Jun 24, 2020 - 2 min read - 386 views

Structure Strips - Shaking up the INB

I saw a post showing how ELA teachers were using what they call structure strips in interactive notebooks (INB's) to help guide their students throughout the writing process. Essentially a structure strip is a narrow column that you glue into the margin of the INB that is spatially designed to give students tips and rubrics as they make their way through a writing assignment.

Now I teach science in lower middle school, and as much as I love incorporating research writing into a cross-curricular lesson, my students only really get time to explore research writing through their science fair process. So using the structure strips as they were being shown was not an option. Of course, one of my favorite things about being a teacher is creating new ways to help my students so I found a way to adapt this concept to lab investigations.

In student-driven lab investigations, one of the many goals should be to have students identify ways to solve problems, test experiments safely, and record that data on their own. These are skills that students practice throughout their science education, but they need to be carefully developed and my 6th graders are still in the beginning stages of this learning process. My thought was to use the idea of a structure strip but instead of guiding students through the essay writing process, it was going to guide my students through planning their own steps to performing a safe investigation and recording the appropriate data.

This is a very cool concept, but in this situation, a picture will probably go a long way in your understanding of what exactly I am talking about.

As you can see I do not deviate from my INB setup. The right side input page is more student-driven than the normal teacher-driven doodle notes, but students cannot move on to the actual lab until their investigation plan is approved. The structure strips allow students to practice creating and developing their own investigation versus being told procedures to follow as you see in most labs. Students are also getting direct feedback if they are not approved so they get to really think about the details of the design process. Using structure strips and this type of lab design does take a bit more time than the "follow the directions" labs, but are well worth it!

Pro tip: Getting a custom self-inking stamp makes the approval process simple for you and more fun because students want the stamp!