Professor Robert Marc Friedman of the University of Oslo tells us that, "The essential key for writing is to write regularly — like it or not — great ideas come often by writing". Middle school students may struggle with writing complete and coherent lab conclusions, so providing students with many opportunities and strategies for scientific writing helps reduce anxiety around writing and gain these important skills:
For more on how the importance of providing support with scientific writing, view this video and visit this section's reflection: Providing Support for Scientific Writing:
This lesson gives students a method, called a RECALL Lab Conclusion, which utilizes several scientific practices. Writing lab conclusions includes constructing an explanation that includes qualitative or quantitative relationships between variables that predict or describe phenomena (SP6); constructing, using, and presentation of a written argument supported by empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support or refute an explanation or a model for a phenomenon or a solution to a problem (SP7); and communication of scientific or technical information in writing (SP8). These practices link directly to the Common Core English Language Arts Standards for Science and Technical Subjects.
The Writing a RECALL Lab Conclusion series of lessons is an investigation that including lessons taught over the span of 2 days or equivalent block periods. To help manage the magnitude of this activity, you will find the project split into 2 parts.
We use the acronym "RECALL" (Recall, Explain, Call Back, Analyze, Lapses and Light Bulb) as a catchy way to remember the components of a complete lab conclusion. In order to ENGAGE students in this lesson, I challenge students to identify what the letters in some common acronyms mean:
Students generate and share their ideas about what each acronym means. They find it funny that they know what SCUBA is (equipment used for underwater exploration) but can rarely identify what the letters mean. After revealing the components of each acronym, students attempt to identify the what the letters of our RECALL Lab Conclusion acronym might mean.
Teacher Note: I teach this lesson after teaching students how to write scientific arguments. For this related lesson, check out: Communicating Scientifically: Writing Arguments from Evidence.
The EXPLORE stage of the lesson is to get students involved in the topic so that they start to build their own understanding. To help students explore the topic of writing a complete and coherent RECALL Lab Conclusion, students work in pairs to develop a list of factors that should be included in a lab conclusion by analyzing an example of a finished conclusion: RECALL Exemplar - Proficient. During this time, I work the room to help students make an interesting connection to the structure and function cross-cutting concept (CCC6). As students identify important structures of the lab conclusion, I ask them questions about what function it serves within the lab conclusion:
1) Why is ____________ part of the conclusion important?
2) What role does the ____________ part of the conclusion play?
3) How does the ___________ contribute to a good lab conclusion?
After ten minutes, students share their important factors with the whole group. Using these factors, I present the RECALL method using the RECALL Overview to show students where these factors will show up in their own lab conclusions. For example, if students identify "state the purpose of the lab" as an important factor, I show them where this occurs in the RECALL Exemplar and point out that this would be a part of the "R" in RECALL. Shown here are the factors that make up the RECALL Lab Conclusion:
“R” = RECALL – Recall the purpose of the activity. Include a statement of the variables and hypothesis. (Why?)
“E” = EXPLAIN – Explain what was done in the activity. (How?)
“C” = CALL BACK – State the results of the activity. (What happened?)
“A” = ANALYZE – Analyze results by looking for trends, patterns or relationships. What conclusions can be made based on the results of the experiment? Compare results to the hypothesis. Use DATA to support your ideas. (What do the results mean?)
“L” = LAPSES – Describe any errors, mistakes or unanswered questions that may have happened during the activity (OOPS!)
“L” = LIGHT BULB – Describe at least one thing you learned from the activity (WOW!)
After presenting the entire method and explaining that this is an outline that will result in at least one paragraph made up of complete sentences including a topic sentence (the “R”), supporting detail sentences and a conclusion sentence (the second ‘L”), it is time for students to practice!
After presenting the RECALL method, continue on to Part 2, which includes the EXPLAIN, EXTEND and EVALUATE components of the lesson; Time: 1 - 2 50-minute lessons or equivalent block periods.