In an English or history lesson, a student may produce a grammatically correct piece of writing, but when asked to write a scientific investigation or explanation, they seem to forget about grammar and the logical sequencing of ideas, ending up with a poor quality piece of work.
Throughout a good scheme of learning in science there should be opportunities for students to write longer passages of text, as well as study written work. The skills of longer written responses within science need to be developed. Students will need opportunities to practice constructing and developing a sustained line of reasoning which is coherent, relevant, substantiated and logically structured.
Providing students with a scaffold on which to build a piece of scientific writing will ultimately help them to be able to cope well with long response questions in exams.
Here is one of my favourite activities to scaffold extended writing:
- Students are given a controversial topic, such as “We should use more nuclear power to generate electricity”. The class is divided into two, and they face each other in rows. One side is pro, the other against.
- One side gets one minute to make their argument for, while the person opposite listens. Then the other side gets an opportunity to respond against for one minute.
- Students then move two up (and two down) so they have a new partner and repeat the exercise. They then move to a new partner for the third time…
- However, for the third time, those who were “for” before are now “against. This means they have had to listen carefully to what people have said before.
- The end of the task is to return, in silence back to their desks and make a list of at least three positives and three negatives for the argument. Then they can begin to construct that into a balanced written argument which should be devoid of bias.
What’s your favourite activity for scaffolding extended writing?
© National STEM Learning Centre