This is the second lesson I teach at the beginning of the year about science journaling. Click here for the first lesson.
Students have already been introduced to their science notebooks. This lesson focuses on the difference between a regular journal and a scientific journal. That is, a scientific journal should use correct spelling of scientific terms, accurate colors when drawing a picture or diagram, and be a tool for students to refer back to in the future. It is not a place for students to freely express themselves - that is in other journals they keep. This lesson aims to make students aware of that difference and also to provide them another opportunity to practice drawing and labeling a simple diagram. I also want to show them where they can get information, such as the spelling of words or an example picture, from classroom resources should they need it. In my school, I am required to post a guiding question for each lesson. For this lesson, students will have "Why are accurate colors and correct spelling important in science journals?" glued into their notebook at the top of the page.
This lesson supports the Next Generation 'Science and Engineering Practices 2- Developing and Using Models ' because in the earlier grades, diagrams are considered models. For students to more fully understand a scientific concept such as a living organism or applied forces, it will be beneficial for them to be able to draw it as a representation of the smaller parts that make the whole (for example, the body parts of an insect).
For this lesson, you will need:
A selection of child friendly dictionaries (If you cannot find a dictionary, make up a quick poster with some printed pictures of items ahead of time).
iPads if you have access for students
Science journals for each student
Colored pencils (Crayons make a big mess in science journals)
I say, "What makes this a good example of a science journal?" I want students to identify that the pictures are labeled, might have a caption, and that in general the pages are neatly organized and legible.
Then, I show them a poetry journal that has a lot of words crossed out, things written in the margins, etc. This time I say, "What is the difference between this journal and the science journal?" Again, I want the students to realize that this journal is not for scientific purposes.
Today I decided to show my students some of my own work from my own science journal. I'm pretty much a nerd, so I have a few journals from different places I have visited. Since I am asking my students to do very specific things in their journals, I feel that to really share expectations to the highest level I need to show them my own work. This can be a little intimidating because students tend to be really honest, so before I show them, I do some self-talk about sharing my work--especially my terrible drawings! This gets the students to realize that I am vulnerable, too, and that it is not okay to laugh or make fun of anyone's work, including mine! If someone does laugh or make fun of something I show, I make a point to bring it up later at a class meeting and talk about how it made me feel. This prepares students in the future to share their own work in a safe environment. Also, by showing some real life examples of my own work, it shows students that what they are doing is not just an "at school" activity but that it will be useful in life, too.
After passing out the student's science journals, I lead them through a second activity teaching them how to find the very next page in the journal (we don't want to skip around!), title and date the page, and begin an entry.
This time, I ask students to draw the tools that they use in school. As they work, I am modeling in my own journal which is projected to the front of the classroom. As I draw a tool, such as a pencil, I engage in self-talk by saying, "This is a pencil. I should label it so I remember what it is if I forget" and then label it clearly and remind students to do the same. I also want to emphasize that accurate coloring is important in the science journals, so I ask students what color 'most' of the pencils in our class are, and color mine yellow. I say, "We want to be able to recognize what is in our journal, so we should color it the same color that most of them usually are."
The next step is to show students where they can find resources in the classroom if they do not know how to spell a word or they need a more detailed picture. For this, I want to create an anchor chart that can stay up in the room to remind them how to access their resources. I ask the students to name a tool that they might not know how to spell. Using whatever they say, for example "chalk", I go to the Children's Dictionary on our resource shelf and briefly introduce the students to it, showing them that they can use the first letter to find most things. I also show them that on their iPad that they can access this online dictionary. Then I show them additional books on the resource shelf that have topic-focused books, such as farm animals and food, where they could find words. I add "dictionary". "resource shelf", and "iPad" to our anchor chart. I ask, "Who could you ask for help with spelling?", anticipating the students will say "The teacher!" (of course!). I add "teachers" and "friends" to the list.
After we have finished drawing and labeling 3 tools from our classroom and several students have tried the different ways to find the correct spelling for words, I ask for a few students who want to share their work and I show it on the document camera. I ask the class,
"What do you see that is a great example of using a science journal?"
As the students answer with positive responses about the journals, I emphasize the accurate spelling and colors. Then, we discuss again the importance of using science journals.
I ask, "Why is it important to color my pictures the color that the actual object is?" and listen to responses. This is part of my formative assessment for the lesson, because I am listening to see who understands that the accurate color allows me to use this resource again if I forget, or need to look back at it in the future. I tell the students that tomorrow we will look at the importance of drawing things to the right scale, and that I will be looking to see who remembers where to put the date and topic.