30 September 2007

Constructing Written Responses in Science

It's been a bit since I've done some show and tell around here. One of the nice things about having an outside host is the ability to upload various documents and then link them to my blog posts. It's a better way to share things, rather than just trying to describe them here.

Since I mentioned "teaching to the test" yesterday, I thought I would talk about a tool I've used with kids that has helped a lot. I struggled for years with trying to teach kids to "write to the prompt" (another perilous phrase). The thing is, if kids don't understand what they are being asked to do, how can we expect them to be able to do it...and do it well?

With the help of one of our literacy coaches, I put together a how-to for myself and colleagues on Constructing Written Responses in Science. The first seven pages are notes for the teacher---an inquiry style lesson plan, complete with foldable for kids and keys for looking at student work. The rest of the packet is to use with kids. The examples are released items from our state science test.

After using this with students, I have found that skills do transfer to regular classroom assignments and assessments. There are a lot of kids who are grateful to have some guidelines about how to dissect a prompt. I've seen them circling, boxing, and underlining all manner of things as a way to organize their reading and thinking. I have not used this tool with my current group of kids, but I will make plans to do so in the near future. As always, suggestions for improvements are welcome. Enjoy!

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