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. This is the 2nd part.
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:
1) Students learn to express themselves in their content areas.
2) Students practice applying what they have learned in their literacy classes to content areas.
3) Students make their scientific thinking public resulting in rich discussion opportunities and participation in scientific discourse.
4) Students are more accurately assessed in terms of understanding of scientific concepts.
This lesson gives students a method, called a RECALL lab conclusion, to use which utilizes several scientific practices. Writing lab conclusions include 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.
Since the EXPLAIN stage of the lesson provides students with an opportunity to communicate what they have learned so far, it is critical to provide support as them start to construct their first lab conclusion. To support students, students use the RECALL Planning Graphic Organizer to plan their lab conclusion for a recent experiment or investigation. Depending on the level of support students need, it may be beneficial to utilize an "I - We - You" progression to model the process, complete the process together, and gradually release control to students working individually (or in small groups) to complete the process independently. For more help with this strategy, view this video about the "strategic thinking" strategy used during the "I" stage of the progression where I share out loud my mental processes while I write.
The key important move is to explicitly explain each step and its importance during the modelling process. For more discussion and support, visit this section's reflection: I - We - You: A Strategy for Modeling Complex Scientific Processes.
The EXTEND stage allows students to apply new knowledge to a novel situation. In this case, the novel situation is translating the information on students' RECALL Planning Graphic Organizers into a final written conclusion. Early in the year, students write a single paragraph conclusion. As the year progresses or as students need additional challenge, they will complete a multiple-paragraph RECALL Lab Conclusion as shown on the RECALL Overview. An example of an extension RECALL can be seen here: RECALL Exemplar - Advanced.
As students write or type final drafts, I instruct them to use the RECALL Checklist and the Writing Checklists to make sure their work is complete. At this point, students may also use a variety of strategies to finalize their conclusions including: peer review their work with a partner, spell check or ROAR (Read Out loud And Revise).
The EVALUATION stage is for both students and teachers to determine how much learning and understanding has taken place. For the RECALL Lab Conclusion that students write, I provide feedback on the Scientific Communication Rubric. I emphasize the feedback rather than concentrating on the grade to help promote a "growth mindset" in which students are motivated to make progress rather than peg themselves to a standard.
When I return the rubric, we work together to set a writing goal for the next attempt. I've found that students will stop writing if they receive too much perceived negative feedback (like a low grade) early in the year. Additionally, students need to understand what a good RECALL looks like in order to work toward the standard, so we will evaluate an example (RECALL Exemplar - Advanced) together with the rubric.
When students are still learning to write a RECALL Lab Conclusion, it is important to provide time to revise their RECALL Lab Conclusions. This revision time is very helpful when endeavoring to build confidence and promote the ethic of presenting students' "best work". By promoting growth mindset and confidence, students will have a better opportunity write more complete and coherent lab conclusions that showcase their scientific thinking.