Resource 3: Students’ Writing
Teacher resource to support teaching approaches
Getting students to write about their ideas is a good way to find out what they understand. Traditionally most of the writing that students do in science involves writing short answers to closed questions, or copying notes from the board. If this is all the writing that your students do, then you will be missing opportunities for them to demonstrate what they know and to be creative.
Writing in science should definitely not be restricted to answering questions and copying notes. There are a variety of ways in which you can use children’s writing to probe their understanding, develop their knowledge and refine their skills and some of these are summarized below.
This stands for Directed Activities Related to Texts. As the name suggests the activities involve pupils working with texts that have been changed in some way. One common device is text with words missing that pupils have to supply. The missing words can either be listed below, or not, depending on the abilities of the pupils.
Sentences that link together to explain a process or phenomenon can be jumbled up and pupils have to decide their correct order.
This is a useful way of helping pupils reflect on their learning and even evaluate it. They will need to be trained to do this as it usually does not happen naturally.
You supply a list of scientific words and definitions. Students have to match the right word with the correct definition.
Producing a poster will not only give pupils an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding in writing but also enable them to use drawings and diagrams to illustrate science concepts
This is similar to poster production but with the added dimension that it normally expresses a particular view or opinion. It is often useful to ask pupils to produce leaflets expressing a view that is opposed to their own.
Pressure group letter writing
This is similar to leaflet production but is just text written in continuous prose with the intention of expressing a usually strongly held view. This provides pupils with an opportunity to marshal their thoughts and to construct a persuasive argument.
Experiment write up
Encouraging your students to write about their experiments in their own words will show you how much they understand. A strategy that teachers often use is to provide some headings and some key words that their students should be trying to use so that they can structure their writing.
Concept map construction
This involves breaking down a complex idea, process or phenomenon into sub-components and linking them graphically to display their logical sequential relationships and how they contribute to an understanding of the whole. This is normally quite a cognitive challenge and requires a lot of practice to perform successfully. Probably more significantly it requires a sound knowledge of the subject if the maps are to make sense.
Pupils have to decide on key points from an extract and either rewrite them to fit in with a restricted word limit or number of points.
Pupils illustrate a particular process by transcribing from text to a series of pictures in cartoon form that describe the process.
Using flow diagram
This is similar to storyboarding except that the main features or aspects of the process are represented by particular diagrammatic symbols either of your choice or your pupils’.