Our science unit, Mixtures and Solutions entered its "evaporation" stage heading into a weekend. The kids dissolved salt into the water and put the solution into evaporation dishes. (Evaporation and Salt Crystals) Over three days, the water evaporated leaving newly formed salt crystals.
Sometimes, the greatest ideas form (no pun intended) out of necessity. The day we checked the results of this experiment is truly an engaging one for the students- but is also short. The class is always excited for science, which I love. All they have to do is see it written on the schedule for the day, and it's a countdown. My experience, however, told me that the twenty-some minutes it would take to observe and record the data just wouldn't be enough to satisfy them that a "true science session" had occurred, yet there wasn't time to begin the subsequent lesson. As I stated at the beginning of this paragraph, out of necessity, a great idea popped into my mind. Observing the salt crystals actually became the warm up for an entertaining writing lesson.
Sitting in their groups in the Science Lab the students write observations in their Science notebooks of what's in the Evaporation Dishes and answer questions on the white board. There are a lot of comments of surprise and interest, and we discuss how the salt evaporates into salt crystals. As predicted, although fully engaging, the activity itself is not a lengthy one. We head back to our classroom for my writing activity, though I don't distinguish it as anything other than part of the science session.
I describe their next task: They will use the information gathered from observing the Evaporation Dishes to write from the perspective of one of the objects involved. This CCS skill of W.5.3 to develop imagined experiences using clear event sequences is absolutely perfect- they're jazzed about this activity! I add that they also they need to use Tier Two and Three vocabulary from the science textbook in their story. (Here are students looking through the text.)
Although most kids write from the perspective of the salt (which became crystals) a few choose to write from the water's point of view and one girl (in the video) is actually the magnifying glass. Here are the Kids Writing Stories. They use their textbooks to recall the information and pick out vocabulary words to enhance their story. Although they had taken a formal benchmark writing test in the morning, no one complains about creating the story. This assignment isn't taken with a grain of salt....it's more like a grain of sugar.
Before I allow them to share their stories out loud, we review the steps of evaporation and the now familiar fact that the salt transformed into its crystallized form during the process. I'm pretty certain the kids have mastered this concept due to conversation I observed as they wrote their "Object Perspective Stories," the number of hands going up when I asked questions, and from reading the stories themselves. After this final review, the kids can't wait for their turn to read. Here is a student sharing a funny story and then another funny story. Two are so eager to get their clever ideas out to "the public" that they read unfinished stories, which is a bit annoying, and explained roughly as, "I didn't want anyone to use my idea before other people heard it..."
The students listen to each story with great anticipation and are ready to laugh along with the author. There isn't a story without imagination, humor, and good word choice, due to the parameters of the assignment, as well as making them entertaining because the topic itself is kind of crazy. I appreciate all of their effort and had a hard time selecting only a few examples for the lesson. I had them type two for ease of reading but included the handwritten versions as well.
Here are some examples: