Many students are cursed with what I like to call “Black Hole Syndrome.“ If you’ve dared to look into a middle schooler’s backpack you know just what I’m talking about. Incomplete homework from 6 months ago, notes passed in math class, remnants of what should have been used for their science project, and a few stale Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. I think we can all agree that the majority of students need a bit of guidance as far as organization goes. Enter the “Interactive Science Notebook”! (this can also work for other subjects, of course)
Important details for implementing a successful Interactive Science Notebook:
Notebook size: 8 ½ x 11” spiral notebook. This will allow you to paste worksheets in the notebook perfectly. If notebooks are any smaller students will need to cut the edges off worksheets – total nightmare. Trust me on this.
Cover: Students decorate the cover of their notebook to make it “special” — something creative and unique to who they are! I encourage students to go over their cover with packaging tape to ensure it won’t fall apart after 2 months.
Title Page: Name of class, teacher’s name, name of student, period number, and school year.
Table of Contents: You will probably need two full pages worth of Table of Contents. Set-up should look like this:
It is imperative that you update the table of contents together as a class before you paste anything in the notebook (updating might occur every day).
Numbering Pages: Page 1 should be your first blank left-hand page, page 2 will be your first right-hand page. This keeps all odd pages on the left and all even pages on the right, just like the table of contents lay-out.
Right-Hand Page Activities: Right-hand page activities are always done first. These activities generally involve students learning new information, taking notes, etc.
Left-Hand Page Activities: Left-hand page activities are for reinforcement activities, such as labs, projects, thinking maps, etc. This is where you can get creative and make your notebook as ‘interactive’ as you wish! I’ve done everything from simple foldables to paper pockets, where students can place their CD recordings of the “Photosynthesis Rap” they created.
Color: I ask students to “color” their notes on the right-hand page. After taking notes they grab a highlighter or colored pencil and color any words they think are important or could possibly be on the test. For left-hand page activities students are required to have at least 5 colors on the page (could be as minimal as underlining or as extensive as drawing in the margins). This may sound elementary, but coloring your work requires students to look at what they have done for a longer period of time, essentially studying their own work.
Grading: When students enter class and work on their warm-up activity, students should open their notebooks to look at their work from the prior day . Give students a stamp if work is complete. At the end of the unit you can collect all of the student notebooks and give them 10/10 for a page with a stamp, 5/10 for a page that is complete but has no stamp, and 0/10 for an empty page. This can be adjusted based on your own grading system.
Parent communication: At the end of each unit leave a page for parent communication. This is where you write the grade the student received. Parents can then comment underneath on the students work and write any questions or concerns they might have.
There are far too many benefits to Interactive Science Notebooks, it would be silly not to try it out this school year. Students lacking organizational skills master a tool that will be useful for years to come. Students will no longer lose their assignments in their black hole backpacks. You will have more interaction with parents, which is imperative to student success. The best part is, you will save so much time grading you might even start having some time for yourself! 😀