Teaching Science With Interactive Notebooks
The inspiration for this book came from amazing students and the discoveries they make each day in the classroom, along with the equally amazing teachers who get to be witness to these miracles when they happen in class. I am grate
ful for the students I have had the pleasure to teach throughout the years, especially those who attended Pershing and Challenger Middle Schools in San Diego Unified School District. Victoria and Howard Nguyen, Ana Segovia, Valeria Rosas, Tori Maches, and Sara Shah, your awesome notebooks are works of art, filled with deep thinking and profound connections. Thank you for sharing your work with anyone who reads this book. To the inspirational teachers that I have had the pleasure of working with, thank you for sharing your vision, experience, collaboration, and love for teaching.
To the mentors and advisors in my community, who have taught me so much about everything from leading to teaching, especially, Kim Bess, Don Whisman, Kathy DiRanna, Rodger Bybee, Joseph A. Taylor, Nancy Taylor, Janet Powell, Nancy Landes, Jim Short, Bob Hamm, Geoff Martin, Sarah Sullivan, Sheelagh Moran, Sam Wong, and Penney. Thank you for believing in me and providing an opportunity for me to continually grow.
For revising my work and helping me to think critically, I thank Susan Benson, Jeremiah Potter, Aaron Rubin, Rick Budzynski, Heather Nellis, Carleen Hemric, Felicia Ryder, Kerry Yates, Jean Ward, Frank Calantropio, and Anna Lubatti. You have all made a profound difference!
Finally, for their continued support throughout this grueling process, Ralph, Marissa, Nana, Erica, John, Dolly, Dad, Anna, Alex, D., Jamie, Lisa, Ricky, Rachael, Lauren, Randy, Ree, Don, Sonia, Frank, Kendall, Ken, Joan, Melisa, Don B., Kiera, Lee, Lisa, Angelina, Dylan, Maureen, Kay, Lina, Joey, Michelle, Joanne, Joseph, Sebastion, Nicole Buchanan, Lance Justice, Kim Luttgen, Tammy Moriarty, Rick Barr, Dan Grendziak, Terry Allinger, Daniel Cook, Princess Rostrata, Gerald Gapusan, Andrea Pfaff, Kathleen Blair, Scott Hillier, Jim Rohr, John Yochelson, Jack Annala, Kathy Jones, Michael Harris, Jackie Gallaway, Jennifer Weibert, Panera Bread Company—for allowing me sit in their restaurant and write for hours—and Linda Lotze (who didn’t tattle on me when I ditched school to finish this book).
Special thanks to San Diego Unified School District; San Diego County Office of Education; K–12 Alliance; WestEd; the authors of Interactions in Physical Science, especially Sharon Bendall and Fred Goldberg; AVID, and BSCS (Biological Sciences and Curriculum Study). Thanks to Jean Ward for editing my manuscript and helping me get a contract with Corwin. Thank you, Corwin, for all your support throughout the process, especially Cathy Hernandez, managing editor.
WHAT IS AN INTERACTIVE NOTEBOOK?
An interactive notebook is a tool students use to make connections prior to new learning, to revise their thinking, and to deepen their understandings of the world around them. It is the culmination of a student’s work throughout the year that shows both the content learned (input) and the reflective knowledge (output) gained. Put another way, an interactive notebook provides a space where students may take what is inside their brains, lay it out, make meaning, apply it, and share it with their peers, parents, and teachers. I use the term interactive to describe how these notebooks can be used. That is to say, the notebooks support interactivity and an exchange of ideas from teacher to student, student to student, student to parent, and parent to teacher.
Here’s what one student wrote about her interactive notebook:
It’s like my own piece of property that I have to take responsibility for. It shows my personal thinking and creativity. My notebook shows that I can think for myself and figure out where I went wrong for myself instead of someone telling me. I like my interactive notebook because I feel like it’s my own little book where I can write my own questions and answer them. However, I think it represents me. Like if I were to look through a stranger’s interactive notebook, I would get a sense of their personality, too—cool.
Teachers use interactive notebooks to increase student thinking and achievement. They provide a means of communicating, tracking, assessing, and reflecting the work students do. Interactive notebooks provide a window into the minds of students to reveal their true understanding and their misconceptions, and they provide an opportunity for teachers to open up new horizons for their students to explore.
HOW ARE INTERACTIVE NOTEBOOKS USED?
iculum. In the chapters that follow, we will examine the steps of using interactive notebooks in much greater detail.
At the beginning of each science unit, the teacher works with the class to develop an overarching question or problem that will be researched during the unit. All learning during the unit will be linked back to this question.
The unit continues with several lab investigations. The teacher starts each one with a key question, giving students time to write what they think in their notebooks and then discuss it in groups. The teacher and students explore the ideas in class, and students individually form their hypotheses. This allows students to start thinking about the topic and prepares students for the next step.
Students then participate in an inquiry-based investigation—gathering data, observing, forming questions, making sketches, and beginning to formulate ideas about the topic being studied. Student interaction and probing questions by the teacher and peers are essential parts of the process. Students record the processes and data in their notebooks.
After the investigation is over, the students and teacher come together as a class for a discussion (I call this “an accountable talk” session), where the collected data is used to make meaning of student’s initial ideas and questions. This is the exciting part of the process. Discussions may become heated as students’ ideas are challenged.
The evidence that was gathered during the lab drives the entire conversation, and some students hold on to their beliefs, while other students change theirs. Sometimes, students discuss the idea that the data might be flawed because of too many variables. For example, during one discussion, two students debated the idea that the tests performed on various gasses produced minimal results because the method that some groups used to gather the gas was crude. The conversation went on for over 30 minutes, until the class came to the conclusion that as long as they noted whether the gas burned or not it was fine because no exact numbers were being applied to the final conclusion.
A homework assignment completes the processing. Using their notebooks, students write conclusions or summaries, create graphs, or complete other similar assignments designed to push their thinking to the next level.
On subsequent days, students complete additional investigations, using their notebooks and following this same process. Students become accustomed to and comfortable with a process that starts with a question, introduces ideas through lab or other inquiry experience, includes hypothesizing, collection of data, presentation of evidence, and summarization. Keeping this lesson framework constant, with variation in the learning experiences to keep interest high, this scientific method for investigation becomes the continuing mode through which to explore any new ideas in class. The process, patterns, and expectations remain the same. By following an established protocol that stays constant, the student has the teacher’s format to rely on every day and every lesson.
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