Science Fair - Writing the Research Report
Lesson 4 of 7
Objective: SWBAT use their graphic organizers to create a well written research report for science fair.
Writing a research report is no small task for middle school students. We are muscling through the process by breaking down the writing process into smaller manageable chunks.
Students appreciate the concrete milestones that show progress towards their goal. These small steps help teachers monitor student progress and facilitate success.
How can I support students to interpret, defend, and produce scientific and technical text? Students will be writing formal research essays to share with their science fair experiments. We want students to report not only what happened in their science experiment but why the results were the way they were.
(SP8 - Obtaining, evaluating and communicating information)
Students in Action
I begin by telling students that the hardest part of the writing process is now behind them. Once you have completed the research and organized your notes, writing will be the easy part.
Students are skeptical. Most of my students consider writing a chore as many of their writing experiences have been challenges to write-on-demand - "today you will write an essay about".
I ask students to locate their Graphic Organizer with their research notes. This graphic organizer is foldable designed to show them only the information they need to write a paragraph at a time. I share a video describing how to use the foldable in the lesson Stem Cells or Cloning - You are the Expert!
First I make sure that each student has written their science fair question in the first box on the organizer. Also in that first box students are asked to write a topic sentence. I explain that this topic sentence will tell the reader what they will know when they finish reading the research report. It might be something like - There are many factors to consider when selecting a cookie sheet.
I ask several students to share out their topic sentences. This is an informal peer edit and suggestions are made for improvement if needed. I compliment students who are willing to share out and remind those who have correction suggestions that their paper just improved! If students struggle to write a topic sentence, I ask them to share their question and three big ideas. Other students are helpful in suggesting possible topic sentences.
Next I model for students how to fold their graphic organizer so that only the top portion is visible. This would include the question/topic sentence boxes and three big ideas. This, I tell students represents their introductory paragraph.
We will begin writing our rough draft. I remind students that the rough draft requires complete sentences. The finished rough draft should be pretty close to their finished essay. It should only need minor tweaking.
I use the Science Fair Research Paper powerpoint to show how to transfer the information from the graphic organizer to the writing boxes. The question is our hook, the topic sentence is copied, the big ideas are stated in complete sentences and transition smoothly and the conclusion is a restatement of the topic sentence.
We break for a brief peer edit. Trade your paper with your neighbor and read their introductory paragraph. Does it make sense? Are the sentences varied in structure or do they all begin with the word "The" for instance? Can you make a suggestions to improve the introductory paragraph? I do this so students will think about their sentences as they work on the remaining paragraphs. We will not peer edit again until the end of the rough draft.
I show students how to fold their graphic organizer so that only the information needed for the first paragraph is visible. Again I use the power point to model how students transfer the information from the graphic organizer to the writing boxes. I tell students that the big ideas need to be restated and should not be the same sentence they wrote in the introductory paragraph but should have the same information. Most students know exactly what I am talking about. They have written many essays in language arts class. I use the foldable and writing boxes to helps students write a well structured essay. This way students can focus on the content they are writing and not the construction of the essay.
I ask students to pause and peer edit before they write the conclusion paragraph. The conclusion paragraph is a restatement of their introductory paragraph. They need to restate again the big ideas. They should not add any new information in this paragraph.
These are the basic instructions. More fluent and confident writers will add a salient fact from their fact/examples to the conclusion that best represents the big idea.
When students work on the conclusion paragraph, restating again can be a challenge for my students who struggle the most in class. An accommodation I make is to allow selected students to simply re-write their introductory paragraph.
We conclude with peer edits. I tell students to look for complete sentences and transitions so the sentences flow smoothly when read. I ask the readers to be sure to ask the writer any clarifying questions if they do not understand something. When asked a clarifying question, the writer should modify their rough draft to include any additional information needed.
Students do not like to rewrite their work. I remind them it is better now to rewrite and have all the information they need for their presentation instead of trying to answer the question when asked by the judge during their presentation.
In this video, I share a review of the student sample included in the resource section. The samples are from an emerging writer. Breaking down the writing process not only helps the student succeed but also makes it easier to help the student revise and polish their work.