I’ve been hearing a lot about science notebooks lately, so I went to the Education Development Center’s Pathway Session on Establishing Science Notebook Habits and Skills. It was interesting to hear each presenter’s unique take on the science notebook and see all of the student examples they displayed.
Fifth-grade teacher Karen Wood said structured journals work best with her fifth graders, who typically don’t have a lot of exposure to science. I was shocked to hear that only a handful of her students each year have had any science at all.
Dean Martin, science specialist for grades 3-5 in the Boston Public Schools, uses a “dual notebook structure” combining free writing with specific questions to explore. With students who have difficulty expressing themselves in writing, he adapts the notebook by letting them take digital photos and write captions. To help kids who think they can’t draw, he provides a few simple drawing lessons to build their confidence, while assuring them that their drawings need not be perfect.
Lori Fulton of Jay Jeffers Elementary School in Las Vegas, Nevada, says many of her kindergarteners are English Language Learners, so writing is hard for them. So they work on creating pictures for their notebooks first, then learn how to label the pictures. With older students, she advises not overemphasizing conclusions and encouraging students to describe their observations.
Audience members asked the presenters about how they helped their students make real-world connections using their notebooks and how to determine whether what students put in the notebook represented accurate understanding.