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This lesson will provide different strategies for developing appropriate science notebook rubrics for elementary, middle school, or high school classrooms. Read on for some examples of such rubrics you can use to complement your science lessons.

What Is a Science Notebook?

Science notebooks can be a powerful tool in the classroom. They can be used to foster critical thinking, as well as provide an opportunity for students to practice text analysis, writing, and mathematical skills.

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In general, science notebooks are organized by the left sides (even-numbered pages) and the right sides (odd-numbered pages).The right-side pages of the notebook are used for teacher-driven activities related to specific content, such as close readings of articles, notes, or any other forms of information input that you as the teacher have provided for the students.

Science Notebook Organization

Science Notebook OrganizationOn the other hand, left-side pages are for student-driven content.

This area is for students to practice working with the information, such as by creating visuals like a graphic organizer or cartoon or by completing other forms of practice exercises. A sample of a science notebook’s table of contents would look something like the one below.

Sample Science Notebook Table of Contents

Sample Science Notebook Table of Contents

Getting Started with Science Notebook Rubrics

Before implementing science notebooks in the classroom, as a teacher you first want to consider your purpose in doing so. As you design your rubric, the purpose is very important in determining how you organize the rubric itself.For a new teacher, this may be to help your students find a way to organize the multitude of different activities you are completing in the science classroom.

Additionally, your students can use it as a tool later on to review for tests, quizzes, and major assignments.If you are a more experienced teacher, you may be using science notebooks primarily as a tool to foster critical-thinking skills. In either case, or even if you are somewhere in between, you need to identify the purpose of using the science notebooks with your students before you begin to write rubrics to use with your students.

Designing the First Rubric

To start simply, approach the science notebook as an organizational tool. If you are working with students who struggle with reading, writing, and math, the focus of your rubric for this population would most likely be checking for organization and completion. When you have your students set up their science notebooks, be sure to have them set up a table of contents.

Then, you can use it as a place to start your first science notebook rubric.If you are working with younger students, and your goal is organization, you might try something like the example below.

Sample Science Notebook Rubric for Elementary Students

Sample Science Notebook Rubric for Elementary StudentsIn this simple rubric, we included a ‘Requirement Met’ column on either end of the notebook’s table of contents. As feedback for students, the columns have a smiley face to indicate if the requirement is there and a frowning face to indicate that the item is missing.

For older students, your rubric could use a simple checkbox with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, rather than a symbol, to show whether or not they met the requirement. Or, if you want to use it as a summative assessment at the end of a topic, include point values in the ‘Requirement Met’ column.Using a simple rubric like this empowers your students to become partners in the note-booking process.

If they can’t understand the rubric, then they won’t gain anything from the feedback you are trying to give them. As you work with your students, you can expand upon your basic rubric and provide them with more feedback.

Advanced Science Notebook Rubrics

As you and your students become more adept at keeping a science notebook, you can create a more in-depth rubric.

In the rubric example below, instead of just indicating whether or not the required content was on the correct page, it includes more detailed requirements for each page. For example, on each page it lists 1-3 components that should have been included in the task. Again, if you were using the rubric as a summative assessment, you could include point values behind each requirement.

Sample Science Notebook Rubric for Middle School or High School students.

Sample Science Notebook Rubric for Middle School or High School Students

Rubrics as a Reflection Tool

The last rubric is a more sophisticated approach, to use with students who have already demonstrated that they can keep a science notebook organized. In this approach, instead of thinking of the notebook as an organizational tool, consider it a form of assessment. Instead of organizing the rubric around the table of contents, you organize it around your objectives for the unit. Take a look at the example below.

Sample Science Notebook Rubric for Advanced Students

Sample Science Notebook Rubric for Advanced StudentsIn this example, students have to go through their notebook and provide evidence they have met the objectives assigned by the teacher. When designing a rubric this way, you are partnering with your students in the learning process. It no longer becomes whether or not every activity is in their science notebook. Instead, it focuses on what your students learn from the activities.

In this approach, you can choose to give them the rubric at the beginning of a topic, and they can use it as a reflection tool, adding to it as you work through the unit of study. Another approach might be to give it to your students at the end of the topic or unit as a form of summative assessment.In either case, you need to be sure that you write the objectives in simple, precise wording for your students. Rather than say, ‘Students will learn how to identify and formulate the process used in the scientific method in a variety of scenarios,’ which is how it might be worded in the standards for your state, focus on a simple, clear statement of what you want the students to be able to do. For example, you might say ‘Students will be able to identify independent and dependent variables in a hypothesis.’For a single science standard, you might have 5-10 objectives that are broken down into appropriate chunks for your students. You can scaffold this approach when using it with different populations of students.

Rather than have students find the activities for each objective, you could list the tasks that correspond to one of them in the rubric. Then, your students are left to reflect on what they learned from each task assigned.In either case, when using a rubric designed this way, don’t overwhelm your students. Write the rubric to deal with a small specific section of the unit. For example, don’t write a rubric for the entire human body unit.

Rather, write it for one specific system in the human body, such as the digestive system. If it becomes overwhelming to your students, they aren’t getting the feedback you want them to take away from the process.

Lesson Summary

Let’s review.

When writing science notebook rubrics, consider the following strategies:

  • Think about your purpose in using the rubric
  • Consider your students’ ability levels so you can use appropriate language
  • Structure feedback in your rubric design so that it is meaningful for the students in your classroom
  • Build in opportunities for students to reflect

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