Thursday, February 6, 2014

Informational Writing

Informational writing can be a bit of a challenge with upper elementary students.  We have been researching planets in science class.  The research was guided through a student planning packet. Click to get the freebie!

The students first looked through pre-selected planet books from the library for information. Then, they researched websites on wireless laptops (I took pics and can't find where I stored them...ugh) to complete the planning packet.

The funny part of this project was that the science aspect was quite painless. The students found the information with ease. With very little prompts from me, they used search engines and clicked away!  

The writing portion was another story entirely!  What's with topic sentences these days?  Who is teaching our children to write, "Now I'm going to tell you some facts about the planet Venus".  My head almost spun off when I noticed the majority of each of three classes writing this same somewhat exact sentence. 

Time to backpedal. Gather some writing lessons and inject into science class! That was my mission. I dug out this, season friendly, topic sentence activity. Students work in pairs to read a paragraph about the groundhog. Then, they pull 6 possible topic sentences out of an envelope.  They choose the 3 sentences that would make good topic sentences and write them on a worksheet. They place the "bad" topic sentences back into the envelope.

After the topic sentence practice...we moved on to details, details, details!  Most of the students like to finish their work (for that I'm thankful), but finished doesn't always mean good!  Many of them answered the bullets with correct information, but lacked any details to enhance each statement. They were writing something like this...
     Pluto is a dwarf planet. Pluto is the farthest planet from the sun.  Pluto is a small planet.  Someone kill me now! 
This anchor poster was a must!

We worked on writing a detail under each fact and not starting all of the sentences with the same word.  

I guess I was naive to think they were coming from 4th grade with these skills in tact.  

After much work (and modifications), we are almost finished...about 1/3 of the students have printed a final copy. 

What started off as a science research project, has now turned into a full-spectrum expository essay.

On to the next topic...


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