Unit 3: Why are Interactive Science Notebooks beneficial?



By the end of this unit you will be able to explain the benefits and challenges of using ISNs in your classroom,using research about their use in the classroom, in a 300-500 word response.


Read the following research about ISNs benefits in the classrooms. You may also search for other research findings on your own.

File:Interactive Notebooks Research.pdf

The following is en excerpt from "Teaching Science with Interactive Notebooks"

What are the Benefits of Using Interactive Notebooks?

The benefits of using interactive notebooks can be considered from three vantage points: developing students’ thinking in ways that prepare them to be part of the 21st-century workforce, increasing communication between stakeholders, and differentiating instruction.

Preparing Students to Compete Globally

On the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, U.S. students performed poorly compared to their counterparts in other countries. These results have fueled an increased sense of urgency in regard to improving science instruction in U.S. schools.

According to Wallis (2006), schools can better prepare students for the future by

• Starting earlier in the student’s developmental stage;

• Monitoring the gap between minority and majority social classes;

• Providing opportunity to challenge students, to push them further;

• Using computers to support instructional goals rather than just to be using them;

• Providing inquiry lessons that bridge relevant content; and

• Involving the community.

Using interactive notebooks in the classroom targets all of the aforementioned needs and helps develop the globally competitive student. Notebooks address these needs by

• Connecting students’ thinking and experiences with science concepts;

• Engaging students in collaborative inquiry as a way of learning science content;

• Providing opportunities for all students;

• Creating a concrete record of reflection, assessment, and connections that can be viewed and discussed;

• Developing academic language; and

• Providing students with an opportunity to think critically and make informed decisions.

The interactive notebook becomes real evidence of student learning and thinking, a shaping tool for future productive citizens in the science world.

Increasing Communication Between Stakeholders

Notebooking promotes communication between the stakeholders—students, teachers, and parents. A science classroom exposes students to shared experiences of observable marvels or happenings. The interactive notebook is a way of capturing these common experiences on paper, in a place where it won’t get lost, so that students can refer back to the common experiences whenever they need them as a way of driving discourse. This provides students with an opportunity to come to consensus and build on the knowledge that was collaboratively gained.

Consider an example based on Newton’s first law of motion. As part of their inquiry, students observed low-friction cars at rest and at a constant speed moving in the same direction. They observed the interactions and collected data (input). Figure 1.1 shows an example of student observations. Students used their findings as evidence to support their ideas about the phenomena (output). The interactive notebooks provided a means of communicating with the teacher. The teacher read the students’ work and gained an understanding of their thinking processes. Student entries become evidence not only of what they know but also of how they know it.

Entries also indicated what students don’t know. The interactive notebook also enhances communication between the student and the parent or the teacher and the parent. Parents can simply pick up the interactive notebook and start asking questions about the student’s entries. The interactive notebook provides parents with evidence of a student’s conceptual understanding and personal reflections. A notebook rubric, which is permanently affixed in the front of the notebook, can be used by parents, teachers, and students to discuss expectations and the extent to which the student is meeting them.

Figure 1.1.png

Differentiating Instruction to Meet the Needs of All Students

When working with English language learners or students with special needs, the interactive notebook is an effective tool for the development and reinforcement of scientific or academic language. The notebook provides a safe place to practice writing and express prior knowledge and newly acquired knowledge. The interactive notebooks can be reviewed at meetings with intervention teachers and language specialists to provide evidence about how students are developing in your science class. It can help facilitate the development of intervention strategies for students with special needs.

What Research Supports Using Interactive Notebooks?

Notebooks support effective science instruction in a multitude of ways. According to How Students Learn: Science in the Classroom (Donovan & Bransford, 2005) science instruction should

• Elicit and address students’ prior conceptions of scientific phenomena;

• Help students build deep understandings of science subject matter and of scientific inquiry (i.e., what it means to “do science”); and

• Help students monitor and take control of their own learning (metacognition).

Thoughtful use of interactive science notebooks can help meet all three of these recommendations. The interactive science notebook allows students the opportunity to identify their preexisting ideas, deepen and refine their scientific ideas throughout the learning activities, and reflect on their learning.

Beyond the connection to the general findings of Donovan and Bransford (2005) about effective science instruction, researchers have found specific evidence of how interactive notebooks promote student learning and increase achievement.

• Science notebooks expose students’ thinking, providing important insights about student understandings and serving as formative assessment tools (Hargrove & Nesbit, 2003; Gilbert & Kotelman, 2005).

• Notebooks encourage active learning and provide opportunities for students to pursue their own interests and tackle authentic problems (Hargrove & Nesbit, 2003; Gilbert & Kotelman, 2005).

• Notebooks offer numerous opportunities to develop and enhance students’ writing skills (Gilbert & Kotelman, 2005; Young, 2003).

• Notebooks provide a structure and support for differentiated learning, helping all students to achieve (Amaral, Garrison, & Klentschy, 2002; Gilbert & Kotelman, 2005).

• Interactive notebooks help improve students’ organizational skills (Madden, 2001).

• Notebooks facilitate communication with parents and can be used to provide them with evidence of student growth (Hargrove & Nesbit, 2003; Young, 2003).

Some of the research on the use of notebooks focused directly on students’ understanding of “doing science” and the nature of science and found that

• Thoughtfully implemented science notebooks use reflective writing and include a think-aloud feature that is common to the notebooks of actual scientists as they explore the world in a first hand manner (Magnusson & Palincsar, 2003);

• Science notebooks engage students in authentic science processes, such as recording information and data and engaging in research, collaboration, and analysis (Hargrove & Nesbit, 2003; Young, 2003); and

• Using an interactive notebook allows a student to think, record data and observations, and reflect just as professional scientists do (Young, 2003).

A Closer Look at How Notebooks Support Effective Instruction

We can consider notebooking from another vantage point—by examining how the processes of notebooking correlate with the nine effective strategies identified by Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock (2001) in Classroom Instruction That Works. Figure 1.2 shows how these strategies are integral to interactive-notebooking processes.

Figure 1.2.png

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


After reading the articles and resources, write a 300-500 word response to how you think ISNs would benefit your students. Also discuss what challenges you think you would encounter and how you might solve them.


Post your response in the discussion area for this unit and comment on at least 3 other responses.


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