Writing is in the Details

@Hexdoodlz [Robert Frost Nothing Gold Can Stay]

What does a scientific writing and figurative language have in common? More than one might think. A question that I have been grappling with for the past few years, how does narrative writing with rich figurative language belong in the science classroom? 

When we dig into something basic like a lab report and nudge our students to think deeper we create imagery and depth that parallels our great meteors who have come before us such as Robert Frost. 

An Experiment 

Experiment Grafik von khld939 · Creative Fabrica

The Task 

My students were given a set of supplies with the task of making the fastest possible track with hot wheels, magnets, and cardboard. 

I had a few questions that started their thinking process. 

What does a push or pull look like when using magnets? What design will make your car go the fastest using your knowledge of push and pull. 

Students worked in a small group to create

  1. Design of a course
  2. Hypothesis of what they think would happen with their initial design. 

Students collected data and after their experimentation ended we worked on an exercise of reflection. 

Reflection, even in scientific writing, can be worked through by means of narrative writing. We discussed that when we are writing a narrative we are telling our reader what is happening. 

I let my students draft their thinking without much guidance besides the above instructions. When they were completed I took a turn around the room and listened to the responses as they shared in their groups. Something I noticed from almost everyone is the lack of detail in their narratives. I was getting 1-2 sentence narratives where I craved at least 4-6. I wanted to experience their experiment with them. 

Example 1: “ We attached the magnet to the front of the car. We put the other magnet in front of the car and pulled it.” 

Example 2: “ We put the magnet under the cardboard. It moved the car to the finish line.” 

So we did a little writers workshop. 

Adding Details

Details Rock Rapids | Rock Rapids

I told them to imagine what we worked on in thesis writing before, adding rich details and helping the reader feel like they experienced the experiment as well. We recreated the list of sensory subheadings to help (touch, smell, see, hear) 

I told the students to think through their narrative like a movie. Take me through the steps. 

After Revision: 

Example 1: As we experimented our data showed our time got lower and lower everytime. Strapping the magnet to the front of the car to use the pull. It sounded like something scratching against a rough surface and felt like a rough surface. The pull was the best race because when we would push the magnet it would go off the track. 

Example 2: First race we put the magnet under the dry erase board and the other on the bottom of the car. Then we move the car with the magnets. IT scratched as we moved the car across the board. Second trial we put the magnet on the back of the car and it moved smoothly. Trial 3 we put the magnet on the front of the car and pulled it. It kept making a clicking noise. 

Some things I noticed:
There were added details in the second draft

Students made more of an effort to create a picture for their reader 

Areas of improvement: 

-First narrative does not walk us through the 3 trials of the experiment 

– Both of the narratives do not go in depth of what their experiment told them. 

– Reflecting on the data 

Future lessons Ideas: 

  • Step-by-steps/ Procedure writing mentor texts/ Narratives
    • The Relatives Came (details) 
    • Coding for Dummies (article procedure writing) 
    • (book procedure writing) 
    • The Crayon Man (non-fiction narrative writing) 
    • The Magic Ramen (non-fiction narrative writing) 
  • Using the data collected to reflect 
  • Adding more details about variables, materials used, and future ideas for experiments 

How could you pull figurative language, writer’s workshop, and mentor texts into your students’ writing outside of the “ELA” classroom? 

Please reach out with questions, reflections, and connections in the comments below or on Twitter @Mrsablund. Check out my other articles writing out of the ELA classroom.

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