Biology Notebooks

I’ve been using notebooks as a part of my various biology classes for a few years. But they never quite worked how I wanted them to. Previously, they were divided into three sections: word parts (common prefixes & suffixes), lab reports, and journals. The biggest problem was that I had 130 notebooks left in my classroom that I was trying to find time to grade (no way I was dragging those home). So they always got left until the last minute of the quarter. I didn’t feel like it was a good use of time.

So this year, I changed the notebooks. I still liked the idea of each student having a notebook left in my classroom. So I took a peek (on pintrest of course) at my colleagues teaching younger students. I decided the notebooks would be used as more of a review tool and the students would grade each others, cutting down on the time required (and therefore allowing us to actually do more in them!).

Here’s the new setup:

1st page: Table of contents (lists the name of the assignment and the page number

2nd page: Grading Rubric       Notebook Rubric

*This is an adapted version of a rubric I found… on pintrest. Since then I lost the original owner. But thanks, whoever you are! We grade these every 2-3 weeks depending on how much work we’ve done. I pass them out randomly, they grade them according to the instructions on the rubric, then bring it to me so I can put the score in my gradebook. If the notebook did not earn all the points, I ask them why to make sure they’re correct). If someone does not have their notebook in class, they get a zero with no debate. The notebooks are not supposed to leave my room, but sometimes they have to bring them home to complete an assignment. They know it is just like bringing back any other homework assignment. If a student loses their notebook, they can start a new one (picking up where we are now) but cannot make up the points they lost in the meantime.

3rd & 4th pages: word parts list (part/meaning/example). We add five new words each week.

From there out we do lots of different types of things: drawings, word maps, Venn diagrams, etc. (all enrichment activities to whatever we are learning about).  Below are a few pictures of work we have done. One is a scavenger hunt we did early in the year to learn where supplies are kept in my room. The other is a bunch of lab symbols that they had to describe the meanings of (in their own words).

Class Scavenger Hunt

Class Scavenger Hunt

Lab Safety Symbols

Lab Safety Symbols

   So what happened to the lab reports and journals? I went back to lab reports on their own paper that they turn in like a regular assignment. I am in the process of getting my older kids to type them…. maybe even do graphs on the computer if I’m feeling ambitious! As for our journals (which we do about once a week), they are now on Googledocs. I have 10 ipads in my room, so they can log in and share their response with me. They are using the same document all year, which also gives me a good way to show their progress with writing. They are also SO much easier to grade this way. I can sit on my couch under my electric blanket with my iPad and get through them pretty quickly.

  I hope this is helpful. How are you using notebooks, lab reports, and journaling in your classroom?

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6 thoughts on “Biology Notebooks

  1. Hello! I am currently teaching chemistry and biology as a sixth year teacher and have been trying to figure out something to do with lab notebooks. I’m still not there, but I loved the name of your post “refusing to reinvent the wheel”. I’ve been struggling with this! Thanks so much for sharing! Not everyone feels the same way that you do and refuses to share.

  2. Pingback: Cut & Paste- Old School Style | Refuse To Reinvent The Wheel

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