legion) would also include various illustrations of the American flag and how it has changed over time (leading to comparing and contrasting and thereby implanting the vocabulary needed to do this:  alike, different, similar to, on the other hand, etc.).


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This particular slide would be used to continue our focus on:

RI.3.7  Use information gained from illustrations and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text.

Since the students will be comparing flags, the slide has 3 illustrations that include the US Flag, the British Union Jack and the French flag.  The two video links also will provide background information on the British and French flags. 

After the students have taken notes on the videos, I would pair them up or maybe even put them in groups of 4 to compare notes.  Then on a separate piece of chart paper, they would work together to find similarities and differences in the flags. Each group would also share out to the entire class. 

By using the illustrations, the students can see that all 3 flags use the same colors.  They have straight lines and stripes.  This is also a good time for me to teach a writing lesson on how to write a sentence that compares and a sentence that contrasts.  If needed, I could also provide the students with sentence frames (especially for the ELL students).  When I feel the students  have a grasp of being able to form solid comparisons and contrasts, then I would direct them to complete the slide on their own.


Slide 3:  Honoring the US Flag


Again, I would tie in another interactive read aloud on the American flag (Our American Flag is part of a series on books on American symbols that I highly recommend!)  For shared reading, the Girl Scouts of Central Illinois have an amazing downloadable PDF on flag protocol and ceremonies.  As a PDF,  I can project it for shared reading.  


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How does this slide relate to an ELA standard?  How about RI.3.3 which is about describing the relationship between a series of historical events, using language that pertains to cause and effect.  You see, if the Founding Fathers and all those colonists hadn't fought behind that first American flag, would we be an independent nation?  Would we still be British?  That flag united us as a nation and it still does today.  To continue the cause and effect line of thinking, to honor those brave men and women who fought for our independence, we honor the flag under which they fought.  

Before working on the slide I would also start by having a class discussion about where we see the flag (school, people's houses, stadiums, post office, etc).  From there we could continue the discussion about ceremonies that use the flag, such as, raising and lowering the flag.  How does that work?  Is there a special way to do that?  Does military honor guards have a special way of handling the flag?  Now that I've got their minds wondering about the flag, they can take video notes and research using the web link.  After each has listed the 5 dos and don'ts of what you can and can't do with the flag, we can come back as a class and share our findings.

At this stage, since the students have finished part 1 of this Digital Notebook, I would then score each slide on the included scoring sheet.


How Do I Fit It All In?


You might be asking, how will I fit all this in?  Again, remember that if you integrate language arts instruction with social studies content you will be using your time more efficiently.  These Digital Notebooks are paced according to the teacher.  Pairing content with ELA standards also gives more opportunities to use the Digital Notebook throughout the day.  Also, any students who do not finish in class, can finish the slide for homework, which is one of the big benefits of using Digital Notebooks:  they are accessible anywhere from any internet connected device that can access Google Slides.


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Furthermore, if students find new information or have to correct incorrect information, doing that with a Digital Notebook is very easy.  Just go back to the slide in question, use the delete key to delete text and type in the new information.  Google Slides continuously saves your work and you can also go back to any previous versions.  Giving a test on the the content?  Then have the students use the Digital Notebook as a study guide!  Want them to also give a presentation?  Have the students use the Digital Notebook in presentation mode as part of their presentation!

If you're now interested in trying out Digital Notebooks, download the FREE American Symbols Interactive Digital Notebook SAMPLER and try it out with your class!  All you need is a Google Account (which is free!)  The sampler download will give you directions for the link to the Google Slides file.  Once copied to YOUR Google Drive, you can assign it to your students through Google Classroom.

For more Digital Notebooks visit my TpT Store where you will find:



For more resources on using Google in the Classroom, Social Studies Resources or Google Products for Google Apps, be sure to follow my Pinterest boards:


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I hope I have given you a workable way to integrate the use of Digital Notebooks in your lessons.  Once you make the switch, you'll wonder why you didn't use them sooner!


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