Science Journals - Adding Details

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SWBAT understand the purpose for science journals and the purpose for including details in their entries.

Big Idea

Students will use their science journals as reference material throughout the school year, so adding details to drawings and information in their journals will provide students with a deeper layer of understanding.


The purpose of today's lesson on science journals is for students to add details to an entry. In my teaching, I have often come across a student who draws as fast as they can and announces, "I am done" just to leave me wondering what to do with them while the rest of the class finishes working. This lesson aims to teach students that a quick draw is not enough - when you 'finish' you can add details and more information to make the entry more complete.

For this lesson, I use:
Science journals
A child's dictionary of words of food likely to be on their lunch tray or breakfast tray
(If I cannot find a dictionary, I just make up a quick poster with some printed pictures of items ahead of time)

Example of not detailed work
Example of detailed work
Venn diagram drawn on chart paper

In my school, I am required to post a guiding question for each lesson. For this lesson, students will have "How do details make a science entry even better?" glued into their notebook at the top of the page.

Warm Up

10 minutes

To start this lesson, I quickly review the Science Journal Anchor Chart we made with guidelines for journal entries  to reinforce consistency with the things that we include in an entry and the resources that students have available to help with their entry.

Journal Entry #1 - This journal entry is a 'good entry because it has the topic and the date, readable handwriting and a labeled picture with a caption.   

Journal Entry #2 - This entry is a 'poor' example because the topic is not detailed, there is no date, the picture is not labeled and the caption has many errors and is hard to read.

I show the students both prepared entries side by side and ask them to quietly talk to their neighbor about what they notice for about 2 minutes. I usually use partner talk early in the year to keep students focused on the lesson and engaged. If I notice students are off task or not talking to each other, I will quietly ask them questions to probe their thinking like, "What do you notice about the journal entries? Does one look neater than the other? Does one look messier? Which one is easier to understand?"

When they are done, I call on students to tell me what they noticed (I like to use popsicle sticks with each student's name on them to make who I call on look random, when in fact I pull 3 out at a time and only pick one of the three). I say,

"We are going to use a Venn diagram to help us compare the two entries. One the left side I will write all of the things we notice about the first entry. On the right side I will write all of the things we notice about the second entry. If we notice something that is the same with both entries, I will write it in the middle".

I record their responses on the Venn diagram.

The purpose of this part of the lesson is to get students to verbalize what it is that makes one entry better than another --one is neater, more easy to read, has detailed pictures, labels, etc. In fact, it has all of the things that are on our anchor chart for a good science journal entry! The poor entry has scribbles, not neat handwriting, etc.


20 minutes

Next, I tell students:

"I believe you are ready to do a bit of work in your science journal on your own, now that you know the difference between a really good entry and a not-so-good entry. I'd like you to draw a picture of what you had for lunch (or breakfast) today. I am looking for a detailed, labeled picture with accurate spelling and correct colors. No green spaghetti!! Please open to your next page, add the date and title, and draw your tray with everything that was on it and then label each item."

While students work, I go around and help students, really emphasizing how important the correct coloring, labeling, and scale/size are in their work. They work for about 10-15 minutes. If someone finishes early, I encourage them to also include the other things on their tray that they didn't eat (fork, napkin, straw, etc) and to add a caption at the bottom.

Wrap Up

10 minutes

When students finish, I use my popsicle stick method to 'randomly' pick about 3 really good examples of entries that I have actually pre-selected when I was walking around the room helping. The entries I choose as examples have clear handwriting that is easy to read, not a lot of scribbling, and accurate coloring as well as at least an attempt at labeling most of the foods. For students who have most of these components, I know that they have grasped the purpose of the lesson and can now add details to their science journal entries. These are my expectations since I reviewed the anchor chart at the beginning of the lesson and students are familiar with accurate coloring and labeling.

We reference the Venn diagram to show how the student's entries mimic the better of the two examples we used earlier. I say,

"This entry is detailed and I can tell that the author used his best handwriting so that it would be easy to read his writing, just like the first entry we looked at".

I use the student entries to highlight a few students who are working diligently on their entries to make them feel successful and to also provide more examples for students who need a bit more support. The Venn diagram, the two sample entries we used during the lesson, and the student entries support the idea of drawing as scientific modeling (Science Practice 2) by providing students with multiple examples of quality journal entries.