Students have a laundry list of reasons why writing is one of their least favorite subjects. How do we adjust this mind set through incorporating science?
This article will explore tips, tricks, and techniques of using science to actually excite students about writing in school at all age levels K-12. Teachers and students- you no longer have to dread writing time!
The root of the evil: Why do a large majority of students hate writing?
1. It forces them to truly show their knowledge or lack of knowledge.
2. Students are poor writers.
3. Teachers fail to teach writing with passion.
4. Topic selection forces students to write about things they don’t want to.
5. The writing lacks a purpose.
The cure: How to inspire writing with science?
1. Allow students to choose topics they are interested in. Instead of giving them a single topic, assign the class a theme. For example, let’s say your class is learning about electricity. Suggest to students they can research and write a biography of famous inventors, history of light, how electronics with batteries work, conservation, renewable energy sources, interview a professional in the field, the future of electricity, failed inventions, etc. There are many different ways to demonstrate knowledge in a subject area. The more diverse the subjects, the more the class will benefit from reading/hearing everyones work. Plus, if they chose the topic they are interested in, they are buying into the project and feel more like it is something they want to do rather than have to do.
2. Make sure to model writing techniques. Students need to know expectations for great writing. Compose a paper together or analyze good/bad examples prior to assigning work to students. They can’t meet your expectations unless they know what they are.
3. Integrate. For many teachers, writing is a separate subject than all the rest. Writing needs to be the navy seal of subjects. It needs to sneak into areas that students enjoy without them noticing. If students are excited about learning a certain subject or topic, this is what you should have them writing about. Yes, writing assessments won’t always give them topics they are excited about- but if they practice and learn the correct techniques in writing about things they want to, they will be able to transition that in writing pieces even when they don’t like the topic. So instead of stopping science and starting writing- just make the science lesson a little longer on certain days and make the writing assignment be about what you are learning or keep a science journal.
4. Writing with a purpose. Writing for the sole purpose of getting a good grade will cause many students to hate the project from the start. The final step in the scientific method is to communicate, so let them write with a bigger picture in mind.
· If they are doing persuasive writing, let them send of a copy of their work to a business or a program that they want to influence or ask for something. (Ex. Used equipment, guest speaker, free admission to a venue, suggestions to help community)
· If they are working on informational/narrative writing, compose a class magazine and let students vote which professional pieces to include from your class. Let a student design the cover art and distribute a copy to other classes to share or students to read. Possibly find connections to magazine/book publishers and work with students to submit work for publication. Create a class blog/website that work can be posted and reviewed by peers.
After all, once we are away from a school setting, how many times do we sit down to compose writing when it isn’t something that we want to write about and it doesn’t have a purpose? Give them reasons to be excited about writing and show them the power it can have and they will rise above expectations.
If you are in a middle/high school, communicate with the science teacher to find out what students are working on in class and collaborate with them.
On a side note, we gave students extra credit when they received responses from the locations that they sent their work to. After sharing responses in class as they came to the school, students were even more excited to write and send their work the second time around.
Enjoy the new experiences in writing with science. Please leave a comment of further suggestions and feedback from trying it in your classroom.
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