Updating Interactive Notebooks for NGSS

June 7, 2020 No Comments

Interactive Notebooks have been a staple in my classroom for years.  But when I shifted to NGSS, my interactive notebooks needed a serious upgrade.  Here are some of the changes that I have made to my interactive notebooks.

I used to use a more traditional notebook.  If you would like to see what that looked like, you can read this post.

Why is it important to use an interactive notebook in an NGSS classroom?

An interactive notebook serves several purposes.  The notebook allows students to track their understanding over time.  It also provides them with a single point of reference.

Also, in an NGSS classroom, the interactive notebook can be a space to house information about the Science and Engineering Practices as well as the Crosscutting Concepts.

What has changed in my interactive notebook since I updated it for NGSS?

I have made many changes to my interactive notebook since making the shift to NGSS.  Here are just a few.

No more right side/left side.

In previous versions of my notebook, I followed a more traditional notebook structure.  I would start by providing students with some kind of input activity that they would add to the right side.  The input activity was a lecture, video,  or vocabulary lesson.

After I'd front-loaded the information, students would interact with it on the left side.  In other words, they would apply the information I'd given them in some way.

However, in an NGSS classroom, students are driving the learning.  I provide them with less information because they are using a discovery-based approach to build their understanding.  More and more of my right-side pages seemed to be empty and I was having trouble filling in that space.  Eventually, I just decided to ditch the right side/ left side structure.

Less Lecture

The reason I abandoned the left side/right side structure is that I RARELY lecture in my class anymore.  When I lecture, it is usually for 15 minutes or less.   Here is what I still lecture on:

  • Introducing a Crosscutting Concept for Science and Engineering Practice
  • Showing Students how to use a formula
  • Explaining how to do a certain skill like using a graduated cylinder

No more frontloading vocabulary.

I used to teach vocabulary every Monday.  Science is full of vocabulary, so this seemed like a great way to squeeze it all in.

However, this method ultimately meant that I was frontloading vocabulary more often than not. Students should have the opportunity to have an experience before vocabulary is used to help explain it.

We still put all vocabulary in our notebook.  However, I only introduce a few terms at a time.  Also, terms are only introduced after students have had some kind of experience.

No more cutesy stuff or color requirements.

My interactive notebooks were never very cute, but I did require that students use color.  Also, because of the right side/left side structure, I did find myself giving students some cutesy filler from time to time.

The interactive notebook that you use in an NGSS aligned classroom should be student-centered. It is not up to you to determine how their notebook looks.  It is really about teaching them how to use the notebook as a tool to track their learning.

The NGSS aligned interactive notebook includes all three dimensions.

My old notebook housed Disciplinary Core Ideas more than anything else.  It was very one dimensional.  That is not the case with newer versions of my interactive notebook.

Students are engaging with the Science and Engineering practices by designing experiments, creating data tables, and adding models to their notebook.  The notebook includes Notice and Wonder activities and well-crafted explanations.

Students notebooks also house connections to the Crosscutting Concepts.  Students often use graphic organizers to make these connections.

There are also several components where students are asked to make connections to two or more dimensions at once.

Want to learn more?

Here are some more resources to help you learn a little more about the topics discussed in this blog post.


Erin Sadler

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