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.