Power of Observation Writing

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The SWBAT write a descriptive paragraph using notes and a graphic organizer.

Big Idea

Scientists communicate by writing!

Teacher Notes

Activity Description:

The children will use their observation notes about a flower (or any object) to form ideas and write down on a 4-square graphic organizer.  Then they will write details to support their main ideas.  


This is an extension of the lesson The Power of Observation!  In that aforementioned lesson, the children observed their own flower and wrote down their observations on a chart.  They will be using this chart as a basis for their writing.


NGSS/Common Core Connections

In the previous lesson, the children were actively engaged in the art of observing.  In this lesson they take their observations to the next level and use them for communicating their information in written form.  They will be building a foundation for constructing arguments. 






5 minutes

I open the lesson by saying, "Okay my second grade scientists, who remembers what we were working on yesterday?"  Everyone's hands shoot up!  "We each got a cute little flower and then made observations about it," they shout! "You are so right! We were scientists and made good observations by using our __________ (I wait for a response). The kids shout out, "Senses!"  I point out, "What are some of the things we can observe by seeing? (colors, shapes, size, patterns, etc) What are some things we can observe by touching? (texture, hardness) What are some things we can observe by smelling? (odor, sweetness) What are some things we can observe by hearing? (sounds)  Most of the time scientists do not taste things, but if they do, they can the observe (sweetness, bitterness).

"Today we are going to take our scientific observations that you each wrote down and write informational paragraphs.  Scientists write to share information with others.  And we are scientists, so we are going to spend some time writing and then sharing it.  Are you ready, scientists?  If so, repeat after me...."

"I am a scientist....." (They repeat)

"I can ask questions that can lead to investigations... "(They repeat)

"I can observe with my senses..." (They repeat)

"I can share my information by writing..." (They repeat)

" I can do it!" (They repeat)

"I am a super scientist!" (They repeat)


I find that a little pep talk before writing can help motivate children. ;)



30 minutes

Writing combines all of the thought processes, making it both difficult to teach and even more difficult to write instructions for.  This is a long winded explanation, so bear with me!  In this section I am alternating modeling with having the children write so it is especially long.

The children have already filled out their Observation sheets.  They need those sheets to help them fill out the 4-square writing organizer.  I thought maybe I could skip this part to save on time, but in order to get the hang of writing an idea with supports needed to be organized.  The best thing I have found to help with this is a four-square type of organizer (see Reflection Video).  

I pull the class's collective My Observation Flower Chart  up on the Smartboard.  

I model for the children, "I am going to write a description of the red flower that we talked about yesterday.  My first step in doing this is to organize my ideas.  I am going to do that by writing them in an organizer called a four-square."  

I flip to the Four Square Writing on the Smartboard.

"A four-square has 4 boxes on it and one small rectangle in the middle.  I am going to write a topic sentence in the small rectangle.  Then I am going to write 3 main ideas in the boxes labeled 1,2,3 and then write a detail that tells more about each idea in each box.  Then in the last box I am going to write a conclusion.  Does that sound complicated?  Well, for my super smart scientists, it is going to be a breeze!  All you have to do is follow my step-by-step directions."  

"So let's start!  I pull the 4 square graphic organizer up on the Smartboard.  First I am going to think of a topic sentence.  My topic sentence is My flower is very interesting.  This sentence would work for all of us, so I want everyone to write that same topic sentence in the middle rectangle."

I walk around and make sure everyone is writing those words in the correct place.

 "Now I am going to find my 3 best ideas on My Observation Chart." I show the children the chart.  "I'm going to take a look at my chart to see what I think those ideas are. Hmmm.....I really like the part where we said it reminds me of a butterfly so I am going to circle that part with my orange crayon.  I also like the part about how it smells sweet, so I'll circle that one too.  Lastly, I like the one where it says it is red. So I am circling that one with my orange crayon.  Notice how I circled 3 ideas that I liked with a crayon." 

I tell the children, "Now I want you to circle your 3 best ideas on your My Observation Chart with a  crayon.  Any color will do, except yellow since it is hard to see.  You can circle any of the ideas that you have written in any of the boxes.  Really think about your ideas and choose the ones that you might be able to write more about."  

The children thoughtfully look over their ideas and circle 3 of their best ideas.  

 I walk around and encourage children to choose their best ideas.  When it looks like they have all completed the task I say,

"Okay, it looks like we are all ready for the next part.  I am going to write my 3 ideas down on my four-square paper.  Watch how I do it." I then write one idea by the star that says "1", the next idea by star 2 and the last idea by star 3.  It doesn't make a difference for this writing which order they are written in.  I emphasize, "Make sure you write your idea right next to the star."  

I stress this since some kids will write their sentence under the "tell me more" section and then they will not have enough room to write the supporting detail.

"Okay, now let's all try it.  Take your first idea and write it next to the star with a 1 in it.  Make sure to write your ideas in complete sentences." I make them write complete sentences on the organizer because I have found it makes it easier for the children in the long run.  I give them time to write.  "Then take your second idea and write it next to the star with a 2 in it." Again, I give them sufficient time to write.  "Now take your last idea and write it next to star 3."  

I walk around the room and support any struggling students.  I make sure they are writing their sentences in the proper place.  If not, I have them move their idea to the correct place.  This becomes very important when they write their supporting ideas, especially later in the year when they are writing more supporting details.  It's good to have them do this from the beginning so they develop good habits.

I inform the children,"We are almost half-way done!  Can you believe it?  You are writing just like a scientist!"

Now comes the trickier part.  The students need to write one supporting detail.  I don't call it a supporting detail, but rather a "tell me more."  For this group of children it seems more appropriate.  

"Next we are going to add one detail to each of the boxes.  The detail should tell more about your main idea.  See the words "tell me more?"  I am going to write more about my main idea on the lines under that.  So I am going to start with box 1.  My main idea is that the flower looks like a butterfly.  I am going to tell more about the idea of it looking like a butterfly.  So I write 'It has 5 petals that look like the four wings on a butterfly and its head." 

Now I am going to read over box 2 and then try to tell more about it.  It says it is the color red.  I need to tell more about that idea, so I thinking about how it is red all over or how it is as red as an apple.  I think I want to write both ideas."  So I write those ideas next to the "tell me more" section in box 2.

Now for the last idea in box 3.  My idea says it smells sweet.  I am going to think of something it smelled like for my 'tell me more' part.  I think it kind of smelled like candy, so I'm writing that idea.  Notice how I have written a complete sentence each time.  

I would like each of you to try this.  Start in box 1 and reread your idea.  Then think how you could tell more about it and write that in a sentence on the lines.  Then continue to box 2 and box 3."

I give the class ample time to follow the instructions.  I walk around the room and assist any students that need extra help.

"Wow!  We are at the finish line!  All we need to do is to write a conclusion.  On your paper I have written ideas that you may choose to start your conclusion with.  I am going to write As you can see my flower is unique. Now you try it."

I make my rounds to help any struggling writers.

Most children will probably write "My flower..." to start their sentence in each box.  At this point in the school year, I choose to let it go, since this is one of our first writing experiences, and I want it to be as painless as possible.  If I feel a particular child needs to be challenged, I will ask them for another way to say that same idea to add variety to their writing.  Click here for a Student Sample.


15 minutes

Before we move on to the next section, I make sure that each child has indeed written down 1 main idea and one supporting idea in box 1, 2 and 3; and a conclusion in box 4.  If they have not, I work with them to complete the work.

I say, "My second grade scientists have done a marvelous job writing down their ideas today.  You are just like real scientists who make observations and take notes.  I love the way you were able to follow directions to create your very own writing.  Tomorrow we are going to take your notes, write a final paper and then share your ideas with each other."