Forums / General Science and Teaching / Notes vs. hands-on

General Science and Teaching

Notes vs. hands-on

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Kerry Stone Kerry Stone 2010 Points

With so many standards to teach, I find myself doing a lot of notes. The guilt is always with me. Anyone else in this boat. What is your ratio of notes to hands-on? Kerry

Meaghan Rivas meaghan rivas 1120 Points

It is great to you use notes in a classroom. I suggest you have your students create an interactive journal. You can place notes inside in a creative way like with foldables. Also, you should be creating hands-on lessons. Pinterest is a good source to you to think of creative ways to teach a topic. 

Jessica Adair Jessica Adair 580 Points

Foldables are always a good way to go- especially for your students who are visual learners. They are a great way to teach students how to take notes and how to organize their thoughts. I teach in a kindergarten and first combination class, and although my students are not actively taking notes like in other classrooms (because they are younger), they are learning how to take notes when reading their different books for accelerated reading testing, using these different foldables and graphic organizers. I know that my students are younger, but I feel like this idea can be implemented even for students who are older. I loved them in grad-school!

Justine Sandoval Justine Sandoval 570 Points

In first grade I find that we do more informative writing about science that we read about that actual hands on. I think that the hands on approach and notes should be a 50/50. Students learn through all forms but oftentimes the most memorable are the hands on activities where they can connect the science to the real world.

Tory Addison Tory Addison 5745 Points

Teaching Special Needs, I take notes and I have my students take notes. I have them begin by writing the standard that we are discussing then start breaking down the meaning of what they are learning. Sometimes this has really helped them.

Lydia Montero Lydia Montero 1055 Points

I think this is a great thing to do with your students! Has this improved their learning?

Kathryn Mahoney Kathryn Mahoney 1590 Points

Taking graphically organized notes in science can be very beneficial. In elementary school taking notes is often discouraged. However, notes can be in the form of pictures, word webs, venn diagrams, cause and effect charts, etc. It is important for students to learn how to write down the important parts of a lesson. With guidance and well planned lessons, note taking can move away from copying what the teacher has written or said to higher level thinking activities that focus on the main points of a lesson. Hands on activities can even incorporate a graphic organizer so students can remember exactly what happened in the activity.

Ashley Cox Ashley Cox 7705 Points

We've been doing a mix of hands-on activities and notes for the current unit we're in. We have 3-4 days a week where the kids are working and learning on their own, and at the end of the week we do Cornell Notes to wrap up what they have learned and make sure they get the important concepts they're required to learn. I've found that this has been a good method to use and I will most likely continue it throughout the rest of the year.

Jennifer Parker Jennifer Parker 2475 Points

I think that this is awesome. I have been trying to find a balance between note taking and time for hands on and discussions. I have not tried taking notes at the end after all of the learning has happened. I will try this. May I ask if you have your students take their own or do you give guided notes for your students?

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92296 Points

Hi Kerry,
Note-taking is a very important skill. Having our students keep science journals is one way to incorporate meaningful note-taking with hands-on activities. This journal article has some great examples of ways students can take notes using a journal:
Science Sampler: Using science journals to encourage all students to write

Rebecca Falin Rebecca Falin 71530 Points

Just to add on to what Carolyn has said. I really like the science journals. In my class I have students do required work (pre-lab questions, lab observations, sample problems, etc) on ODD pages and their own personal notes, drawings, etc. on EVEN pages. I collect the journals on Fridays and grade over the weekend. I have them tape a periodic table (I teach chemistry) on the inside front cover and a reference sheet on the inside back cover and they can use it during problem-solving and quizzes (but not tests). The science journal becomes the "go-to" resource for them during class and its only as helpful as they make it.

Cris DeWolf Cris DeWolf 11965 Points

Everyone has shared pieces of the pie.... You have standards, pick one. Have a clear target of what you want to have your students know about it. Use a journal to have them write about any prior experiences they have had with the topic/concept. You can read these later so the students responses are private. You can also get students to volunteer to share and initiate a great group discussion of the students prior knowledge. Then you have them explore the topic/concept with some simple hands-on activities. Again have them journal as they explore, writing down questions they may have. Build on these questions to dig deeper into a group agreed upon inquiry-based investigation. This will all take up time - but if you get help unpacking your standards and identify priority items, you will have an easier time of it. In Michigan we have ISDs (Intermediate School Districts) that have Math Science Centers with staff that work on this type of thing and are a lot of help for all of us out in the classrooms.

Rachel Pacheco Rachel Pacheco 455 Points

I too have found that graphic organizers can be a great way to integrate notes into hands-on learning experiences. Is there a way to modify your lessons so that students can use organizers to guide them through activities and still accomplish the notes you require?

Stephanie Hernandez stephanie hernandez 2390 Points

I personally feel like it is important to take notes but you should always have a balance because students start to lose interest on the material when all they do is notes. I think that with every section of notes you should try to do two activities relating to it. That way they know that they will do something fun after they take notes, motivating them to actually do it.

Maureen Stover Maureen Stover 41070 Points

Like Tina, I think that many of our students are lacking many of the experience we had as children that helped formulate our basic scientific ideas. While our teachers were able to build on our experiences, our students might not have those experiences to build on. As a teacher, I think it's important to give our students a variety of ways to learn. Each of our students has a unique learning style. By providing opportunities for students to learn using auditory, visual, and kinesthetic methods students are able to gain the information in a variety of different ways. With that being said, I think it's important to take notes and to do hands-on activities in science instruction. While I do think notes are important, in my classroom I try not to lecture. Rather, our notes are observations or ideas that students gather from the activities we do in class. The bonus of this type of note taking is that it gives students ownership of the material and helps them develop technical writing skills. Maureen

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

Writing is a important learning tool. It also helps student build metacognitive skills. Being able to explain an idea in writing is evidence of comprehension and not being able to do so can reveal important missing pieces. Has anyone looked at the writing to learn framework

Yelena Hughes Yelena Brachman 995 Points

I have my students take notes but I use "fold-able notes" They provide interactive experiences and allow a bit of kinesthetic learning as well. Check out I took a class from her at an NSTA conference and it was amazing. My whole school is now using these and it make note taking fun. -Yelena

Sue Garcia Sue Garcia 42675 Points

Yelena, I agree about "Foldable-style" notes, having used Dinah's techniques for years. I have used them for so long that many of the activities that I've used over the years, I have developed foldables that are specifically and individually designed to provide a frame for the students to fill in using their observations of activities and labs they are participating in. I teach 6th graders and found they need some sort of guide to be able to write "notes" that would actually be beneficial to them. These "frame filled-in style notes" are then used as reference material for the short quizzes that I give to determine if the student has mastered the lesson/activity/or lab. I do not grade the foldables, they are glued into their Journals. However, I grade the quizzes that the students take allowing their Journal notes to act as resources. At first, the students do as little as possible, thinking they will be able to pass the quizzes from their memory but quickly learn that the more detailed and accurate their note are, the better their grades. I have found this to increase their quality of note-taking, the depth of their observations, and the neatness of their penmanship. Also another side benefit, they become proud of their Journals because they are claiming ownership of their work. The notes then in turn are part of their hands-on activities.

William Struss William Struss 330 Points

Finding the appropriate balance between note-taking and hands-on activities can be quite trying. In a workshop I've been completing I have tried to keep it as paperless as possible but find it hard to formatively assess students without any hard data. We obviously can't be everywhere at once. Optimally, there would be the least amount of busy work as possible. How do you informally assess your students during a hands-on workshop to ensure that they get the most amount of time possible with the manipulatives?

Cris DeWolf Cris DeWolf 11965 Points

I am glad that you asked this question William! My department has chosen to add a class set of iPads and I have been trying to find more ways to use this technology. I found an app after reading your question that will allow me to do something that I often use for review before quizzes - popsickle stick questioning. I see it as being possible to adapt to assessing student engagement in lab activities. Here is the URL to read more about Stick Pick:

Jerrica Millon jerrica millon 340 Points

I am student teaching in a fifth grade classroom, and we also do a lot of "notes" during science. These notes often happen during our discussions. While it is not always the most fun, the content is important and necessary for them to learn. I also find that taking notes helps students when we actually do hands-on lessons, as they refer back to them when they need to. They are also allowed to use their notes on their informal assessments/exit slips. I think it is good to have students take notes, as long as you have a balance. The students know that on some days we will have hands-on lessons, and others we will have a lecture/discussion. When we do have discussions and students take notes, I try to engage them as much as possible and walk around the room instead of just standing next to the chart :)

Chris Dazer Chris Dazer 295 Points

Kerry, Science notebooking is a powerful resource for students because it allows them a place to record what they're thinking in a safe place. We encourage our teachers to use science notebooks with their students and also advocate the use of Interactive Science Notebooks. Activity based learning is well recieved by the students but sometimes personal understanding begins when the pencil or pen hits the paper. This is also a great place to gain insight into what students really think and help them rethink misconceptions.

Melanie Sanders Melanie Sanders 1475 Points

I have found that there should be a combination of hands on and notes. I also think it depends on your students. I have had students that do the hands on activity and have a great time doing it, however they could not explain the concept or even tell the purpose of the activity. On the other hand, I have had students that took the notes and could explain the concept and purpose of the activity. However, when asked what would happen it the activity was modified they could not visualize what would happen because they had not actually done the hands on approach.

Melody Hawkins Melody Hawkins 120 Points

I really appreciate seeing this post. As a new teacher, I am already finding the difficulty in maintaining a good balance between providing notes to my students and doing more hands-on assignments. I have tried to include both in my lessons, but sometimes, good old-fashioned note-taking has proven to be more beneficial than doing lab experiments. I have been saving the labs for when they have showed close-to mastery of the concept.

Jennifer Browning jennifer browning 1965 Points

We used interactive notebooks to ease the pain of standard note taking. It is like a combination of hands on and note taking because we use graphic organizers for the information we need to cover. The students cut, paste, color and create graphs to record the information/content they need to know. It is a little time consuming, but the kids enjoy it.

Karina Alfaro Karina Alfaro 1185 Points

Interactive notebooks are great and the kids do love them! Thanks for sharing!

Amanda Ferrer Amanda Ferrer 1320 Points

Hands on activities are great but note taking is an important part of science. It is obvious that due to time constraints, not every science lesson is going to be a hands-on activity or a lab. My suggestion to you is to start trying different methods of note taking instead of the traditional way. Search for different types of graphic organizers that will allow you to assess the students learning, as well as, allow the students to retrieve and organize their information. I recently learned about a graphic organizer named "Mind Maps" it is fun, not so structures, its suppose to be colorful, and simple. It allows students to let their ideas flow freely. Attached is an article that gives you further information about mind mapping!At the school i work at, we usually do labs and more hand on activities at the end of the chapter or concept to wrap up everything they have learned.

Science is Elementary Collection (1 item)
Amy Allen Amy Allen 10 Points

I have struggled with note taking vs hands on activities in my classroom however I feel that I have finally come to a place of balance in the classroom.  I have my students keep 2 notebooks, a spiral notebook for notes that we take in class and a 3 ring binder for all handouts they are given.  In their spiral notebook we take 2 kinds of notes, regular copy from the board notes and picture notes.  I started doing picture notes while back and discovered that students responded really well to this technique.  Students enjoyed taking notes and saw it is a "hands on" activity even though it was the same information they would have copied down as regular old fashioned notes.  Since then I have evolved the picture notes, sometimes when the image it to difficult to draw I will print it off and they will cut, color and tape the image into their notebook.  In the end it turns into my idea of an interactive notebook that works for my classroom.  Its all about finding what works with your classroom and for me note taking is a very important part of learning so I came up with a way for my students to enjoy note taking without losing any content.

Dejuanica Henry Dejuanica Henry 1065 Points

I definitely feel that hands on is more motivating and engaging for students. My vote would be on more hands on versus note taking. 

Amy Thomas Amy Thomas 485 Points

I really like the idea of using fold-ables for science lessons and note taking.  I feel like you could use some sort of foldable for every subject.  I know that it is so important for students to actually engage in a science lesson, but I also know its important for students to be able to write down their findings.

Allison Sendejas Allison Sendejas 970 Points

It is great to use notes, and some students greatly benefit from notes, however there are others who will benefit from hands-on. There are various types of learners and as difficult as it might be at times, it is important that we try to meet the instructional needs of as many students as we can. Perhaps a 60-40 ratio (notes:40%) (hands-on:60%) would be good for science. I have found in 3rd grade that my students greatly benefit from more hands-on activities. 

Aubree Kiessling Aubree Kiessling 1365 Points

I feel students are much more engaged and focused in on learning through hands on activities. I feel students are allowed more opportunities for growth and deeper thinking when hands on activities are present in the classroom.

Angie Escherich Angie Escherich 520 Points

I think there were a lot of great points made.  I saw a few people talk about the balance and I agree. I believe there also needs to be a balance.  I also think that a lot of the proportion can be based on the students and how we see they learn the best.

Jennifer Celia Jennifer Celia 840 Points

I'm a future teacher, and I recently did research on the flipped classroom model which utilizes blended learning in order to better utilize class time, and I am very interested in using it in the future now! I've always resented how most school days are used for taking notes on content, then at home students must figure it out alone. There are many approaches, but the main idea is to provide online lectures (by yourself or others) which go over the important content, allowing students to take notes and understand at their own pace of learning. In class time is then used to help groups of students and do hands on activities which get the students involved. Teachers see increases in engagement, motivation, and participation while discipline issues decrease. Definitely a game changer for many teachers, who also noted increased satisfaction with their jobs.

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