Nuclear Interactive Notebook

Nuclear Inactive Notebook preview image

Well, we’ve reached the end of the line – this is my last interactive notebook unit to share. I hope that you’ve found them helpful. Don’t worry – I’m not done sharing about my interactive notebooking journey because for me, it truly is a journey. Every year I update, modify, evaluate, and make decisions about what to keep, change or not use in my notebook. Next year I’ll be transitioning to NGSS, and I’ve already begun thinking about how that will change the way I use interactive notebooks in my class. This year my students used just over half the pages in their composition notebooks, so I know that I have space to expand what students include in them. I always want to be conscious of my paper consumption, so I’ll be thinking carefully about how to use the notebooks in a meaningful way.

Speaking of paper consumption, I’m planning a series of blog posts on how to use interactive notebook components without doing a full notebook. Stay turned for that, especially if you are limited in paper resources or can’t use composition books in your classes.

Nuclear is a brief unit for me, and nearly all of the content delivery occurs within the notebook, supplemented only by some TED-Ed Videos (I use Is radiation dangerous? - Matt Anticole and Radioactivity: Expect the unexpected - Steve Weatherall every year, and there are others as well). The first spread begins with a comparison of chemical versus nuclear reactions. The output is a checklist on which students mark statements as applying to either chemical reactions, nuclear reactions or both. This spread is included to help students see the transition from chemical to nuclear reactions.

The next two page spread focuses on radioactive decay, fission and fusion. The top of the page includes the definition for radioactivity and reminds students about nuclear notation. In addition to a foldable showing how to balance the decay equations, there is an interactive Venn diagram contrasting fission and fusion. The output for this page is a nuclear card sort that was created by ORISE (Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education). Students sort into a 3 region Venn diagram, and I like that the activity integrates all three portions of Johnstone’s triangle and real world applications.

The final spread of the notebook covers half-life. Students are introduced to half-life and then do a radioactive decay modeling activity with M&Ms. There are many versions of this activity online, and if you can’t or don’t want to use food you can use pennies. There is also a slightly different way to model radioactive decay using Twizzlers, which can also be found online. I have included my version of the M&M activity, but feel free to do some searching and find your own.

And…that’s it. We’re reached the end. One final note: if you hand out a final review packet of any kind, you can use two blanks pages to create a pocket into which students can tuck a paper. See video 1 to see what that looks like.

Video 1: Creating a pocket. See it on Nora's TikTok channel.(accessed 5/26/2023.)


Thank you all for the feedback, positive comments and joy that you have brought to this journey. I hope you have found that it supports you and your students. Now that we’ve finished with the main structure of the notebook units, stay turned for more to come on how to use interactive notebooking in varied ways!


Composition notebooks, printed copies of each page, colored paper or construction paper for making flipbooks/foldables, scissors, tape or glue

**A note on my manipulatives: If you see a dashed line, that is where the item should be cut. If you see dotted lines, that means fold.


For backstory about how Nora uses interactive notebooks, view a recording of her ChemEd X Talk: Integrating Interactive Notebooks into Chemistry Courses with Nora Walsh and read her previous post, Interactive Notebook Unit on Stoichiometry. Nora wrote the following in response to questions she received after her ChemEd X Talk: A Classroom View of Using Interactive Notebook Pages.

See all of the interactive notebook units Nora has published: INTERACTIVE NOTEBOOK COLLECTION


Spread 1: Chemical vs. Nuclear

Rightside: Chemical vs. Nuclear Reactions Foldable

This foldable is a full page paste in. It doesn’t fill the entire page in a composition book, so there is space around the edges for additional notes. If you show a video, you could include QR codes or an anticipatory guide for one of the videos.

I like to print foldables on colored paper, but that’s optional. If your printing budget is tight, students could create this on construction paper. This is a shutter foldable, and the prompts are written across the front flaps. Students then open each flap to show the corresponding information.

Leftside: Chemical vs. Nuclear Checklist

This is a one-page glue down. Students then check off if each type of reaction fits the description. Some statements can fit both! I have students check their work by entering their answers into a Google form when they are finished.


Spread 2: Radioactive Decay

Rightside: Types of Radiation

Two flaps are created at the top of the page: one of the left under which students define radiation, and then one on the right to remind them of isotopic notation. (I like to have them record the page number of Unit 2 Spread 2 if they need a deeper reminder.)

Below these two flaps is a hotdog foldable on the types of radioactive decay that I include in my curriculum. You could certainly adjust them as needed for your class. Finally at the bottom is an interactive Venn diagram – students separate the three areas of the Venn diagram and turn them into flaps to lift and write comparisons underneath.

Leftside: Nuclear Card Sort from ORISE

For my classes I removed a few prompts to take out things beyond our scope and also to shorten the activity. Students draw the three circles (for Fission, Fusion and Radioactive Decay) directly on the page. We accidentally ordered the small little money envelopes and I got to keep them. The cards fit perfectly in the envelopes! I had students upload a photo of this page onto Google Classroom, and then they can use the card sort over and over again.


Spread 3: Half-Life

Rightside: Half-Life

This page covers half-life and includes some real-world examples to drive it home. There is a full-page glue down that shows the layout for the page. The top two boxes are definitions of radioactive decay and binding energy. I made the definition boxes the same size as a mini Post-It note so that flaps can be quickly made. Then there are three statements that sum up the nature of half-life. Finally, the bottom of the page is a tab book that shows various ways to model half-life, talks about decay chains (to bust the misconception that the first decay always leads to stable isotopes), and then the application of half-life to radiometric dating.

Leftside: Radioactive Decay Modeling Activity  with M&Ms

As I mentioned in the intro, this activity can be done in a variety of ways and I’ve seen numerous activities that model half life, with and without food. The version I’ve included is a one-page glue down, as the interactive component is doing the activity with M&Ms. To do the lab, give students a sample of M&Ms. It works best with more than 50, but since the pandemic I’ve just handed each kid a fun-size package and told them to pool their totals in groups. (Baking M&M pieces work well too!) Have them count the number of M&Ms, put them in a cup, shake them, and spill them out on a paper towel. Any candy piece that is M side up is still radioactive and any piece that is M side down has undergone decay. (It’s important to do it in this way, because there is the occasional candy piece without a marking.) Then they return the radioactive pieces to the cup and go again. Each spill of the cup is 1 half life. If you wish to tightly tie this to time, you can have them shake the cup for a certain number of seconds before spilling out the pieces and have them graph it relative to the time in seconds.

At the bottom of the page I’ve included some follow up questions to get them thinking about the application of half-life to radiometric dating.

It may be helpful to view video 2 to help visualize what these pages will look like in action.


Video 2: Nuclear INB pages, ChemEd X Vimeo Channel, 5/24/2023.


Provide copies of the following for each student. Note that I have grouped the components by page. Please preview them before printing as some pages have multiple copies to minimize paper waste.


Spread 1: PDF icon Chemical Reactions vs. Nuclear ReactionsPDF icon Chemical or Nuclear

Spread 2: PDF icon Types of Radiation

Spread 3: PDF icon Half-Life