Design Teaching

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 18 2011

So It Takes Forever to Set Up Science Notebooks…

…but it’ll be totally worth it.

I’ve spent the whole last period, and will spend a little bit of the next as well, setting up my student’s science notebooks. They’re a bit of a work of art, if I do say so myself.

The cover of our science notebooks are the words the students chose to describe “Our Perfect Classroom” (thanks again to Wordle). When the students saw the cover, they were all like “Cool!”, “Wow”, “Amazing.” When I told them that they made these covers (after all, it was their words), the students all tried to look for their words and felt really good when they found them.

Their heading goes on the very top of their cover, and they need to leave that spot blank, but everywhere else they can (and should) color and design and make their own. Some of the students seem to be getting even a little bit competitive about this, which I don’t mind in the very least. (=

On the first page of the science notebook, we glued a list of Don’ts and Do’s of Science Notebooking. I wanted the students to have this handy list to refer to whenever they use the science notebook. It’s really important to teach the students how to glue, or they’ll slather a bunch of glue on and make a huge mess. I first modeled, then we pretended to glue, and then they went ahead and actually did it in their notebooks.

“First fold the paper in half. Then put dots of glue. How many dots? That’s right, count it with me, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Finally, what do we do with the glue when we’re done? Exactly. Let’s hold up that glue, and t w i s t.”

After, we have six pages of Table of Contents. The students asked, “What?! Six?!” I answered, “That’s right, six, you’re going to be doing a LOT of notebooking this year.”

Now, here’s the cool part. Take the science notebook, flip it upside down, turn it to the back, and then open it up again like it’s a book but with the back cover of the composition notebook as the front cover. Here, make an index for science vocabulary words! Tada, instant self-made reference material.

Who knew it could take students 40 minutes to set up?

On the flip side, I’m completely planned for tomorrow doing minimal extra work, so it’s been a relaxing and thinking evening for me!

*Another great thing about making science notebooks that I stumbled across, is that the students all feel very special if you do something for them for their science notebooks. For example, I’m in the process of reinforcing every student’s science notebook spines with clear packing tape to protect their cover as well as their composition notebook spines, which often suffer from wear and tear. It’s given me the opportunity to check every notebook, to interact with every student, and to learn more about them. Plus, they feel like I did something special for them as individuals, and it helps with relationship building.

**For very utilitarian pictures of the science notebooks, pop on over to our class site:

***This organization would not have been possible without a brilliant conversation with fellow fifth grade science teachers and TFA corps members. Yay, collaboration!

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