Output strategies are where all the real thinking happens. Why is it then, so many teachers have no idea what I am talking about when I ask them, “What output strategies are you using with your interactive notebooks?”
It seems when interactive notebooks became all the rage a while back, many missed out on the complete picture. Oh yes, we got the input side of things. Beautiful graphic organizers, fold-ups, and reading passages were glued in. Yes, we did that.
BUT what happened to the student thinking piece?
That is what output strategies are all about. After you pour information into your students, it is necessary for them to synthesize it. Then they can create their own artifacts of learning. This can be done with as much or as little guidance as your students need. I find though, having a few strategies in your toolbelt goes a long way and wanted to share three of my favorites.
Output Strategy #1
I call this strategy Five Questions, and it is exactly what it sounds like.
After students learn about a topic they are asked to write five questions they have about the topic. It doesn’t have to be five, any number will do.
One of the things I most enjoy about this output strategy is that it meets everyone where they are at. Some students are ready to think deeply about the topic and write insightful questions that provoke further thought. Others will stay more surface level.
I find that by reading their questions I am able to get an idea of where they are in their understanding.
As a bonus, you can challenge students to answer each other’s questions or their own.
Output Strategy #2
Write a letter!
This output strategy has endless possibilities. If you are working in history you could have your students write a letter to or as a historical figure. In math, they could write a letter to another student explaining a process or concept. In science, they could write as a scientist or to one. Endless, I am telling you!
This is one of those strategies that work for everything, even if you might have to get a little creative.
Some of my students’ favorite writing has taken the form of letters. I believe this is because a letter has a built-in audience. Many times when we ask our students to write they have no idea who, if anyone, will be reading it. Letters set who the audience is right away.
Output Strategy #3
This strategy is great for those who are a little reluctant to write. I call it the Sign of the Times in history, but it could be called a symbol or icon.
The gist is that students think of some sort of iconography that represents the topic they learned about. This might mean an era or even in history, an algebraic formula, or the Periodic Table. What is important is that they can explain why the symbol represents the topic.
This output strategy is one of my favorites for creating displays of student work. After they create their rough draft in their notebooks I have them enlarge the symbol and create labels explaining its meaning.
Ready for More Output Strategies to Rock Your Interactive Notebook?
Don’t stop at just three! Check out this ebook with ideas for cross-curricular output strategies that will encourage critical thinking and engage your students in their own learning.
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