Writer's Workshop - Creating Children's Stories
Lesson 5 of 8
Objective: SWBAT model the chemical process of photosynthesis and cellular respiration through the creation of a children's book.
This lesson was developed as a strategy to engage my students in an effort to support their understanding of the complicated chemical reaction of photosynthesis. By simplifying the curriculum to a level that is suitable for elementary students, the 9th grade Biology students had to truly understand the content. The creative application of writing a children's book helped to reduce the students' anxiety when dealing with photosynthesis and opened up new channels of expression and understanding. Most of the students exceeded my expectations with their effort, enthusiasm, and final projects!
Children's stories are usually easy to understand for the pint-sized participant, but contain a strong lesson/message for the reader to learn from. The simplicity of a children's book also helps to connect the reader to prior experiences and informs the audience of new knowledge.
This lesson starts with the reading of a short excerpt from a popular children's author in whole-class format. Here is a video clip from the anticipatory activity in this lesson:
As with any editor that works at the big publishing houses, the teacher needs to establish the expectations for this creative writing activity. The teacher will describe the guidelines for this activity:
- Students will need to select either photosynthesis or cellular respiration as the topic of their student-developed children's story.
- The story needs to transform the complex chemical process into age appropriate descriptions for an elementary aged audience.
- Students will develop a detailed narration that includes the details of the light reaction and Calvin Cycle for the process of photosynthesis OR Glycolysis and the Kreb Cycle
- Students will create illustrations that are either hand-drawn or computer generated.
- Students will use their lecture notes regarding Photosynthesis or Cell Respiration, diagrams of the chloroplast or mitochondria, or their textbook as resources to confirm the scientific accuracy of their story.
- Students are encouraged to stretch their imagination to make their creative writing fun, interesting, and information for the audience. Think of The Magic School Bus Adventures or the Dr. Suess Science series.
The Children's Book Project Handout describes the expectations and provides the assessment rubric for this project to guide the students throughout this assignment.
Here is a video clip of the direct instruction portion of this lesson to define the expectations of the children's book activity:
After hearing the detailed explanation of the project, students are ready to get to work creating their creative writing books:
Necessary Supplies -
- a large stack of paper - students are able to take as many sheets of paper that they think they will use for the project (a ream should be sufficient to last throughout the day)
- staplers - enough for the class to pass around to each student
- colored pencils - used for illustrations, make sure to have a pencil sharpener . . . students will always ask for one!
- scissors - in case students wanted to create unique shapes for their book
- Biology textbook, student-drawn diagrams, and lecture notes to use as a reference
Rough Draft - Students are encouraged to write a rough draft of their children's story which should outline the detailed processes of either photosynthesis or cellular respiration. This was not a mandatory step in today's lesson, but next year it will be implemented the extra step to increase the effort and quality level of the project. The rough draft provides the opportunity to have students record their ideas and then go back and revise the statements by checking for scientific accuracy, flow of content, and creativity in presentation. The rough draft was not made mandatory, please see the Video Reflection Section for insight on this matter.
Illustrations - Once students complete their narrations of the multi-step processes, they are allowed to begin creating the illustrations for their books. Some students expressed hesitation creating their own illustrations by hand, so students were given the option of printing images from the computer at home and bringing them into class to use as illustrations.
Sample of Student Work #1: This student's creation literally blew me out of the water. He used my daughters as the audience and wrote the story for them, ages 3 and 6. This creative writing piece captures the essence of the assignment better than I could ever explain in words. Kuddos for this student for allowing his creative side bring his scientific understanding to new heights!!!
Sample of Student Work #2: This image demonstrates the amazing quality work by the Biology students when they are given the green light to intertwine their creativity with their comprehension of the curriculum. This assignment was hugely successful and supported student learning of a complicated scientific concept!
The Creative Process - Students were provided a short collaboration period, no more than 5 minutes, to brainstorm ideas with their neighbors to discuss strategies to incorporate creative techniques into their writings. Students will then use the rest of the section of this lesson to work independently to sketch the outline of their book.
In an effort to enable all students to see the "big" picture, the teacher will close the lesson with a flow chart that follows what occurs during cellular respiration from when the students eat breakfast until the ATP is formed.
- Eat breakfast
- Mechanical (the chewing process) and chemical (enzymes such as amalyase) digestion in the mouth
- Mechanical (churning) and chemical (HCl and enzymes) digestion in the stomach
- Absorption of nutrients (glucose) in the small intestines
- Glucose enters through the blood and is pumped through the circulatory system
- Glucose is able to cross the cell membrane and enter the cell
- Glucose is broken down through the process of Glycolysis in the cytoplasm - creating 2 Pyruvate Acid molecules and a net gain of 2 ATP molecules
- The Pyruvate Acid molecules move to the mitochondria. If oxygen is present the Kreb Cycle is initiated in which CO2 will be released and 34 ATP molecules will be created.
This is an over-simplified flow chart, but provides the students a glimpse of how the process moves from start to finish. With this context, students can begin to contextualize the details of the cellular respiration process.
Homework - Students will work to finalize the narrations of their children's book in preparation of our peer review in the next lesson.