Science Experiment + Science Journals = Learning Love!

Hi Teacher Friends!
Today I would love to share one way we utilize science journals in my classroom.  Our science journals are not Interactive Science Journals – they are strictly used for my students to record their thinking, drawing, and writing based off of the hands-on learning we do. 
I’m sure we all believe and would agree that students write about what they know best. I believe my kids’ best writing comes from what they have experienced, seen, read, and learned. In the same way that I want my instruction to include a larger percentage of informational text for reading, I want my writing instruction to reflect this concept as well. 
We partnered with our fifth graders this week to do a big science experiment about melting ice! The experiment came from my sweet friend, Blair Turner’s pack, Christmas Science Labs. First, our 5th graders helped us record, in grams, how much our ice cubes weighed.
 We wrapped one ice cube in foil, one in a paper towel, and left one ice cube as our control group. We called this ice cube the “plain” ice cube.  We set the plates under heating lamps and gave them about 10 minutes to melt. Then, we weighed the ice cubes again and concluded which material kept the ice cube frozen the longest.
 After lunch, it was time to write about what we discovered in our experiment! The number one thing I want my students to walk away with this year as scientists, is that a scientist always shares what he or she learned and discovered during the experiment.  My students know the whole reason for conducting an experiment is to answer a question we have and then write and record their thinking and learning to share with the world. 
We took our “very special science notebooks” out of our desks and together, we recorded the essential science question we had set out to discover that morning.  Then, my students sprawled out all over the classroom, choosing wherever they felt most comfortable to write. 
 My directions for their science journals is always simple, regardless of the task. I want them to have an urgency to record their learning, rather than worrying about my writing expectations for them.  This week they simply had to record the steps we took in our experiment so that they could share this activity with others one day. They also had to record the conclusion to their experiment. 
 Many of my kids drew the steps they took in the experiment prior to writing. I love the detail and labels that goes into some of their journals!
 I do try to embed my writing instruction and expectations into these science journals, in a gentle and “hidden” way. 😉 This week, I wanted them to use temporal words (which we’ve been using in our narrative writing this month) as they wrote the steps for their experiment.  I encouraged them to do this by writing these temporal words on the board for them to utilize as they wrote. 
I was so proud of them!  Many of them were working so hard that they asked to finish their conclusions paragraph on Monday.  (So, of course, we are!) 🙂
Science journals are a wonderful way to embed writing instruction into other content areas.  It allows me to see if what I am teaching in my writing mini lessons is transferring into everyday writing with my students. As you can see from the writing below, this student understands the use of commas in a series. He has also watched me model a comma after temporal words during our narrative writing time and has transferred this to his science writing. 
The most important part of utilizing our science journals is that my students feel a true sense of OWNERSHIP to these journals. They love knowing that at the end of the year, if they write really clearly and well, they will be able to replicate these experiments during the summer with their friends and families. Or, as one little friend explained to us this past Friday, “When we are really old, we can read our journals and tell OUR kids what we did in first grade.”  At that comment, another student replied, “Ewww I’m never having kids!” 
Do you use science journals in the classroom?  Do your kids write about the experiments they conduct in your room?  Lab reports guide our experiment  but our science journals display the “heart” of our learning. 🙂
Thanks for letting me share one way we use our science journals within my classroom! 
I hope you all have a great week!

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