Four Ways to Think Like a Scientist with Science Notebooks


I’m obsessed with keeping notebooks. I have drawers full of them for collecting thoughts and ideas generated during faculty meetings, conferences, and workshops. So many treasures: lists of things to do, illustrations to remind me how to replicate, questions, unfamiliar terms, and examples of strategies I want to remember.

So it’s hardly a surprise that notebooking is a key practice in my elementary science instruction! I’ve tried fancy hardcover notebooks with lines, formatted templates with space for drawing, and lined paper. But do you know what works best? The simplest option: blank papers stapled inside of a file folder. Why? Blank pages allow for flexibility and freedom.

Science notebooks evolve throughout the year along with students, becoming more complex as students gain a better understanding of how data is collected and recorded. For example, a kindergarten class starts off with a general notebook for gathering and recording information, then gradually to specific-topic notebooks. A second grade class starts with general observations, then moves towards formal data recording.

Here are four ways to use science notebooks:

1. Help students create their own reference sheets.

I use a direct approach sometimes, asking students to write down definitions or copy a specific diagram. These entries serve as references for students.

Reference Sheets

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Supporting English Learners in the Primary Classroom

Center for Teaching Quality

Common Core Standards ask students to construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others in math; ask and answer questions about key details in a text; and participate in collaborative conversations about topics and texts. Students are expected to explain their thinking and build on others’ talk in conversation.

But what if your students don’t speak English?

When teachers shift into Common Core Standards mode this fall, we must remember that although the standards are common, the students we teach are not. Read more

What You Can Do When the Arts are Missing from Your Elementary School

Center for Teaching Quality

When I first began teaching, the arts were part of elementary school students’ daily curriculum. Tight budgets, high stakes testing, and a heavy focus on literacy, science, and math have brought an end to that. These days, teachers tend to incorporate the arts around the holidays or when there is “extra time.”

But the abandoned arts can help students to master Common Core standards: enhancing creativity, increasing self-confidence, promoting collaboration, and offering alternative way to assess learning.

Here are a few simple ways I integrate the arts in my classroom:

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A Step-by-Step Plan for Student-Led Conferences at the Elementary Level

Center for Teaching Quality

Confession: I look forward to parent conferences. I value the opportunity to connect with families face-to-face. But discussing report cards? Ugh. After 16 years of traditional parent conferences, I decided to make a good thing even better.

Student-led conferences intrigued me. The basic concept: students lead the conferences about their academic progress. They take ownership of their learning experience, sitting at the table with parents and teachers. Older students generally share their body of work through portfolios and work samples.

But how could it look for primary students? Nine years into implementing student-led conferences with primary students, I’ve found this is the key: have students demonstrate what they can do.

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