SOS: Half The Picture

Welcome to  Spotlight on Strategies Challenge!  Our S.O.S series provides help, tips, and tricks for integrating DE media into your curriculum.

Half The Picture

PDF Version

half the picture


In essence, the active processing theory rests on a principle of “use it or lose it” (Kaufeldt, 2010). This means that students must be actively involved in what they are learning. This strategy leverages the use of Interactive Student Notebooks. These notebooks have a “left-side” (output), “right-side” (input) orientation to help students actively record, organize, and process new information. By completing half the picture, students are actively engaged in their learning by providing opportunities to share what they’ve learned in an Interactive Student Notebook.



  • Watch and listen to this video on the Water Cycle all the way through.
  • Use only the right half of this water cycle image glued onto right side of an Interactive Student Notebook.
  • Ideally, students will watch and listen to the video a second time independently or in pairs, pausing to        accurately label and complete the image on the left side.
  • As a whole group, watch and listen and pause to discuss concepts and keywords:
  •    [00:25-00:56] introduce water cycle
  •     [1:00-1:34] evaporation – pause to discuss and label as needed
  •     [1:35-1:55] condensation – pause to discuss and label as needed
  •     [1:56-2:21] precipitation – pause to discuss and label as needed
  •     [2:22-2:45] collection – pause to discuss and label as needed
  •     [2:45-2:55] review water cycle – pause to discuss and label as needed (can stop video here)
  • Watch and listen to the video a third time to add details to labels and drawing.
  • Add rigor by asking students to cite evidence from the video to support each label.
  • For example:
    • In the collection phase of the water cycle, water seeps into or runs over the ground collecting in oceans, lakes and rivers.



  • Review characteristics of a good Interactive Student Notebook.
  • Select an image file that summarizes your lesson topic. Use only the right half of the image glued onto the right side of the Notebook.
  • Select a video segment that explains your topic and selected image.
  • You many want to download the image and video media files for access offline.
  • Have students glue only the right half of the image onto the right side of their Notebook.
  • Have students listen to and watch the video a number of times with multiple opportunities to accurately complete the image and label all parts.
  • Complete, label and discuss the image as a whole group.
  • Add rigor or extend the lesson the following day by watching again to cite supporting evidence for each label.

You can take the challenge by:

  • Implementing this strategy and letting us know how it went by posting a comment below.
  • Using this strategies in your grade level planning discussions and/or professional development and reporting your events. (Remember we consider an event anytime 3 or more educators gather together… doesn’t have to be in a computer lab… could be sitting around the lunch table)
  • Photocopying the flier and distributing it in your colleague’s boxes and/or posting it to your own BulleDEN board.

To see other strategies in this series click here.  For a link to all the PDFs in this series click here.


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  1. Francie said:

    I have just begun using Interactive Notebooks with my students as we progress through our Challenge Based Learning Projects ( this year. It has been a learning curve for me, but the quality of thinking my students are now responsible for and are producing is amazing. Two books I thought people might be interested in are Teaching Science with Interactive Notebooks by Kellie Marcarelli and Dianah Zike’s Notebook Foldables: Spirals, Binders and Composition Books.

    Again, another wonderful SOS post.

  2. Deborah Thonus said:

    Great idea for using with Interactive notebooks. We teach the water cycle in fourth grade so this can be used just the way you described it. Thanks!

  3. Michelle Schaal said:

    I love the idea of 1/2 of a picture!! I am a JH Math teacher and seriously thinking this is another awesome way to reinforce and get perspective on fractions. You might start a older group of students on a different “fraction” of the picture. (i.e.) Differentiate by having some students only be shown 1/4 of a picture, others 1/2 and still others 3/4. Perspective, visual acuity, fractions and more are addressed with one activity!!! Thanks!!

  4. Stephanie Haggard said:

    I have just started implementing interactive notebooks in my science units. Already I have seen the benefits and notice the students take great pride in their books. I think the continuous saved work makes them think more about their long-term learning goals. I really like the idea of providing half of a diagram or cycle that the student must complete. Using a video to do this is another great aspect because they cannot passively copy; they must watch it repeatedly and listen for the needed details. I also love Laura’s idea of differentiating by providing different amounts of the original pictures. This is a great way to make the activity cross-curricular and include math.
    It also may be a fun activity if you cut a diagram into puzzle pieces and they must solve the puzzle and glue it into the book. We could mix the strategies by not providing a few of the pieces and having them fill in the gaps. I have used puzzles in their notebooks, but never in this way!

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