How Vocabulary Interactive Notebooks are Guaranteed to Improve Students’ Vocabulary

What are vocabulary notebooks? and how they are guaranteed to improve students' vocabulary.

We all know that vocabulary acquisition is one of the top predictors for success with reading comprehension. Setting students up with a vocabulary interactive notebook or a vocabulary journal can be an easy way to help them keep track of the words they’ve learned all year. All it takes is 10 minutes a day! In this post, I share various vocabulary notebook ideas for upper elementary that are a low investment, but have a high success rate. No matter what time of year it is, every day is a good day for word learning 🙂!

Research Behind Vocabulary Notebooks

Over the past few years in my 4th grade classroom, I’ve taken a lot of time to research ways to help my students keep better records of new words they learn throughout the year. I’m always looking for ways to make our classroom Word Wall more personalized. It is not realistic to ask kids to look up every single word they don’t know within a chapter book. This is too time consuming and disrupts the flow of the story.

In the past, I had introduced new vocabulary words and had students record their notes on a single worksheet. However, the loose paper would consistently get lost or sent home at the end of the week. When they needed to recall the definition of a past word of the week, they didn’t have a way to go back to their notes.

Vocabulary Journals Make Words Stick!

So, I went to the experts for advice. What tips were they suggesting to get vocabulary words to stick? It’s probably no surprise to hear that they were suggesting vocabulary notebooks. A place where students can organize their notes, add graphic organizers, pictures and even store index cards.

Plus, take it a step further and use these vocabulary journals to spark discussions about new words they’ve learned (🤯).

How didn’t I think of this years ago?

I decided to use these vocabulary interactive notebooks both for words learned in school AND to have students keep track of challenging words they come across in their own reading on a personal word wall.

Quote from book 101 Strategies to Make Academic Vocabulary Stick about vocabulary notebooks being a great classroom tool.
Even the experts suggest vocabulary journals as a great way to help students dig deeper into word learning.

What is an Interactive Vocabulary Notebook?

Vocabulary notebook samples that show pages where students can take notes on new words they've learned.
Use these vocabulary notebook ideas to implement interactive notebooks in your classroom.

An interactive notebook used for vocabulary is a student-centered, personalized notebook for recording, defining and connecting with words.

Interactive notebooks usually include pages that flip open and out, almost like a “pop-up” book. This engagement with the notebook page adds a great tactile element for students.

Students quickly take ownership over these notebooks because they build them from the ground up. Starting with a fresh notebook and quickly filling it with new words they’ve learned and collected, stories they’ve made up and stories they’re dying to tell the world. Plus, the artists in your room will have plenty of chances to represent each word through drawing!

⭐️ Having a set routine in your classroom that has students digging deeper into word meaning guarantees multiple exposures to the same word. Friends, it’s all about the quality of word knowledge, not quantity of words you cover in a year. We want kiddos to remember the words we’ve taught.

The interactive notebook template that I use has students digging into the same word at least 3-4 times. It’s time to ditch the “Assign, Define & Test” way of teaching vocabulary and get kids engaged in writing and playing with words each and every day.

Ditch the old way of teaching vocabulary and focus on providing students with multiple exposures to each focus word. Photo of notebook example included.
Use this vocabulary notebook template to engage students in vocabulary learning just 10 minutes a day!

Why Use Interactive Vocabulary Notebooks?

An interactive notebook allows students to organize information and deeply learn the meaning(s) of each word. These notebooks provide students with outlined pages expecting them to use webs, drawings, stories, and personal connections when writing about each vocabulary word. Alongside your classroom word wall, these notebooks are great learning tools!

Showing how students can organize their notes about new vocabulary words on a personal word wall page in their notebook.
Use the first few pages of students’ vocabulary journals as a personal word wall.

👀 Interactive notebooks can be modified for any grade level and accommodate multiple learning styles all in one. From visual learners who benefit from charts and graphic organizers to kinesthetic learners who need a hands-on approach.

⭐️ Plus, if you implement them at the beginning of the school year, students are building a portfolio that allows you to track their word learning and writing over time.

When do Interactive Vocabulary Notebooks fit into the school day?

Just like everything in your classroom, building a routine themed around these vocabulary interactive notebooks is key. Once you do that, students can complete each daily task in 10 minutes or less.

Depending on your routine, you can squeeze this work in:

  • First thing in the morning (bell work)
  • During word study time
  • As an extension of your read aloud or writing block
  • Or my personal favorite during morning meeting
Vocabulary notebook templates to help students keep track of words they're learning.
Have students keep track of words they’re still working on by storing word cards in they vocabulary notebook.

Hear me out here – I choose 1 word per week as our focus word. I introduce it during Morning Meeting on Monday morning. Then, each of the following days, students complete their vocabulary notebook page as bell work. Then, they bring their notebook to morning meeting, and we spend 5 minutes discussing the vocabulary activity of the day. Don’t overthink this – 10 minutes a day, and in no time, kids will have a whole new repertoire of vocabulary words in their back pocket (or notebook 😉).

How can you get started with Interactive Vocabulary Notebooks?

All you need is a spiral notebook for each student. If you already use a notebook for spelling, think about making it a Word Study notebook and using half for vocabulary.

You can create your own template to reuse all year, or save yourself time and use this tried and true version complete with 2 notebook templates, a personal word wall section and word cards!

All you need for a vocabulary notebook is a spiral notebook, scissors and glue.
Get vocabulary notebook ideas in this interactive notebook template.

Time Management Teacher Tip

I’m not going to lie, getting interactive notebooks set up for 20+ students in your classroom can be a PAIN. One way to save yourself time and many headaches is to:

Picture showing student gluing vocabulary notebook template pages into spiral notebooks.
Make vocabulary notebook fillers a classroom job for those students who are great at cutting and gluing!
  1. Choose your notebook template ahead of time and use that same one for several months.
  2. Make “Notebook Fillers” a classroom job! Choose students who are organized and good cutters/gluers.
  3. Teach these students who to cut out the notebook template and glue it into 1 notebook
  4. Have them do this for ALL notebooks in the whole class. Ask them to glue 5+ templates into EACH notebook, so you only have to do this about once a month!

Classroom Management Teacher Tip

Once you get into a good vocabulary routine, students will be writing in these bad boys almost every day. So, make sure they’re stored in a handy place. No need to have kiddos digging around in their backpacks or cubbies for their notebooks.

Have a designated spot to house vocabulary notebooks to avoid chaos.

I choose not to send these notebook home in fear of them getting forgotten. However, if you really want to lean into the “word learning is everywhere” mentality, allow students to bring these notebooks home and collect words outside of school!

Student writing in her vocabulary notebook.
Make these vocabulary notebooks part of your daily classroom routine by keeping them in an easy to reach place.

Digital Interactive Vocabulary Notebooks

Have no fear, I have you techie word lovers covered too 😉! Save some trees and make word learning digital with this downloadable, editable Google Slide Interactive Notebook.

✏️ Head over to my Digital Interactive Vocabulary Notebooks post to learn more!

In closing, vocabulary interactive notebooks are the perfect way to get vocabulary words to stick, organize word record keeping and track progress across the year. If you have created or found other beneficial interactive notebook resources, please share any ideas, tips and tricks on the comments of this post!

As always, it’s been a pleasure. Until next time, make today meaningful, friends 💕.

🎥 Learn more about my Interactive Vocabulary Notebook Template that includes 2 template options:

Learn more about Interactive Notebooks in these related posts:

4 thoughts on “How Vocabulary Interactive Notebooks are Guaranteed to Improve Students’ Vocabulary

  1. Thanks for sharing, Liz! There are so many great ideas in this post and you have shared so many resources to make it super easy to get started on ramping up vocabulary instruction.

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