Science in the City

Nov 28, 2014

This is What It Looks Like When I Do Interactive Notebooks

I recently got an email from a teacher who used interactive notebooks, but wanted to get better at using them, and had some questions for me. I thought I would post some of the highlights from our discussion here, in case others are wondering the same thing.

How do you do vocabulary in them?
How do you organize a unit? 

I focus on vocabulary in INB's in two ways.  First, at the start of each unit my students make a cover page.  In traditional INB fashion, this cover page has a left and right hand page (input and output).

On the student output side, I have them divide the page into four.  In the center of the four squares I have them write the title of the unit.  Then in each of the four boxes I give them a key vocabulary word for the unit.

Then I have them use the textbook, look online, or based on their own knowledge, draw a picture that goes with each vocabulary term, and write a caption.  This gets them connecting to what they already know, and previewing the topics.

On the teacher input side I give them a sheet that has the learning objectives of that unit, and the key vocabulary for the unit.

This gives the students a reference point, as well a view of where they are going during this unit.

Then at the end of the unit I have them write a reflection that has to include main points they have learned in the unit, and a reflection on their work.  In their reflection, they have to use a certain number of the key vocabulary terms.  They also have to revisit their work and discuss, what pages did they do the best on?  What could they have improved upon?  Etc.

I find that these two experiences really help them to focus on the main concepts of the unit, and tie together what they are learning.

Image from

Here is a sample of the objectives that I might use....
Cell Division Student Self-Assessment "Keeping Track of Learning"

Classroom freebies

Nov 27, 2014

Sale Time - If You Haven't Heard!!

If you haven't heard, there is a TpT sitewide sale Monday and Tuesday.  This means that my store will be 20% off, and the site is 10%, so you will get a total of 28% off the original prices.

This is the time to stock up and purchase items that you have been considering, but held off because of cost, or items that you know are versatile and will be used later in the year.

I know for me there are items that I look at, but wait to is your chance.

Do your window shopping, and then get your cart ready so you can take advantage of the discounts on Monday and Tuesday.

If I were shopping my own store, some of the items that fit into those categories are:

Buy My Store Products -- a great deal, at an even bigger discount!

Buy my Store - Earth Science     Buy my Store - Biology
Exit Tickets -- useful all year, even if you aren't quite sure what you will need later on.

Pack of 50 Exit Tickets (Formative Assessment)

Nov 25, 2014

What happened when I was asked "How do you use information about your students?"

I recently was asked "how do you use information about student's families and communities" to inspire them in science.....

At first I thought this was a difficult question because of where I teach (high school in a very urban, free and reduced lunch, high poverty area) I don't always have good success with parent involvement in the more traditional sense.  I can't always get a hold of parents.  I set up a field trip last year and we had parent chaperones lined up.  Unfortunately a couple didn't show up.

I feel like there is a bit of a divide, or a culture shift between my culture and my students' communities.  I live five miles from the school, but it is a very different culture.  It is suburban. I grew up in a middle class suburb.  I have taught in my current district for 10 years, but I still feel like there are barriers or differences that I will probably never be able to cross.

Then, as I thought about this question, I took it a completely different way and realized that I do use information about families and communities.

  • Because my students home lives are often chaotic, and they often don't have school supplies, I make sure that I always have extra paper, pencils etc. available in the classroom.
  • Because my students may not have homework support at home, I always give homework that can be done independently (a menu of choices to practice vocabulary words, for example).  And I don't ever assign homework that is due the next day.  I always give some flexibility.
  • Because my students, in general, have a lot of other responsibilities outside of school, I don't give a lot of homework.
  • Because there are a lot of reasons that school is missed, or homework doesn't get done, I am flexible on accepting late work.
  • Because there is a huge range of abilities, I try to differentiate and provide multiple pathways to success and multiple reading levels.
  • Because they may not have background experiences, I try to start most units with common background experiences and build in some background knowledge and engagement, as well as feeling for success early on.
  • Because the way for them to change their situation is by passing these high stakes exams, earning high school credits, and graduating, I still hold them to a high academic standard. I do not dumb down the content, and I do not excuse them from assignments.
Many of these have become such a part of my practice that I don't even think about them anymore. But my teaching style does reflect where I teach...

How about you?  How does your teaching style reflect the families and communities where you teach?

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