I wanted to measure if my students were developing the connection between the erosion models and the real world and show some mastery of the standard. We discussed how lower graded essays in the past always lacked planning. I reiterated, "Good writers plan first!" We discussed how we should go about planning to write. I passed out the Erosion Investigation Quiz and we read the question together. I explained exactly what was meant by the question and exactly what was expected as we went sentence by sentence and considered the whole idea. On the whiteboard, I listed what should be included as students brainstormed ideas.
* Students could also write their final paper within a Google Doc. I chose to do paper and pencil because of the level of my students' needs at this point in time. We are still transitioning to quality writing using technology.
Because they are learning to write paragraphs well, I used this opportunity to use this quiz as a "teaching quiz". They are learning to connect science in the classroom to the outside world and having to really synthesize and summarize. It is a high level task for them, far beyond simply doing a multiple choice test or even a short answer. But, this quiz models what will be expected from them on Smarter Balance or a PARC test. In the end, their answers will be their own, so I believe that this process will help with comfort levels and success in writing assessments.
I asked them how they would choose to plan? All of them agreed that they enjoy Simple Mind, a really cool app that helps with organizing through mind mapping or webbing. We discussed what we thought would be the main points of the writing and I listed a few suggestions on the board. They worked for the first 15 minutes. A mind map like this easily helps students plan because it is color coded and can be manipulated so the student can organize their thoughts easily and clearly.
After the 15 minutes were up, I asked students to show me their mind maps as I passed out their Rubric for Erosion Quiz. We were ready for the next steps in planning. The mind maps looked great! Connections were present. Now we would see how those connections were conveyed in writing!
After each student had their own rubric, I brought a copy up on the SB directly from my desktop to help explicitly instruct how to set goals prior to writing. This explicit instruction supports their success in communicating their science ideas clearly. I went over the 4 level expectations so that students could plan for excellence and understand what level that rating would be. I told them that they needed to read and use their plan, write and then go back over their rubric to assess how well they communicated their ideas. To check themselves for fluency, I told them to take the opportunity to read it out loud to the wall and hear the flow of their writing. This writing strategy helps them hear if they have communicated clearly and possibly catch any more mistakes.
After this instruction, writing of the quiz began with the rubric along side their paper and their plan on their iPad in full view. I roved the class as they worked answering any questions.
As students completed their writing, they could choose to bring me both the rubric and the writing for me to look at and give them guidance, prior to turning it in. As we met, I asked them to explain their connections and show me where they were located in their work. This is a great strategy for students who are not very confident about their writing and need that extra support. It also supports their understanding that I wanted them to express a connection and not just an explanation of the investigations. I am training them to understand that writing has significant purpose in showing what they understand about science.
I quickly skimmed their work, making a few suggestions and reminding them that the connection to the outside world needed to be clear with examples. I showed them how to assess their work by reading each level 4 box of the rubric. I told them if they didn't understand the box, to return to me for help. If they scored lower than a four, they needed to fix what they thought was wrong. This self scoring strategy forces them to look carefully at what they said in their paragraph and rethink if they had answered my question and written well.
This took about 3-5 minutes for each student. Most students came to me. Some chose not to. I roved the classroom looking at their rubrics to see how they had assessed themselves. I stopped them before they turned them in to remind them about what needed to be done to produce the best paper possible. After the time they spent one on one with me, they spent about 10 to 15 minutes again, going over their rubric and making corrections. The self awareness of their mistakes, made them fully accountable to themselves and nurtured an attitude of excellence in writing. This cross- curricular writing is essential for their success in absorbing the depth of science that NGSS expects that we achieve and also sharpens their ability to communicate critical thinking clearly. When they were complete, students handed their work in. In my reflection, I share some examples with you.