The Interactive Science Notebook
Interactive Notebooks are great for students to reflect on what they have learned. Encourage them to record their ideas and findings!
Here is the method I use for what goes on each page in the notebook:
First, I give them some sort of input in the form of notes or a diagram. Then, I give them an activity to use what they know and process the information I have given them. This will be more of a creative or discovery/ investigation type of activity.
*Right Side- teacher directed notes
*Left Side – Student directed processing and creative activities
The reason I have them put the notes on the right and the creative activity on the left is to cross the mid-line. Since the right brain typically processes creatively and the left brain typically processes logic and language. This is thought to make the brain more alert and help improve learning.
What To Do In Your Interactive Science Notebook
I know it is challenging to think up something new and interesting to do each day of the school year. For me, I often have more days of teaching than exciting ideas in my head. I wanted to compile a simple list for you to have to pull ideas from when using your interactive science notebook. The great thing is that you can use the student directed processing activities as formative assessments to see where your kids are in their understanding! (So, this list may even give you ideas for formative assessments. These don’t have to go in a notebook if you have a different idea in mind.)
All of these ideas can be printable for students to glue into their notebook, but you can also make your notebook completely student hand written. I know that I have been at schools that had us on copy budgets, and really limited how many copies we could make. For the most part, I always had students write and draw in their notebooks. Not only to save my copy budget, but to save on class time as well. Modify these activities to fit your time and resources, and you will have class running smoothly.
First let’s cover a few methods of giving information to your students.
Teacher Input Ideas:
Notes can be the standard style in which you and your students write down new information, facts, or details. Notes can also come in the form of a graphic organizer to provide a visual representation of how the new information is organized. And don’t forget to use labeled diagrams for demonstrating new information. Shake up standard note taking by adding in a new medium. Have students use a fun note taking form, note cards to glue in their notebook, labels or sticky notes to stick in their notebook, and a variety of artistic utensils to take their notes.
2. Observe a model or a lab.
Real life, hands on experiences will stick in kids’ memories much better than simply reading about them. Using a lab write-up or scientific method form for students to record observations and data from a lab will give them a place to reflect on what they have seen. Drawing or labeling a diagram and taking notes on their observations will help them record what they saw happen with a model.
3. Informational Texts
A short printout of an informational text that students can glue in their notebooks provides a great reference resource for information. Have students underline, highlight, and take notes as they read. They can complete a reading map or graphic organizer as they read to help them collect the main idea, important facts, and details.
4. Booklets and Folding Page Activities
Anything students can manipulate and “play” with will make a big impact in how they receive new information. Take notes to the next level by handing them out as something to cut, fold, and play with. There are way to many folding templates you can use for me to list here today. Maybe that will be my next big list! For some good freebie printable templates check out this post.
Now, for the fun stuff.
Student Processing Activities (Student Output):
1. Group Discussion/ Think-Pair-Share
One thing that I think we could all agree on is that kids love to talk. Feed into their social needs by guiding them to talk to each other about the new information or observations. Give them a specific topic, question, or problem to solve together. I like the idea of a think-pair-share because the students can take the time to think about their own response before entering into a discussion with a partner or group. Ask students to record their thoughts before sharing, then take notes on the group discussion. A fun form would be nice to have for these, but they could simply write this all in their notebook to save you from making copies.
2. Quick Write/ Summary Writing
This works really well to get an idea of what students grasps from the new information, and only takes a few minutes. For a quick write, give students a topic from the day and ask them to write a paragraph or two showing what they know about that topic. It’s almost a brain dump of everything they retained from the new information. A professor of mine in college would ask us to write half a page about what we just read or discussed, and she would give us two minutes to do it. I really like the simplicity and output of this idea and have used it often with great success. It can get boring to the students if you do this every day like my professor. Summary writing is an important skill for students to have. Using this form of output not only provides you with a look into the students’ perception of this new information, but also builds skills they need for Language Arts and literacy. A summary will work best for the days you give them something to read. Enrich the summary writing experience by giving your students a few key words from the reading to incorporate into their summary.
3. Critical Thinking Question
Of course the best way to figure out what a student knows is to give them plenty of opportunity to share their thoughts. Give them a question that really gets them thinking and let them explain away. You will know the extent to which they understand a topic through their explanation. Make sure to use a rubric or guidelines for the students’ writing to meet so you can get the best results. Now, what if you really need to work on multiple choice questions to get ready for those wonderful standardized tests? Multiple choice questions don’t elicit the most critical thinking responses… But, they can! Give the students the multiple choice question to glue in their notebook. Have them answer it, and then have them write a good explanation of how they know they picked the correct answer. This method of practicing multiple choice questions teaches them a great habit of thinking through their answer, even when its as simple as picking A, B, C, or D.
4. Reading Response Log
When you use an informational text for your teacher input, students can use a reading response log for their output. A reading response log can look different depending on ability and grade levels. You can simply provide them a place to record facts they learned while they read, or you can give them a more advanced template with many things to look for in their reading. This could look like a chart with Pre-Reading ideas, Thoughts and Questions During Reading, and Ideas or Conclusions After reading sections. You can also give them questions to answer, have them illustrate what they read, or a nonfiction text outline to fill in.
5. Visual Representation
We all love to draw and color, no matter how old we are. Having students illustrate something they have read or observed can give your students just as much insight as writing. Structure the visual representation activity with a rubric and include some writing such as labels or descriptions to get their explanations and thinking going. A visual representation can be a diagram, an illustrated storybook, a flip book, a comic strip, an infographic, a map with illustations, labels, and descriptions, word art, or just a simple drawing.
6. Journal Entry
A journal entry can be as simple as letting kids free write about what they have learned or observed in class that day. I always kept a standard Science Writing Rubric posted in my classroom that would help students know my expectations for writing. I have this rubric included in each of my Science and Literacy Lesson Sets. Writing prompts can help guide students to know what to write as wells as give you more specific thoughts from your students. Maybe incorporate your essential question or “I can…” statement from the day into a writing prompt and really tie back into your learning goals.
7. Foldouts and Booklets
These work great as a medium for both input and output. Keep parts blank for students to fill in, and you have a student output foldout or booklet! I love using the foldouts for both input and output because they are more fun for students to come back and look at. They can be created and then glued or stapled into their notebooks for safe keeping.
Honestly in the past year or two that I have been out of the classroom this term “craftivity” has shown up all over teacher blogs and Pinterest. I love them! Let the creative juices flow and allow students to use mixed mediums to create a representation of what they have just learned. I know this is most commonly used in Pre-K and Kinder, but my 5th graders would have loved a craftivity to express their learning. Anytime I allowed them to make things (like a craftivity), they were in the learning zone that day. They really asked questions and researched to get the best, accurate information into their masterpiece. Now that I have come across these craftivities, I have some ideas I would love to incorporate into the science classroom (all grade levels). You can make these very structured so students can get the most out of the craftivity. A rubric and even a printable template would help a craftivity become a useful tool with older kids. Think students cutting out and putting together a representation with moving parts! I am really going to start working on a collection of meaningful craftivities for older kids. Coming soon 🙂
Want to know the great thing about all these interactive notebook activities? You could use them in any aspect of your teaching! These don’t have to be used in a notebook. Any of these activities would make a great student output outside of using notebooks. So even if you haven’t started using notebooks in your classroom, you can use these activities to make the most out of your students’ learning. AND, these work for any subject, not just Science. I like to keep a list like this printed and handy for when I need to come up with lesson ideas, or just when we have extra time in the class and I have already gone through my whole lesson.