Unit 1: What are Interactive Science Notebooks?



By the end of this unit you will be able to define what an Interactive Science Notebook is and list the key parts that are included.


Before you start this unit, go to the ISNs in the Secondary Classroom Discussion Page and under the section for this unit write your current idea of what an ISN is. This is something that will change by the end of the unit and you will go back to.


ISN Eg.jpg
Physics ISN examples.jpg

With your definition in mind, you will begin to explore the world of Interactive Science Notebooks. They are science specific Interactive Student Notebooks. We will focus on using them in the science classroom. But in some of the material provided you might read about Interactive Student Notebooks.

Read the following from "Teaching Science with Interactive Notebooks"


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.


Below is a brief overview of the process of using notebooks as part of the science curriculum. 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.

Marcarelli, Kellie. Teaching Science with Interactive Notebooks. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press., 2010. SAGE knowledge


Visit the links below to view sample presentations by teachers and an article. Consider the following questions and answer them in a 200-300 word response. Post your response on the discussion board of this unit here: ISNs in the Secondary Classroom Discussion Page

File:Interactive notebook.pdf


File:ISNIntro K8.pdf

File:Saylor INB 12 13.pdf


1. What are the main elements of an ISN?

2. What elements would you most likely alter when having your students set up their notebooks? Why?

3. Are there elements you would like to add or get rid of completely? Why?

Post Assessment

Now that you have explored ISNs go back and look at your definition and re-write it using what you have learned. Post in it in the Post assessment section of the discussion page here: ISNs in the Secondary Classroom Discussion Page


Continue onto Unit 2: How do you make an Interactive Science Notebook?

Return to ISNs in the Secondary Classroom Discussion Page

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