Charting Science Writing

We have received many requests from teachers looking for ways to use charts that reinforce their teaching of information writing, so when Katie Wears, a staff developer at the Reading and Writing Project, shared with us some photos of science writing charts her teachers at Kiel Elementary School in Kinnelon, New Jersey had made during their “Writing Like Scientists” unit, we immediately asked if they would share their process with all of us at here at Chartchums. They generously agreed and the following guest blog post is the result. Our thanks to Liz Mason, first grade teacher, Jenna McMahon and Nicole Gillette, second grade co-teachers, and to Katie Wears for bringing us all together!

We are honored to be contributing to Chartchums; a place where educators from all over come to collaborate and be inspired by Marjorie, Kristi, teachers, and the students they work with. Thank you for letting us share some of the things we have been working on.

When spring arrived, the teachers at Kiel Elementary School were excited to think more about science and science writing. We planned with each other and brainstormed many possibilities for the science units and how to inspire science writing and thinking. Currently, First Grade is finishing up their study of Properties of Matter and Second Grade is studying Forces and Motion.

One goal was to help students better understand the scientific process and be able to feel successful with this “new” kind of writing. We created these two charts to provide a scaffold for the students and to support independence with the scientific process and writing about science.

"The Scientific Writing Method" chart with a couple of close-ups to show the tips.

“The Scientific Writing Method” chart with a couple of close-ups to show the tips.

Introducing the scientific process with some prompts to use when talking and writing.

Introducing the scientific process with some prompts to use when talking and writing.

Exemplars were created to give the young scientists a vision of how their writing could go. This chart was created to support students with the procedure part of the lab report. It was exciting to see the children discuss the things they noticed in the exemplars and put those things into their own lab reports. The children were eager to use the exemplars as models for their own writing, to set goals, and to become independent. Young scientists looked at their own writing alongside the exemplars and used the exemplars to give their partners “stars” and “wishes” or compliments and tips.

This exemplar chart provides clear expectations and suggestions for including procedural writing.

This exemplar chart provides clear expectations and suggestions for including procedural writing.

Here are some other exemplars that were created during the first part of our units.

This exemplar has been annotated with the class' observations.

This exemplar has been annotated with the class’ observations.

Close-up of the annotations written on post-it notes.

Close-up of the annotations written on post-it notes.

This shows how technical drawings are labeled.

This shows how technical drawings are labeled.

Another goal of this unit was to increase academic vocabulary. These charts and tools give students the vocabulary they need to share their learning and thinking during discussions and through their writing. The vocabulary was introduced and reinforced through real alouds, shared reading, video clips, experiments and writing. The young scientists use these charts to show everything they know.

Two different ways to highlight  science vocabulary.

Two different ways to highlight science vocabulary.

Descriptive vocabulary to use when observing like a scientist.

Descriptive vocabulary to use when observing like a scientist.

We also wanted the young scientists to be able to use writing and the scientific process to be able to deepen their understanding and thinking. Scientists analyzed their results to draw conclusions and share their thinking. The writing on this chart was done with Jenna’s second grade class during shared writing. The chart was then created during writing minilessons when Jenna and Nicole were teaching students how to develop their conclusions and revise their thinking. They give students a model of how to share their learning through their writing.

Annotating the shared writing helps reinforce the teaching.

Annotating the shared writing helps reinforce the teaching.

Small versions of the charts were made and are available for the young scientists to use.

Another fun way to create table charts.

Another fun way to create table charts.

The young scientists are now using these charts and tools to support each other and work collaboratively in science clubs. In their clubs they make decisions, have different roles, formulate questions, and go through the process of gathering the materials to conduct experiments.

Science reading clubs came up with their own group names.

Science reading clubs created their own group names.

The prompts on the charts guide the students and help them have more meaningful scientific conversations about their learning and discoveries. As a result, each student has developed an identity as a scientist who is curious about the world and knows how to search for answers and share scientific results and thinking with others.

Best of luck,

Liz, Jenna, Nicole, and Katie


Winding It Down While Ratcheting It Up

 

As you sat back and enjoyed the Memorial Day weekend, you probably could not help thinking about all that is left to do as the current school year begins to draw to a close. Relax. The most important thing you can do now is to help your students review all they have learned, strengthen what is needed, and celebrate how they have grown. Charts can help you do each and all of these things. Charts are like a scrapbook of the journey you and your students have traveled since the beginning of the school year. Like a scrapbook, there is much joy in revisiting each and every page. In this week’s post we revisit the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words and that charts can act as models and mentors.Back in the Fall we talked about teaching by example and using charts to create visions for what is possible, followed by models kids can strive towards and mentor themselves to while working in the writing workshop. Teaching by example helps review, reinforce, and highlight what is important to learn and know in each and every genre.

In many schools and throughout many grades, the spring season brought about science based studies and inquiries that inspired children to become curious scientists actively exploring their world. These “inquiring minds” questioned, wondered, experimented, explored, manipulated, and maneuvered in an attempt to find answers and open up further questions. As scientists they needed to record their questions, their findings and then write about their discoveries, so as to present to other scientists in the community. Writing well becomes very important in reaching this goal. In addition to pulling out craft charts from previous units of study and showing how these moves can be just as useful when writing about science topics, there are a few charts that can be created that show specific examples of how science writers teach about their topic in clear and concrete ways.

One question that came up as we visited school after school was the issue of children writing less as scientists than as narrative writers. This worry was exemplified by the fact that it was one of the last units of study and was to measure all the kids had learned. The following charts were created in response to this concern, revisiting the idea that charting can create visions for what is possible.

This chart highlights the questions science writers might answer and points to specific examples from a published text.

Elaboration continues to be a concern, no matter the genre, no matter the grade. Charts such as this give concrete examples of how writers can elaborate on ideas and knowledge by explicitly annotating the questions and providing examples from a published text. Keeping the five W’s, plus the How, in mind makes it much easier to elaborate because it gives kids possibly six ways to elaborate each and every time.

A closeup of the Questions chart that shows examples for the questions How? and Where?

Another goal for this unit was to teach children how to write well about their science topics. Writing was not just to record the results of experiments, but to turn this newly found knowledge into writing that would encapsulate all that was learned and could teach lots of folks about the topic. Once again, turning to mentor authors helps insure there is a clear vision of what is possible and how one might go about getting there. Yes, a picture is indeed worth a thousand words.

This chart annotates examples from published texts that can act as models for student writers.

The purpose of this chart is to provide clear examples, while also setting clear expectations of what science writers should include when writing texts designed to teach. The next step will be to have kids use this chart as a way of comparing their own writing to the writing on the chart. They can write their names on post-its and put them next to the types of craft moves they have tried. Teachers can also photocopy student examples and hang these next to the published authors, which furthers children’s sense of competency and accomplishment.

Close-up of Write like a Scientist chart

Close-up of Writing like a Scientist chart

This is an example of a chart that was created with students based on what they had noticed as they studied mentor texts. It also specifically highlights craft moves that have been taught and makes clear expectations for what writers should include in their own writing. It also provides multiple entry points for crafting writing. In other words, there is something for everyone. When asked to place their name next to strategies tried, everyone will be able to feel successful.

These types of charts can be used for any genre, any subject. If you are planning to end the school year with a unit on poetry, for example, you can imagine some poems you might annotate with the kids. You might highlight topic, title, line breaks, repetition, word choice, punctuation, last lines, and so on. This type of chart has endless possibilities, as do teachers!

Happy charting!

Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz

 

 


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