Science IDEAS Elements
Student journals and other writing applications are an important part of the
Science IDEA model because they involve students recording and then reflecting on
what they have learned or are learning about.
In Science IDEAS, students do a great deal of expository writing. In many cases,
such student writing is based upon the prior development of propositional concept
maps. In effect, propositional concept maps are a powerful pre-writing activity.
Because of the noun-verb-noun structure of such maps, they are easily transformed
into expository writing tasks that may be included in student journals.
The remainder of this section focuses on student journals and the different forms
of science “writing” students can include in them. Student journals and other forms
of writing contain the forms of concepts, facts, and details that are essential
in science but which can quickly become overwhelming. Through journaling, students
learn to organize and re-organize their science knowledge in a coherent form around
core concepts and concept relationships.
In Science IDEAS, students learn to view journals as places to record their their
own experiences with science concepts. As such, journals serve as tools which reference
the variety of learning experiences that have resulted in the learning of science
concepts. As a result, journals are an important element in supporting the cumulative
development of student science knowledge.
With the exception of the sue of propositional concept maps as a guide for expository
writing, the following overviews the major kinds of writing activities used in Science
IDEAS and suggests their inclusion in student journals.
Steps for Using Student Journals
Journal development includes a variety of different writing activities such as
note-taking, lab write ups, research projects, personal reflections, and other student
constructions (e.g., foldables). These are each discussed in the following sections.
Journal Organizational Structure
Although the content may differ, all student journals should be organized
in accordance with a stand structure.
- Media (Inexpensive student notebooks can
serve as journals, use a separate journal for each unit).
- Title Page (Should student name/class/school,
Can be illustrated with a picture).
- Table of Contents (Leave 10 pages blank,
model the format for students on chart paper).
- Page Numbers (Also include date as needed.
Start numbering after first ten pages and use flag/sticky notes to mark where
to begin writing ).
- Page Topic Headings (Should indicate the
type of instructional activity [e.g. Prior Knowledge, Hands-on Activity, Reflection,
Concept Map, Note-taking] .
- Amplifying Journal Use (Give question on
Friday that will be discussed the following week, show students where to find
information, maintain classroom research center with journal questions on 3
x 5 cards).
Different Types of Possible Journal Entries
Journals can include (or reference) a variety of writing activities such
as note-taking, lab write ups, research, personal reflections, foldables, etc. All
of these activities not only enhance student knowledge of science core concepts
but also helps them in organizing and expressing their thoughts.
Before addressing a new concept it is important for teachers to address student
prior knowledge. Here are some examples of how to journal prior knowledge:
- Students can write their prior knowledge on the left hand page and leave
right hand page blank for corrections to prior knowledge and new knowledge gained
through reading and experiences. These two pages can be used later on for review
- Personal reflections- Have students fill out the following:
- Tell me about a time when…
- What do you know about…
- Students could write about other relevant school experiences related to
the new concept such as fieldtrips, science labs, videos, quick note-taking,
or prior curricular knowledge (this year, last year)
- This is also a great time to encourage student writing about prior knowledge,
including Have students explain how new ideas learned fit into what is already
known. This enables them to begin organizing their knowledge and making connections
Students can write in their own words what new knowledge they are learning/reading
about. Some examples of how students add new knowledge to their journals follow:
- During reading comprehension, students can construct journal summaries of
each paragraph and then summarize the passage overall.
- Have students use concept maps in their journal to show how concepts are
related and as a guide for expository writing.
- Use Venn Diagrams and write paragraphs based on Venn Diagrams
- Print and incorporate computer-generated resources (e.g., pictures, graphs)
- Have students include descriptions of hands-on activities and or projects
- Have students create “mini-books” in their journals, complete with illustrations
computer-generated charts, graphs, tables, illustrations, and photographs
- Have students write topic overviews/summaries of what has been learned,
including key concepts and vocabulary in their journals.
Hands-On Activity Write-Ups
These write-ups are important to include in student journals. In Science IDEAS,
two forms of Hands-on activities are used: a Short Form and a Long Form. These are
- Short Form (Concept Verification). These
summarize descriptions of hands-on activities done in a classroom to illustrate
one or more scientific concepts. These types of activities should be written
up in science journals as follows:
- What I did?
- What happened?
- Why did it happen?
- Long Form (Scientific Study). Scientific
experiments differ from verifications in that they are designed to test a hypothesis.
Scientific experiments require designs incorporating control and use of variables.
These types of activities should be written up in science journals notebook
- Research (Background Information)
- Experimental Design (Procedure)
- Results (Data Collection)
- Analysis (Discussion of meaning of results)
- Suggestions (questions for further investigation)
Biographies can be used for children to learn about science and scientists. Before
doing a reading or hands-on activity, student biographical knowledge about scientists
can help them develop a better understanding of the nature of science and scientists.
The objective of the journal entries is not to describe science content, but rather
to describe the processes of science and the people involved. For example, each
student could write a paragraph about a scientist(s) and then share their paragraphs
with the whole class.
Note-taking skills help students become better listeners. It also enhances their
organizational skills by helping them remember what they hear or read. Later, notes
can serve as a review. There are a variety of ways to take notes for entry into
student journals. These include:
- Outlines Outlines organize information into
topics and subtopics. Broad general ideas are treated as main headings. Each
of these is divided into two or more smaller topics, called subtopics. The subtopics
can be divided still further into smaller subtopics. The purpose of an outline
is to identify all the important information and condense it in a small space.
- Summary Notes Summary notes are a collection
of the most important concepts, concept relationships and details, terms, and/or
events in a unit. chapter. Students should summarize in their own words. Summary
notes should contain the key concepts, concept relationships and vocabulary
to be learned.
- Key Concept Notes These are a two-column
note-taking technique. Notes from the learning experiences are written on one
side of the page and key words that categorize the notes are written on the
other. This could also take the form of Main Idea (column 1) and details (column
- Concept Mapping Notes Concept maps are a
graphic technique for representing meaningful relationships between and among
concepts in the form of propositions. Concept mapping can be used to represent
how knowledge within a domain is organized. In contrast to the teaching and
learning of science as a mass of discrete facts and ideas, concept maps allow
students to organize their knowledge, represent meaningful relationships, and,
in the process, increase conceptual understanding in science. Concept maps can
also serve as a blueprint to model clear, meaningful expository writing for
Other Journaling Suggestions
- Labeled Diagrams
- Use color
- Draw examples (e.g., water cycle, parts of flower, rock cycle, rainforest)
- Use labels for parts -
- Write function of each part
- Create in back of the journal
- Teacher may type glossary and give to students