Reflection: High Expectations The Basics of Using Science Notebooks in Your Classes - Section 3: Step-by-step


As teachers we are striving to do much more than stuff our students with facts. We are seeking to develop their critical thinking skills and encourage inquisitiveness. The use of science notebooks enables me to plan lessons that are student-centered, alleviating the need for multiple page, progressive worksheets that walk students through the process of problem-solving and learning new concepts.  Student learning is individualized to the learner and so should their documentation of learning. 

This lesson establishes how to modify a worksheet activity into a student-centered activity with writing prompts, and answers basic questions about the challenges a teacher may face when incorporating notebooks into their teaching practice. 

Incorporating habits of mind with science notebooks provides much needed structure for 6th grade students to complete certain tasks to your expectations and gives them the skills needed to use inquiry to solve future science challenges.  Visual Thinking and Learning is a powerful tool to use to extract the most poignant thoughts out of your students, and can be especially useful for ELL students.  The example below uses the standard Think, Pair, Share approach to establish your students baseline knowledge of heat transfer. By simply asking students to describe what they think they will observe in this video and explain why they feel that way, educators can tease out common preconceptions.   Additionally, when performing the same Think, Pair, Share activity again--after students experience some more content and crosscutting concepts--we can assess their learning by comparing their initial responses with students' post-activity responses.  We can pay close attention to their ability to make arguments supported by evidence and plan future lessons to meet any shortcomings.  As opposed to simply having students write down their ideas, they will first draw a picture and then write words to describe it.  There are many options that you can provide to students, such as standard drawings or a multitude of concept maps that meet different student learning styles.  In addition to their visual representations I also ask students to write down some captions or brief sentences to communicate their thoughts.  Once students write down their initial thoughts they meet with a peer and each person shares their thoughts, while the other person listens respectively.  Once the first student is done the other student will respond by raising questions that challenge their peer's beliefs and the student will write those questions in their notebook.  The teachers role during this process is to keep time and monitor student interactions; it is not their role to intervene in regards to the accuracy of what is being said.  In order for this to be truly student-centered, teachers must remain neutral and allow students to learn through investigation and research.  

Note: All of this gets written in their science notebooks.  The general structure of the notebook entries include their preconception visual thinking work, followed by notes/research pertaining to the content/crosscutting concepts covered in class, inquiry questions raised during the peer-to-peer conversations about what students need to know in order to figure out how heat transfers, post-conception drawings and finally students raise additional questions that can deepen their understanding with more research.  

  Developing Critical Thinking
  High Expectations: Developing Critical Thinking
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The Basics of Using Science Notebooks in Your Classes

Unit 1: NGSS Science and Engineering Practices and the Nature of Science
Lesson 1 of 11

Objective: SWBAT: Appropriately set-up their science notebooks

Big Idea: Science notebooks are a powerful tool that you can use in your classes to create a more student-centered learning atmosphere. Get rid of the worksheets and let your students create the tables, models and notes on their own!

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  40 minutes
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