During our unit on invertebrates I have used both fiction and non fiction books. I start the lesson by asking students to compare two of the books we have read in class.
My goal is for them to discuss the difference and really focus on the non fiction as a model for their informational writing. As we go further into the NGSS they will need to construct explanations that offer evidence, by writing this essay on the invertebrate of their choice, they will be doing just that.
We have been writing informational paragraphs in and out of Science class. This is an acquired skill, my students will be practicing writing across the content areas, all year, in order to practice adding supporting details to their writing. This activity allows them to share information they have learned while using accountable Talk Sentence Stems and Starters with a partner first, where they ask and answer questions of each other, and then transferring the information into essay form. Students help each other "work out the kinks" and this leads to even deeper discussions on the topic!
I provide a task sheet that gave them the Invertebrate Essay Directions which explains what students are expected to do. We also go over the writing rubric. I find that when we go over the rubric and the task in advance, students tend to have an easier time completing the assignment.
Students turn and talk with their partners to help them use their evidence to support their ideas. During this lesson, not only are they demonstrating their level of understanding on the topic of invertebrate animals, they are citing evidence that the animal they have chosen is an invertebrate. They are engaging in collaborative discussions and improving those speaking and listening skills that are so important in science and are an integral part of the Common Core Standards (SL3.1)
These discussions help them focus their ideas and write as I circulate and offer help revising.
Writing plays an integral part in the NGSS. Sharing information/findings whether orally or in written form helps students process what they have noticed. I always ask students to share the section/paragraph they feel is their "best part". This helps with time management and allows for students who may, at times, be reluctant to share since it's only a paragraph, the students feel it's more manageable and less risky. The "audience" is then entitled to ask 3 questions or use accountable talk to make a comment about what has been shared. I've attached a Sample Student Essay of some completed work.
I collect all work and use the writing rubric to assign a score. You'll notice that there are 2 rubrics on one page, that's because I cut the page in half and attach the meaningful comments to the bottom of their work.The rubric comments have 2 stars and and a shooting star, meaning 2 things they did well (2 stars) and 1 wish (shooting star) they should work on for next time.