Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Introducing Science Notebooks

Brought to us again by Leslie Atkins and Irene Salter over at Student-generated Scientific Inquiry, here is one cool activity to introduce science notebooks , especially if you are looking to establish the purpose, norms, and assessment of science notebooks in your class.

Here's the breakdown:
  • Student groups each get copies of pages taken from six actual scientists notebooks (Darwin, Einstein, Pauling, etc) such as the picture shown below

  • Students work in groups to write down things they notice on whiteboards. There are some guiding questions such, "What do pages look like?", "What is the writing style?", "What's similar and different across the examples?"
  • Teacher opens the discussion to whole class and jots down everything on the board

  • Teacher shifts conversations from "What do we notice?" to "What are science notebooks for?" Leslie suggests you might say something like this
"This is a great list of observations. What do these observations tell us about what a scientistʼs notebook is for? What is the purpose of them? Who reads them?"
  • Teacher shifts conversations from purpose of science notebooks to "Our Notebooks". For example, Leslie suggests you might say something like this,
"It seems that we are now in general agreement that the purpose of scientistsʼ notebooks is _______________. As I mentioned before, you will need to keep a notebook in this class and I want your notebooks to be modeled after a scientistʼs notebook. What should be the purpose of notebooks in this class? What kinds of things are reasonable to expect from yourselves in creating a quality notebook?

Once we have a list we can all agree to, I will use your list to generate a set of grading criteria for your notebooks for this semester."
  • Teachers write up a rubric based on what the students bring up. Here's an example Leslie shares with us

If you want to see some examples of the kind of science notebooks her students generate you can see a photo gallery here.


  1. Wow! Fantastic ideas here. Thank you for posting and sharing links.

  2. I agree -- this is the answer to a question I hadn't realized I had. Thanks for the details about conversation prompts, etc. You might enjoy this as well -- a TED talk by George Dyson about the birth of digital computing, with wonderful footage of the design logs.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.