Why are Bees Important to Agriculture? Composing a Scientific Argument

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Objective

Students write a scientific argument using specialized external structures as supportive evidence in the process.

Big Idea

This cross curricular writing lesson helps students take their research information about bees and connect it to agriculture.

Engage

10 minutes

Writing an essay about specialized parts of bees to address why bees are important to our state's agriculture can be modified to any state. Today, students will be guided through learning to write a thesis and essay that supports their opinion as to why they are essential to agriculture using their research. But before we began, I thought it was a good idea to start with an attention grabber activity because the class time will be very intense.

Two Truths and a Lie: To warm up everyone I wrote two truths and one lie about bees on a notecard and placed it in table groups. They had to figure out the lie.

For example: 

1. Bees dance.

2. The largest bee in the world is 102 cm.

3. Bees carry pollen on their legs.

On the back of the card, I included a lie from another team's card. That way, everyone had to listen to check the other team's decision. The team with the right answer stood  up and buzzed three times when the team got their answer wrong. 

This is just one sample. I used various websites about bees to gather some facts they didn't necessarily know. However, their success really showed me that the research we did yesterday really stuck with them!

To begin: I gave them 5 minutes to discuss their card with their table team.Then, each team took their turns reporting which fact they thought was a lie. The first team was correct, but the second team was wrong. The team with the correct answer stood up, read the correct answer and then buzzed three times. They laughed! 

It's a goofy game, but really fun to get going. It's fun to make up outlandish lies about bees!

Write Like This For Me!

20 minutes

I realized that my students really struggle with structural parts of writing. They have written reports before, but the CCSS standard tells us that we must construct and argument and support it with evidence. The NGSS standard also states that we must make an argument using the concepts of specialized external and internal structures of plants and animals. 

So, using a teacher think aloud, I began to teach my students how to use their hook to open the paragraph and then build to the thesis using the Driving Question: Why are bees important to Wisconsin agriculture? They would need their research KLEWS chart, the beginning of their Simple Mind Map from yesterday's lesson.

I told students that I would be teaching them how to write an essay that will answer our Driving Question by using what I had researched about bees and my knowledge. I wrote the Driving Question on the white board. Why are bees important to Wisconsin agriculture. 

I began to create a mind map just under the Driving Question. My mind map is always a list. I explained that I really enjoy using list to think. So I instructed them to be very quite and listen to me talk and think aloud as I plan and write. On the SB I brought up a blank Notebook file to start to type. As I planned on the whiteboard, I was sure to talk about how the thesis was in the last sentence of the first paragraph. Then, I talked aloud as I included reasons based with researched facts about bees and the connection to the crops in our state. The closing opened with the thesis again reiterated what I was saying by summarizing briefly 

When I was finished. I highlighted the thesis in red. I turned to them and said, I want you to "write like this!" Saying that statement out loud gets their attention and guides them for what is expected. It helps those who struggle with writing to have an example. I left the sample on the board as students began to write their own. 

They Write

45 minutes

I instructed my students to gather all of their materials. Their iPad with the start of the mind map, their science notebook with the KLEWS chart and their notes on our discussion. I listed the types of agricultural plants that grow in Wisconsin as a resource for them. They began. I roved. I checked students and told them they could converse with one another reminding them that good writers don't write alone. 

They worked a full thirty minutes on their first drafts. Then, I told them to type them into a Google Doc. Some finished but most needed to take it home and work on it there.

When it was time to stop, I drew their attention to the writing sample on the board again. I reminded them to make their thesis in a different color so I would know where it was. I assigned the writing to be finished at home. 

At home, I edited their work as it came in and sent it back with edits. This took over night for some students, and in some cases a couple of days. I allowed them to write, send, have me help them edit or revise and then try again. This gave them great practice and the choice to do really well. It lessened the uncomfortable writing feeling for those who struggle.

I was impressed with their stamina for writing. It is April and they have come a long way! They did not want to stop! 

Quick Share

10 minutes

I asked students for a quick share of their thesis. This allowed me to assess each student quickly to make sure they had a definite thesis and it was addressing the question. Each student shared their thesis and I had to redirect a couple. As a class, we helped those struggling to re-write the thesis to be an opinion/argument. 

When we were all done, I can say we were exhausted! But, it was a good writing session.