Creating Digital Notebooks with Google Slides

In my role as a blended learning coach, I work with a lot of teachers who are intrigued by the idea of digital notebooks. They recognize the value of having student integrate text and media in an online notebook. They also like the idea of housing student work in a central location that is viewable to both the student and the teacher.

Teachers working with younger kids or special needs groups may not want their students posting their work online for a global audience. A simple alternative to creating a digital notebook using a website creator is to use Google Slides to create digital notebooks for each unit.

Below are tips for setting up a digital notebook with Google Slides.

1. Create a new Google Slide deck in your Google Drive.

2. Give your Google Slide deck a title. I’d suggest using the title of the unit to keep things simple. I encourage teachers to share a new digital notebook template with students at the start of each unit. This makes it easy to customize the categories and content for a specific unit.

3. Adjust the page setup so the Google Slides look more like paper.

4. Create a table of contents and list the sections of the digital notebook on the front slide.

5. Separate each section of the notebook with a title slide that states the category of that section (e.g., guided notes or vocabulary). Have fun with the background colors to visually cue students that they are entering a new section of the digital notebook.

6. Link each item in the table of contents on the first slide to that section of the digital notebook. This will make it easier for students to add to and retrieve information from their digital notebooks.

7. Insert the media you want to include. If you flip your instruction or record video directions, add your videos, customize the “video playback,” and pair the videos with a task.

8. Once your digital notebook template is complete, share it with students via Google Classroom and select “Make a copy for each student.” This makes it quick and easy for you to jump into and out of individual student’s digital notebooks to check their progress, provide feedback, or reference when conferencing with your students.

The benefits of a digital notebook for students include the ability to:

  • Insert media (photos, images, videos), charts, and tables to complement their notes. If they enjoy writing notes by hand, they can take a photo of those notes and insert them into their digital notebooks.
  • Add additional slides.
  • Add to and reference their work from any device.
  • Create artifacts of their learning that can be shared easily with parents.
  • Reflect on their learning and growth with an embedded reflective blog.
  • Add comments and tag the teacher to ask questions and/or request support

If you are working with secondary students and want them to use Blogger or Google Sites to create their digital notebooks, check out this blog!

If you are a secondary English teacher looking for a standards-aligned digital literature circles template, check out this blog!

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35 Responses to Creating Digital Notebooks with Google Slides

  1. Laurie says:

    Thank you for another great resource, Catlin! One question: I have found it difficult to give feedback on writing inside of a Google Slides presentation. Any suggestions? Or am I missing something obvious? It would be great if Kaizena worked in Google Slides as well, but I think it only works in Google Docs.

    • Hi Laurie,

      Typically, I give feedback as a comment attached to a specific slide, but you can also customize your “Preferences” under “Tools” and create shortcuts that will work in the notes section below the slides. That might be a faster way to give feedback if you find yourself leaving similar comments for several students. The link below will take you to a YouTube video where I show you how to set your preferences in a Google Doc. The process is the same if you want to try it in Slides.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCezqhpzrFk&t=147s

      Catlin

  2. Andrene says:

    I find this very interesting. I could have my students creating their own digital notebooks. Thanks Catlin!

  3. Dalal Askar says:

    Thanks for this information. I was wondering if once you assign the slides can you go back and change it if, let’s say, you wanted to use is as a yearlong digital notebook and add things as we go along?

    • Hi Dalal,

      If you blast them out via Google Classroom and decide you want to add something, it is easier to have students do it since you would have to individually add it to every individual slide deck.

      I would suggest creating a template for a unit instead of the whole year.

      Catlin

  4. Kelly Page says:

    I really want to do this with my students but I want to add the pages as we go through the unit. Is there a way to do that? My students just get so overwhelmed if I hand it to them all at once.

    • Hi Kelly,

      You can go into each slide deck and add slides manually, but it will be a time commitment. It might be better to segment the digital notebooks into sections and share one section at a time via Google Classroom.

      Catlin

  5. Ivan Sarudi says:

    I started using a digital notebook with my students and its an excellent way to keep them organized and see their work. I want to figure out the best way to give them slides to add to their digital notebook. I have tried to do this through Google Classroom. The only problem is that many of my students work on their phones and adding these an additional slide is difficult.
    Have you done the adding extra slide to digital notebooks, and what is the best way to do this?

    • Hi Ivan,

      I have found the easiest way to add additional slides once everyone has a copy of the original slide deck is to add the new formatted slides to a “master slide deck” that students can view. Post a view-only link to the master slide deck on the class website or Google Classroom. Then when students are in the online station during a station rotation, they make a copy of the slide or slides I want them to add from the master slide deck and paste them into their individual slide decks. I’ve only ever had them make the copy and add the additional slides using a Chromebook. I have never tried it with a phone.

      Catlin

  6. Wendy Goldberg says:

    This was super helpful! Your instructions are so clear and I’ve already made several improvements to my google slide notebooks. I’m still assessing whether or not I like the vertical notebook layout, so I hope to look through some of yours more to get a sense. Thank you so much for posting the directions so clearly and succinctly. Great job and useful!

  7. Amarilis says:

    This is amazing. Thank you for the tutorial. I have a question. Once I assign it in google classroom how do I have students work on it everyday and submit?

    • Hi Amarilis,

      You share the Google Slides template via Google Classroom so that it makes a copy for each student. They will not “submit” their slide decks because once they click “submit” they cannot continue to add to them. Instead, I would give them dates for when different sections of the slide deck should be finished. Then you can pop in and out of their slide decks to check their work and leave comments.

      Catlin

      • Amarilis says:

        Awesome! Thank you so much for the information!

      • Deborah Lee Bright says:

        Good morning! Once I’ve created the basic template and shared it w students via Google Classroom (a copy for each student,) will all notebooks update with new material that I add to my teacher copy? This could be so powerful!

        Thanks–
        Deb

        • Hi Deborah,

          Once Google Classroom has made a copy of your version for students, it will not reflect any additional changes you make on your end. If you want to add slides after the fact, you or your students will need to add those manually. You can always share a formatted slide with students and ask them to make a copy and insert it into their decks.

          Catlin

  8. Ana V Perez says:

    Do you share the notebook as a Material? Or do you attach it to each Assignment where you want them to write in their notebook?

    Thanks

  9. I am new to google classroom. I am using a digital interactive notebook in google slides. I want to assign a few slides at a time to students. Question 1- How do I assign certain parts of the notebook. Once they have completed the assignment, is there a way to put the completed part back in their original document. I will be adding to the notebook as I go along. I am not sure it will be completed before I give it to them.

    • Hi Virginia,

      I always created the entire digital notebook template then if slides needed to be added, students had to do that. It is a pain to add slides once you have shared your template in Google Classroom and “made a copy” for every student. You would need to manually add slides to each students deck OR provide them with a slide to copy and add to their deck.

      I assigned specific parts of the notebook as we worked through a unit, but the kids had access to the entire digital notebook from the start of the unit. I did not hide any of the content from them and reveal it during the unit, which I think is what you are asking about.

      Hope that helps!

      Catlin

  10. Thanks so much! This was really very helpful for me today.

  11. Heather Farnham says:

    So, I do a readers notebook in my classroom, but trying to make a digital notebook using this format for a remote classroom. I would like for students to add a “page” each day they have a mini-lesson or do independent work… what would that look like, and is it possible?

    • Yes, students can add to their slide deck anytime. In the past, teachers I have coached have shown an example or provided a “slide template” for kids to copy or replicate and add to their decks.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

      Catlin

  12. Mandy says:

    I’m attempting to make a digital notebook for my students this year. I have a question. I obviously want my students to be able to edit within the textboxes provided by me in my template but is there a way to prevent them from being able to move those textboxes around or changing other formatting? I just want them to be able to write on it. Thank you for any help you can provide.

  13. Patricia L Mariscal says:

    Hi, I created a notebook template for my science class. I made this in Google slides. I have several pages of the notebook that I want to add a google doc in so students can open, do the work and I can see their progress from the notebook by clicking on the linked page. When I tested this out the students got the notebook template and they can click on the google doc link, but it does not allow them to access the page to type on. I have the doc set to anyone with the link can view, and when I sent the notebook out to student through Google classroom, I set it to make a copy for each student. Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Hi Patricia,

      I think the best way to handle this is to ask the students to create a document, share it with you, and link to it in their Google Slide deck. I don’t think Google Classroom will make copies of any documents that are linked in a slide deck. I would put those instructions into the slide where you want them to link to the document.

      I wish I had a better solution for you!
      Catlin

  14. Kiersten says:

    Hello, I’m not sure how you feel about this but in terms of adding slides…you can post a link that automatically copies the slide and they can drag it or I believe you can set up a shared drive with your students where you can keep your versions of slides and just teach them to add a slide from the shared drive. You can also keep a link to that drive pinned to the top of your Google Classroom page for students.

  15. Megan says:

    Hello – I am attempting to make my notebook now – but had a few questions.
    1. When students are writing in this/doing the activities, they will need to be in the edit mode – correct?
    2. Students will then need to go back and forth between the presentation mode and edit mode to be able to watch videos/do activities/research websites?

  16. Andrea Garza Lopez says:

    Hey Catlin,
    Im working on a few option for a digital notebook and I was wondering if you feel that sites or slides is more effective for secondary ELA, and why? Trying to make a final decision and would like another perspective.

    • That’s a tough question, Andrea. I like Google Sites, but Google Slides may feel more manageable for the first go-round with digital notebooks (unless you are comfortable with technology). Google Sites is awesome and beautifully formatted. If you have students create their digital notebooks with Google Sites, I recommend that you can have them complete a Google Form with their names, class period number, and the URL to their published site. That way, you can open the spreadsheet (back end of a Google Form) and quickly jump to a specific student’s digital notebook. They do live online so you won’t access them directly through Google Classroom like you would a Google Slide digital notebook.

      Let me know if you have any additional questions!
      Catlin

  17. Jenny McGourty-Riggs says:

    Hi. Has anyone created a digital notebook and uploaded it to the educational platform, Canvas? If yes, what are the pros and cons?

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