Taking Notes for Science

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SWBAT read a science article and take complete notes to prepare for class discussion and paragraph writing.

Big Idea

Students need to be able to take notes that will be helpful for later use. This note taking sheet supports students in writing an organized paragraph later.


5 minutes

Note taking can very challenging for developing researchers. They may just want to read for fun or maybe they have difficulty doing two things at once, reading and writing or reading for understanding and looking for information. This lesson provides students a way to take notes.

I introduce this lesson by describing what the scientific community does. Many scientist don't just jump into an experiment without doing any research. They talk with other scientists, read scientific articles, and learn as much as about the parts of the experiment that they are going to working with. 

In 4th grade, they are scientists, too and therefore, they have to practice preparing for science by doing a little bit of research. 

Lead by example

10 minutes

In order to record our understanding and have something we can look back on when we discuss with our science colleagues, we need to take notes.

I tell them that there are many ways to take notes and organize the information you find. Today we are going to be using this format because it supports them in writing later on. 

I show them the document under the document camera using the projector. 

I explain each parts. The first and second column only needs 1 word. The first column is where we name it and the second column is where we say what type of organism it is. The third column is wider because that is where we right the bulk of the information. 

I also remind them of the guiding questions but tell them that the article may not have answers for all of these but we're keeping the questions consistent with each organism study so we might later be able to compare. 

After they received the article and the note taking sheet, I show them how I read the questions and then begin reading the article. I remind them that it is okay if they can't find all of the answers as they read. They can read the questions again at the end and go back to look specifically for the answers to questions that they have yet to answer. 

I start to read the article and find an answer to a question and show how I use the guide to format my written response. For example, if I found information on its habitat, I use the section on the note taking sheet that says, "that" and the words in the previous column to help set up a sentence. "Duckweed is a producer that..." and write down "lives on ponds, streams, and lakes." instead of writing "its habitat is ponds" or "it likes to live on lakes". This guide supports writing a paragraph later with correct sentence structure. 


10 minutes

After I have showed how to do it for one question, I ask them to read on and with a raised hand, share how we might record the answer to a different question. Its definitely easier for me to find the information I already know is there but it will be much more difficult for new researchers to do it on their own. I want them to practice the process of reading and looking for a specific answer before they have to do it on their own. It also gives me the opportunity to provide any last tips or guidance in finding information.

Any information that is shared by me or another student to the class, I expect the students to be writing it down on their own note taking sheet. Of course, if they don't they are still expected to find the information on their own. 

Finally, I ask them to continue the note taking on their own. 

I walk around the room to support students and answer questions.


5 minutes

After students are finished, I go over the questions to make sure that students have the correct information and all of the information they should have. 

I go question by question. I encourage students to find the part of the article that gives them the detail or the answer then share out what they wrote. For example, the article said, "uses sun energy, mineral nutrients, and water to make its own food" so I wrote, "makes its own food by using the sun's energy, mineral nutrients from the soil, and water."

Students are typically eager to share what they found most interesting because they could answer that question anyway they wanted to. We spend some time sharing that information out.