The Science of Teaching Writing

A blog on teaching, with an emphasis in teaching writing.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Multi-Genre Writing, Part III

So much of the writing we do with kids in other disciplines is not fun. This one is one of my favorites.
One of the experiments my student did was called a Fizz Quiz, and they learned about chemical reactions and what happens in these reactions. I wanted to incorporate something that would be every day in their lives and get them writing, so I chose the form of writing like a newspaper article.
We first talked about what was in a news article: who, what, where, when, why, how, headline. Then we talked about the experiment and what was in the experiment: 50 mL of water, citric acid, baking soda, calcium chloride. Then when happened: a chemical reaction occurred, carbon dioxide was released, and it fizzed and foamed. Then the most important step: I let them make it fun by making fun of me and/or other teachers. They were so excited!
In reading through them, I was so impressed by their creativity and language. Some kids had the chemical reaction getting way out of control, to the point where school had to close. One student had me, in the story, screaming and passing out because I had the junk on my tie--hey, those suckers are expensive to clean. Some poked fun at other teachers, all in good taste, but there was flow, personality, and you can tell they enjoyed writing it, because it was hard not to enjoy reading it.
For assessment, I made a rubric in excel. It was a 6 point rubric based on voice/entertaining, the 5 W's + 1, Conventions, and of course, Science. The rubric was shown before so they knew what they had to have, and then when they had their finals handed in, I stapled a rubric to all of them, circles what was what, and I'll be passing them back to my kids on Monday. I think the rubric makes this a better assignment, especially by expanding it from 1 to 4, to 1 to 6: there is a big difference in a 3 and 4, and too often, kids are inbetween, and it's hard to decide one over the other--with a better rubric, this process becomes easier and less subjective.
This whole process took three or four 40 minute session.
Again, post your email if you have questions or want samples. And sorry, you'll have to make your own rubric.

Multi-Genre Writing, Part II

One of the FOSS fits in the Poudre School District is Mixtures and Solutions, and one of the experiments is on Solubility. The student conducted an experiment where they added equal amounts of salt and citric acid to different water bottles, shook them up after each scoop was added, and continued until both of them were saturated. The citric acid had greater solubility with 15 some scoops, and salt had far less at five. I have them make certificates of solubility.
I showed them a few certificates that I had received (one for completion of a course I took in college, another, a fake one, for best outfielder--I needed one with more writing and couldn't find what I needed) and they brainstormed a list of what went into a certificate. They had a check list, and then started working.
They did a rough draft, and in order to do a final draft, they had to come to me for the paper, so I could look at it and give them automatic feedback: Great job!; Where is the signature?; You're missing the phrase certificate of solubility.; I spelled solubility correctly on the board, so I expect you to spell it correctly as well.
They colored their final drafts, and I made copies of the exemplary ones to use for next year. Woo-haa!