Setting up the Science Notebook

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SWBAT prepare and organize their Science Notebooks that will be used throughout the year.

Big Idea

The use of Science Notebooks is an important skill for students to have so that they can collect data, ideas, and draw sketches of things that they are learning.

Lesson Overview- 5 E Lesson Planning

5 minutes

Unit 1: Scientist Training Camp

Lesson 1: Setting up the Science Notebook

5E Lesson Planning:

I plan most of my science lessons using the BSCS 5E Lesson Model: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. For a quick overview of the model, take a look at this video.

I use this lesson model because it peaks the students' interest in the beginning during the "Engage" portion and allows for the students to actively participate in the investigations throughout the subsequent steps. The “Evaluate” component of the 5E Lesson Model can be used in many ways by the teacher and by the students.

A great resource for lesson plan frameworks and explanations is the Community Resources for Science. The 5E Lesson Planning Template and 5E Lesson Planning Prompts come from this website.

Unit Overview:

In this unit, students will learn about the tools and safety guidelines that are necessary for conducting science investigations. They will also be setting up a Science Notebook and learning about the difference between a scientist and an engineer.

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students will create their Science Notebooks which will be used throughout the year. Another option is for the students to set up a different notebook for each unit they will be studying. For this year we decided to use a larger notebook, allowing the students to have easier access to previous lessons. 

Materials Needed per student:

  • Spiral notebook (I used 100 page spiral notebooks)
  • 1 sheet of plain copy paper
  • colored pencils, crayons, or markers
  • black marker for writing the name and class period
  • clear contact paper or clear tape to maintain the covers of the noteook
  • copy of Table of Contents, Inmstructions, and Rubric

Next Generation Science Standards:

In this Unit I will be introducing the students to the different Next Generation Science Standards by showing them an overview of the Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and Science & Engineering Practices. 

In the last few lessons of the Unit we will be using some of the Science and Engineering Practices to design an experiment and to go through the Engineering Design process.



15 minutes

I start this lesson by showing the students the following Science Notebooking Powerpoint presentation about Science Notebooks and how important they are to utilize when conducting investigations and projects. 

With this introduction I want the students to see that while notebooks can be individualized there are certain requirements that I have so that I can use the notebooks for assessment purposes (a large portion of my students' science grades are based on their notebooks).  Their notebooks are their own and should contain their own thoughts, observations and drawings of the science and engineering projects we will be doing throughout the year. 

The Science Notebook will also contain any handouts or tests that the students have been given in science so that they can keep track of their progress and use these as learning tools.



60 minutes

I tell the students to get out one of the spiral notebooks they brought as their supplies for the beginning of the year. We request a voluntary supply list for each student to bring for back to school which includes spiral notebooks for each of their subjects. I like the spiral notebook because the pages are bigger, it tends to stay together longer, and it's cheaper than a composition notebook. Of course it is up to you as to what type of notebook you want the students to use.

I also have the students get out a pencil, glue sticks, colored pencils or crayons or markers (I prefer colored pencils, but my students love using markers), and a black sharpie marker. 

I start by giving each student a blank sheet of copy or printer paper and I tell them to glue this to their front cover of their notebook. I tell them to trim the paper as needed and that they can cover the 3 holes if their spiral has this. We then have a discussion about science and what it is. I ask them the questions: What is Science? and What is not Science? I have the students write and draw their ideas in their Science Notebooks under the title "What is Science?" I ask some students to share their ideas about what is science and one student explains that it is learning about everything around you and another students states that science is doing experiments. I tell them that they're both right and that we will become scientists this year and learn more about what science is. 

I tell them that they will design their  Science Notebook cover however they want to as long as it is science related and to think about the ideas and drawings they wrote about "What is Science?". I show them some pictures of things we will be learning in science to give them some ideas:

physical science

Life Science

Earth and Space Science

STEM image

These images represent the Disciplinary Core Ideas of Physical Science, Life Science, Earth and Space Science, and Science and Engineering Practices. I also have some catalogs and magazines on hand if the students want to make a collage of images related to science.

My only requirement on the cover is that the students have their name (first and last, the title: Science, the year (2015-2016), and their homeroom teacher's name since I teach more than one science class. This label needs to be large and done in sharpie. I have large sticker labels that we can use so it makes it easier to place this name label on the notebook.

After about 20-30  minutes of allowing the students to work on their covers I give them the Science Notebook Guidelines and the Science Notebook Table of Contents to place in their notebooks. The Guidelines are glued into the inside of their cover and the Table of Contents is glued on the first page of their Notebook.  I go over the Guidelines with the students to make sure they understand what the expectations are for the notebook. I explain to them that at times there will be data collection or note taking worksheets that I will want them to glue into their notebooks.

If you want to use this as an "Interactive Notebook" then the rule of thumb is that all of the data collection and procedures of science investigations are on the right side of the journal and the reflection part of the lesson is on the left side. For this year, I have decided to keep the journals open-ended so that the students can decide where they will write their notes, as long as it's all kept organized and neat.

When the students' notebook covers are complete, I cover them with clear contact paper so that they can last throughout the school year. Here are a few examples of some of the students' Science Notebook covers:

Science Notebook Cover 5,Science Notebook Cover 2, and Science Notebook Cover 4




10 minutes

I show the students a Science Notebook Rubric that I will be using periodically during the year to assess their Science Notebooks. I also give them a copy to glue onto the inside back cover of their notebook. This rubric is based more on the thoroughness of their notebooks and is used as an organizational tool for them. I based the rubric from this website which is a great about organizing and using Science Notebooks.

The notebook should really be considered a "rough draft" of the work we do in science all year. I allow the students to use their notes and drawings from them to help with tests, quizzes and essays. These graded items go back in the notebook so that everything is kept in one place.