Lab Notebooks Rant

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Peregrin5, Jul 7, 2015.

  1. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Jul 7, 2015

    How many of you guys do composition lab notebooks (I guess interactive notebooks would count).

    I tried doing them for two years and here's what I learned.

    • They are impossible to grade. I have to collect 120 notebooks anytime I want to grade anything in there, and since that's a big deal, I rarely do it, which means, that I probably have way too many assignments to grade, which means it takes forever, and while you're grading them, you can't do assignments in them. It's also really hard to find the correct page to grade, especially if the student doesn't keep it organized, and sometimes they just don't have the assignment done and you're spending your time looking for an assignment that's not there.
    • If a student drops the ball on keeping it organized, that's it.
    • It requires the kids to do way too much writing (during my class time) for tasks that would probably have been fine printed.
    • If you give things to students to cut and paste things in them (maybe to reduce the amount of writing), it takes too much time to cut and paste, and makes a mess. You also have to buy enough glue when it runs out.

    I did not have good experiences with notebooks, so I think I'm nixing them next year and just going to a section in the binder. The benefits of this I think will be:

    • I can just have students turn in one or two pages out of the binder section.
    • If they drop the ball on organization, it will be easy to pick up where they left off, since they can get extras of the papers, and can move pages around in their notebooks.
    • I can get things graded and back to them faster and more frequently without having to lug around 120 heavy notebooks.
    • I can just give students handouts for the labs to fill out, with more or less scaffolding as needed, but still on easy to collect handouts.
    • No need to cut and paste anything. Just copying and holepunching, which I do anyway, and is easy to do.

    Did you have similar issues if you've used lab notebooks or interactive notebooks. If you didn't, how did you solve those issues?
     
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  3. MLB711

    MLB711 Comrade

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    Jul 8, 2015

    Yeah I'm not a huge fan of interactive notebooks either. I just thought it was so wasteful to buy an entire notebook to paste over all of the pages! (I know that's not necessary - just how it was done in my school)

    To fix the grading problem, I just graded the notebook on completion. I would give open-notebook quizzes and grade those for content so your notebook had to be good. To keep it organized, we numbered pages and if a student wasn't on the right page, they could just skip count until they were with the class and get their missing work in homeroom or study hall. I've seen teachers on here who order a gigantic glue refill bottle for interactive notebooks. I think we had some in the faculty room that I would use.

    Bottom line though, if notebooks don't work, I wouldn't use them. Nothing wrong with incorporating Foldables/activities when you want to and having them in a special place in the binder. When I was an aide in science, they always gave out lab handouts in packets so students could take them around the room without bringing the entire binder. Then you could have them do a lab report about that experiment in a different format if you'd like.
     
  4. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Jul 8, 2015

    You can provide lab pages that give instructions, leave room for data, and require them to do the lab write-up after the lab is complete and cleaned up (while you check a list regarding who cleaned up well and who did not). You can have the lab write-up due the next class or collect the ones that are complete. This will reduce the size of the lab composition notebook. However, grading labs are important. Making sure students know how to properly write up a lab is important. Making sure they understand the purpose of the lab and what they were supposed to learn from the lab is the very reason for the lab. So, my belief is that you need to grade it.

    Most I know who use composition notebooks tend to grade them during class time while the kids are doing other seat work. If they are kept they are kept in their lockable cabinet in the classroom (luckily all have a lockable cabinet and any science teacher that has a lab class is not a teacher on a cart).

    I believe some scaffolding is necessary, but don't go overboard. Group well and that will help eliminate the need for really reducing the lab for all but the very, very weak students.
     
  5. Koriemo

    Koriemo Comrade

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    Jul 8, 2015

    The time it takes to grade them has been my hesitation to do anything extensive with notebooks.

    Last year, I had the students keep a journal in class that I graded once a week. I HATED grading them. Having a huge stack of notebooks and flipping through them to find the correct page was much more tedious than a folder of loose leaf I could flip through.

    This year, I'm having students keep notebooks in a certain format to keep them organized, but the notebooks will be pretty simple. I will have students cut and paste a few things at the front of their notebooks that they can reference throughout the year, but the right hand side of the page will be used for taking notes as a class. We take notes 2x a week usually. I set up all my power points so that the background is notebook paper and the notes are in Cornell format with a question on the left and the answer on the write. I made the size appropriate so that all students should even be able to keep the same number of words per line. It might be overkill, but I'm hoping this will help students stay organized. They have bins so that they can keep the notebooks in my classroom. On the left hand side, students will be required to do a simple assignment in partner work that I will grade for completion. These are things that directly relate to the notes like making a Venn diagram, brainstorming, lists, etc. So, my hope is that if I don't use them for homework, but classwork, I shouldn't have the same issue with the grading.
     
  6. chemteach55

    chemteach55 Connoisseur

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    Jul 8, 2015

    I love my Interactive Notebooks. The stuff in them is only graded for completion. I stamp homework on the day that I go over it. They have to get 6 out of 10 homework assignments to get the 50 homework points for the 9 weeks. At the end of the 9 weeks, I conference with each student and we go through their notebook together and grade the notebook and count homework stamps. We also look at their tests compared to their notebook and I use this data to guide them in studying. While I am conferencing with individual students the other students are working on a comprehensive review that is collected and graded for correctness. It takes me about 2 50-minute class periods to do a class of 30 students.
     
  7. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Jul 8, 2015

    I agree. Grading labs is important to me, and it's hard to get them back in notebooks. I think my new system will probably be better in that respect.

    As for scaffolding, I mean I can leave off certain parts of lab write-ups if that is the part I want them to focus on doing and learning how to do on their own, but save class time by giving them stuff I don't mind them having (because I don't want them to have to write out procedures for every single lab we do--it would take too long).
     
  8. ChildWhisperer

    ChildWhisperer Groupie

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    Jul 8, 2015

    When I was in junior high & high school, we used binders for our science classes. We had to buy dividers and the teachers would tell us what/how to label them, so even the most disorganized student had an organized binder. And yes, it was filled with looseleaf paper so we only had to turn in certain pages and then put them back in the binders after grading.
     
  9. Banana0

    Banana0 Rookie

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    Jul 8, 2015

    Not saying this is what you should do because I don't teach secondary, buuuut...

    I took a science pedagogy class in college, and the way the professor graded science composition notebooks (that we kept as if we were the students in order to see how they worked) seemed to work pretty well. It's been a few years, so hopefully I can remember and explain clearly. At the end of a certain amount of time (of your choosing, can be a surprise or not), he would have us mark specific activities or assignments that we did with post-it tabs labeled 1, 2, and 3. We were also required to keep a table of contents and number all the pages, so labs were easy to find among all the notes. So for example, he would say to mark the soil lab we did on this date with the #1 post-it, weather lab with #2 post-it, chem lab with #3 post-it. It would only take a few minutes because we were keeping the table of contents as we went and could flip to the right page quickly. He would look at those 3 pages and grade only those based on a rubric we received in advance. We didn't know ahead of time what would be graded and if he couldn't see that assignment by flipping to our post-it, it would not receive credit. So not every lab is being graded, but since it could be any lab at any time, you do have to complete each one to the best of your ability.

    You could easily grade different labs for different periods to prevent the last minute copying of specific labs after first period, or stagger the dates that you grade in order to reduce the workload. You'd definitely also have to provide a little time in the beginning of the year to help with set-up, like numbering the first 20 pages or so and starting the first couple of things on the table of contents once you've completed a couple of labs. It also has to be done often enough that one missing lab doesn't totally destroy a grade, or maybe the lowest scored lab could be dropped every trimester or something. This didn't apply at the college level, but I think it would in high school.

    Anyway, just sharing my experience! Depending on what grade I teach next year, I may use this system for various interactive notebooks in different subjects.
     
  10. beccmo

    beccmo Comrade

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    Jul 8, 2015

    I am going on my 4th type of lab notebook this year. Composition books were OK, but they do take up a lot of space on my desk, and sometimes had more than one lab to grade in each book. I tried a spiral version of the composition book, but with the same result. At least that book had numbered pages and TOC already so students didn't have to set this up. My group of science teachers thought going with a carbonless duplicate lab notebook would be a good way to go. Trouble was even 11th and 12th graders had difficulty with them, so the copy they turned in was sometimes illegible.

    This year I found a spiral notebook from staples that is lined on the front and quadrille on the back of each perforated page. I know it's not going to be a portfolio of lab work for the year, but I will accept that since students will be be writing up a complete lab (question, background, hypothesis, approach, etc.) for each investigation.
     
  11. chemteach55

    chemteach55 Connoisseur

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    Jul 8, 2015

    I changed from composition notebooks last year to spiral bound notebooks because I had a parent complain that reducing the page size made the print too small to read. I had a couple of girls who asked if they could use a sketch pad from the art supply department. They were a little more expensive but they worked out great. This year I am giving a choice between spiral or sketch book.
     
  12. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    Jul 8, 2015

    I have my kids use spiral notebooks. This year I'm adding a table of contents. When I collect notebooks I grade for completion with class work- notes, warm ups, etc. For certain assignments I'll either collect and grade first then have them paste/staple to their notebooks, or I collect notebooks and only grade that one assignment. I think it works very well.
     
  13. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Jul 9, 2015

    This is the system I'm going to be using this year. I'm looking forward to it actually.

    I've tried so many different ways of formatting my lab instruction sheets (I would do half sheets where students would have to copy parts, and cut out parts, etc.), and now I can just go back to giving them out as handouts that get put into the binder.

    I've also been using an organized binder system for 3 years and it works great! I've heard rave reviews from parents about how it's made their students so much more organized. I've had students tell me that I'm the only class they stay organized for, and aren't missing the work for because of my binder system.

    Integrating labs into that would work great I think, and make grading labs SOOO much easier.

    This is my system:

    A Section (gold papers): Syllabus, Lab Safety Contract, and Reference Sheets

    B Section (white paper): Kick-Offs (including previous graded kick-offs) - Kick-offs are completed daily and collected weekly.

    C Section (green paper): Student Glossary - Words are posted in the glossary weekly. These words and definitions should be recorded, and by collection time, students should have written the word into a sentence and drawn a diagram of the word.

    D Section (pink paper): Lab Notebook - Lab write-ups, analyses, summarizing discussions, and experimental design sheets will be kept here. All pages should be numbered and recorded in a table of contents. Papers will be occasionally collected and graded from this section for ‘Lab’ credit.

    E Section (color changes depending on unit): Concept Map/Unit Cover Sheet - Each day we introduce the lesson by reviewing the unit concept map for the focus questions. We will add previous information and talk about what new information we’re going to learn today. The new concepts from the previous lesson are added to the concept map. All homework and classwork assignments are to be organized numerically in this section.
     
  14. leeshis0019

    leeshis0019 Companion

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    Jul 9, 2015

    This is just a small comment on lab notebooks (not the interactive notebooks for the class but the actual LAB notebook with the scientific method and all).

    At my school we don't do them unless it's an AP course. The idea is that most students will view it as a waste of time and honestly it is a waste of time for most of them. I do about 20 labs in my chemistry course and I feel like a lab notebook would just be TOO much. Grading one notebook should take you roughly 4 minutes (when you are in the groove) with a rubric. That's 4 minutes for 85 notebooks (at least for my block schedule). That's about 5 hours and 45 minutes assuming each of them takes exactly 4 minutes (which you know there will be those that take much longer).

    I don't know how English teachers do it, but the advantage for them is they don't have to hand papers back in a timely manner. They can grade and hand back after a week. I do about 1 lab a week (maybe 2 depending on the week). On top of that I have tests every other week. I have 1 quiz every week. I have at least 1 homework assignment that I physically check for accuracy every week. Suddenly, finding the time to grade those notebooks is not so easy.

    One remedy: only have them write a lab-notebook report for specific labs.

    The problem I see: they can't actually improve their skills in the time that they have. What's the point of the lab notebook then?



    For the AP course it's entirely different. In fact, they keep a lab notebook while also writing a separate lab report. The notebook becomes 20% of the lab grade and the report is the other 80%. Also, in the AP course (at least for Chemistry) almost every day is a lab day. They might focus on a 3-4 day long lab and turn in the report on the off days. The notebooks only take 1-2 minutes to grade because you're less concerned with specific data and conclusions (that's what the lab report is for). So you can hand back the notebooks and have time to grade the reports.


    The way I think about lab notebooks is this: if they do a lab notebook will it actually help them improve their skills?

    For on-level classes it's largely a "no". You'll have students that could benefit, but the majority of students will view it as a waste of their time.

    For magnet classes it's a "Yes", but these students end up taking the AP course later on. Maybe choose 1 or 2 labs for them to do notebook + report. These can be used to help them prepare for the AP course.

    For AP courses it's a definite "Yes". These are college-level courses and you utilize a lab notebook in college.


    Wow, what a long rant.

    tl;dr: The on-level kids don't need it. The upper-level kids can benefit from it. The highest-echelon kids need it.
     
  15. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Jul 10, 2015

    I agree. I think I will focus on targeting skills such as experimental design, data analysis, reasoning, graphing, etc. with targeted lab activities without having to do the whole lab notebook. Those are really the only skills I'm concerned with them having, and I can have them demonstrate those on handouts.
     
  16. BioAngel

    BioAngel Science Teacher - Grades 3-6

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    Jul 10, 2015

    I teach grades 3-6 and I have about 130+ students, but since this is geared to what I use in my classroom and I teach science I thought I would jump in.



    • YES YES YES! I was always behind in grading and killing my shoulder/back with lugging notebooks back and forth.

      My solution: I have had students use notebooks for note stuff and binders for bigger hand-outs and homework for the last 2 years and I have loved using binders. This upcoming year I'm giving up on notebook also together (very scary for me tbh) and I'm going with a 100% binder system (they will have a science folder too). If I need to grade something, they can turn in a single piece of paper to me - 130 papers is a lot lighter than 130 notebooks.

      My solution: I started filling in information for those who did not keep theirs organized. I would do my work in blue pen and I think it made them realize that I was catching on.

      For those who need extra practice, I make them come in during recess to practice with me. I tell them that I'm super worried about them not having an organized notebook for x,y, and z reasons. They get the hint after a time or two.

      I also think it is totally okay to give 10 minutes maybe once or twice a month for notebook/binder organization. If students have never been shown (or re-shown enough times) how to do something, they're not going to get it. I have used this activity as a "Do Now" before instead of having them do a warm up question or two.

      My solution: Yes, it is very time consuming to have them write everything out. I've decided that given the time constraints that I have, I just can't let the students do as much writing as I want them to. (Plus parents have complained that I make the kids write too much - I'm in a private school so... yeah ;)) I don't think there is anything wrong with having stuff printed out - you can do guided notes where they have to fill in words, write/draw examples, etc. I find them much more engaged and asking great questions when they don't have to worry about writing so much.

      I also think that when you give them a hand-out it shows them what good notes/data table/sketching area (whatever) looks like. When it comes time for them to write notes or create a data table, I will remind them to look back at their past work to see how they can create that.

    I think I must go through at least 50+ glue sticks (I totally gave up on glue bottles after one kid accidentally dumped about half a bottle onto this notebook when he didn't put the top back on tightly). Every student has at least 3 glue sticks of their own too.

    My solution: If it is a 3-hole punched hand out that can go straight into their binder, I will save lots of $$$ on glue sticks. We will still need to glue some stuff, but not as much as we use to.

    Great minds think alike! My students love carrying around a binder since most of their classes use notebooks, so it's a special treat for them. I also let them cover their notebooks with pictures that they find about the topics we are covering that school year. That was one of their concerns that they brought to me when I told them about switching over to a binder - "Can we still decorate our binder covers?" YES OF COURSE!! :)

    I'm planning on keeping a binder for every one of my classes so I have an example of what theirs should look like. It means 8 binders for me, but I kind of like binders to begin with, so I'm hoping that I will enjoy this change. On the flip side, I now have an excuse to download all that cute clip-art and borders from TPT so I can create awesome hand outs for my little ones :love::love::love:
     

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