This post originally appeared on the blog Nitty Gritty Science.

Studies have revealed that when teachers are selecting instructional materials for their classrooms, visuals and graphics need to be considered, particularly with technical courses such as science (Wright et al. 2014). Using eye-catching visuals to reinforce student learning helps students comprehend abstract scientific theories and helps them improve their critical thinking skills.

By using Science Interactive Notebooks in your classroom, you are taking visual and graphic learning for your students to an entirely new level. Students aren’t just seeing stunning images and useful graphics in a textbook or PowerPoint presentation; they are actually CREATING them to use as their own science resource!

By allowing students to create engaging graphics and manipulate paper models, you are integrating practices of science and engineering that the NRC Framework identifies as essential for all students to learn (NRC Framework, 2012, p. 30).

Now, I don’t think it’s a big secret that I’m a HUGE fan of Science Interactive Notebooks for many reasons, but today my focus is in the benefits of images and visuals that many of my student output activities feature, such as sequencing, paper models and English Language Learner (ELL) support.


Principles of Ecology: Life Science Interactive Notebook 

Sequencing is a skill that contributes to a science student’s ability to comprehend what they have learned and apply it. By doing this, they will be able to show that they understand that events occur in an order and need variables in place for each step to occur. An example of this is from my Life Science Interactive Notebook where students compare the sequence of events between primary and secondary succession.


Plants: Life Science Interactive NotebookUsing models in the science classroom serve many applications, such as exploring “what if” scenarios, or having them manipulate them to observe the models behavior in relationship to different inputs.

In the case of using paper models in Science Interactive Notebooks, I use paper models to introduce important terms as well as provide an opportunity to explore the process they are learning, such as building the 3-D Flower or manipulating the “ocean floor” to observe Sea Floor Spreading. Plate Tectonics: Earth Science Interactive Notebook

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013) suggest that science teachers can provide language support strategies for their English Language Learners (ELLs) with multiple modes of representation besides text, such as pictorial and graphic. A perfect example of this is when students make the connection in the Main Types of Landform activity where they create a model of the landforms, then can connect those pictures to the vocabulary term and definition with the supporting data table, as shown:

Mapping Earth's Surface: Earth Science Interactive Notebook

Student-created graphics and visuals have great potential to support science content knowledge development. Teachers need to provide opportunities for students to apply what they have learned, and with limited resources, a Science Interactive Notebook is a perfect solution for students to show their level of comprehension in a visually stimulating manner.

NGSS Lead States. 2013. Next Generation Science Standards: For states, by states (Appendix D, Case study 4: English language learners and the Next Generation Science Standards). Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Wright, K.L., E.M. McTigue, Z. Eslami, and D. Reynolds. 2014. More than just eye catching: Evaluating graphic quality in ELL science textbooks. Journal of Curriculum and Instruction 8 (2): 89–109


Nitty Gritty ScienceIn 2010, Erica Colón earned her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Hawaii and is a National Board Certified Teacher. Erica has 12 years of secondary science classroom experience and 4 years at the university level, teaching pre-service science teachers.

Being a proud Navy wife, Erica has had the opportunity to teach in six different states and has been fortunate to have worked with some amazing teachers. One common problem everywhere she taught was that her science departments always had the same struggle – finding quality resources that not only kept students actively engaged, but also met the standards expected of a rigorous secondary science program.

In 2012, Erica launched Nitty Gritty Science as a way to share her passion of teaching and provide the solution. She currently designs and creates curriculum for science education with three things in mind: 1) students’ multiple learning styles, 2) high-quality resources that meet needs of science standards and expectations, and 3) saving teachers time so they can get back to doing what they do best – TEACH! You can connect with her on her TpT store or on her blog Nitty Gritty Science.