Writing in Science – SOLSC Day #12

For the first seventeen years, I taught social studies to sixth grade students.  I incorporated writing into every unit.  We did comic strips on the Trojan War and Romulus and Remus.  We wrote a persuasive essay on the Elgin Marbles and how they belong back in their homeland.  We created a PowerPoint presentation about the world’s greatest legacy.  We even created a written argument (with a PowerPoint and a presentation to experts from local colleges/universities) about whether the Dark Ages were dark or not.  We did tons of writing.

This year, I have taken on teaching a new curriculum.  I am teaching sixth grade science, and I AM LOVING EVERY MINUTE OF IT.  Here comes the dilemma.  How do I incorporate writing into science class?  This being my first year, I am floundering in the new curriculum.  Since I just went to training in November for the Matter unit that started in December, I am planning week to week.  Because of all of this, I am not having the kids write as much.  I am saddened by this, but I am attempting to right the “writing” ship (Did you like that play on words?:).

I am struggling with having the kids write lab reports.  They are only in sixth grade.  I have started to have them write lab summaries, which lets me incorporate skills on how to write a solid paragraph (topic sentence, details, and a closing) and how to write a summary.  I am also having them write reflections on a set of lab experiments that teaches one concept (example: the phases of matter).  I know that this seems dry, and I would agree with you, but I am trying to find my groove with my writing expectations for science class.

Occasionally I will also throw in interesting writing assignments (at least more interesting than summarizing and reflection).  Next week, the students will be researching women in science and doing a short writing assignment about the obstacles that they overcame while studying science.  They will also write a short biography.  The most exciting part of the assignment is that they will be working with another sixth grade classroom and not the typical students that they are in class with during the day.  They will work together on researching and editing.  I can’t wait!

On Wednesday, we will be writing a police report on the teacher (completely make believe – I am still a kid at heart) that left a nasty note attached to my classroom door.  The note reads, “Your hair is getting too long.  Is it a science experiment?”  I’m going to pretend I’m mad (I like my hair long – I may not have to pretend:), and then I will present the evidence.  I will have a pen from each sixth grade teacher’s desk and we will use the chromatography paper to determine “Who did the crime?”

These writing ideas are okay, but I am searching for some real substance in the student writing.  I’m also looking for some consistency.  I teach energy, forces, and motion, matter, simple machines, and different forms of energy.  If you have any good ideas or suggestions about writing in science, please let me know.  I would be greatly appreciative.

That’s enough for this morning.  My children tell me that when I don’t comb my hair I look like Professor Poopy Pants from Captain Underpants, so I’m off to nail that look and head to school.

10 thoughts on “Writing in Science – SOLSC Day #12

  1. I love that you’re committed to writing in your science class. Have you considered having your students keep journals or learning logs? I know that’s not “formal” writing, but it’s useful for them to clarify their thinking.
    Maybe a classroom blog would be a community building writing activity too. They could take turns “slicing” about what happened in class that day.
    I hope your post elicits good responses today.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the response. Next year, I am going to journals. Even though it’s not formal writing, it will help them hone their writing skills. I will be honest that this is my first blogging experience (this actual blog), so I am going to spend the summer exploring and creating a science blog. Thank you for the ideas!

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  2. It is so encouraging to hear about a science teacher who is committed to also teaching writing. In the spirit of writing workshop, you might ask yourself, what kind of writing do scientists actually do? Writing workshop is always about teaching kids authentic writing! Scientists write lab reports, of course, but they also write a lot of other things. They make information books, presentation slides, feature articles, even poetry and science fiction. Some of our most beloved authors and poets were doctors and scientists. There are tons of trade books you can use as mentor texts! Good luck!

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    1. Thank you for the reply! I love the idea of making an informational book, presentation slide, feature article, poetry and/or science fiction. How awesome would it be to have a class write feature articles about the content being learned in class (they could even research and connect to current events)? The wheels are already spinning to incorporate it this year (in the next unit). Thank you again.

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  3. This makes me so happy that you are so passionate about infusing more writing into science!! Yeah!!

    How about inquiry journals? They could blog about their findings? Or maybe you could find some science mentor texts they can emulate?

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    1. Thank you for the feedback. During the summer, I am working on an inquiry journal for next year. I will also be researching and reading to find science mentor texts.:) It will be a busy summer vacation.

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      1. I was also thinking of the Science Verse children’s book by John S (cannot think of spelling right now) for a mentor text…

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  4. I teach science to elementary age children. First, I absolve you of guilt- they should be doing lots of things, and writing will only be a small part. Science often gives kids a needed break by giving them different expectations, and different ways to shine.
    Definitely, have them keep science journals. I show them pages from the journals of famous scientists and show how they are drawings, charts of numbers, writing, questioning, lots of different combinations.
    Finally, of course they need to write! (Contradicting myself, I know. Just keep it in balance.) I focus on CER writing- claim, evidence, reasoning. They have to support their claims with evidence in other subjects as well, but especially in science. I use this format many times, short and longer pieces of writing, to give them practice and make it a habit.
    And of course there are books and articles you can explore once you get past planning week by week. Maybe this summer 🙂
    I think the bottom line is, in science class they should be scientists. Most of their time should be actively investigating phenomena. Scientists have to write. But not all the time- they do many different things.

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    1. Thank you for the feedback. I really like the idea of showing them journals of famous scientists. I will be doing tons of exploring and reading over the summer.:)
      I had an awesome science class today. We did a electrolysis of water lab in class. Once we had a test tube of hydrogen, I lit a wooden splint, plugged the test tube with my finger until I had the flame ready and then put the flame to the end of the tube for a little “pop”. The kids went crazy. Science and electrolysis was the “hallway talk” of the morning. A great day!

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  5. There’s a book on writing in science.. I have several, though I’ve never taught science, because I wanted to show my kids how scientists kept notebooks.

    Seriously, I’ll come back and offer some suggestions, because it racked my brain about a year or so ago and I have some suggestions. 🙂

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