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Inquiry: How do I get students to write reports using sub-headings?

Sample Assignment

Sample Assignment

First Assignment

Unhealthy/Healthy Food Habits

  • purpose was to get students to organize writing using sub-headings given to them
  • also to get students to type
  • four HFN2O students selected

Student 1 – First Assignment

Student 2 – First Assignment

Student 3 – First Assignment

Student 4 – First Assignment

Final Assignment

Health Risks and Food Research Paper

  • purpose was to get students to write a mini research paper using sub-headings (given to them) and researching the information on a chosen topic (from a list supplied by teacher)
  • students were also to do a title page and bibliography
  • only three students submitted the paper

Student 1 – Final Assignment

Student 2 – Final Assignment

Student 3 – Final Assignment

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Inquiry: How can I help 2P’s write conclusions in a more effective manner?

Summary of tasks:

1. Diagnostic writing activity (Dancing Raisins) -students collected some straight forward observations and were asked to independently* write a conclusion for the lab. No instructions were given about how to write a conclusion or what information should be  included. (* I stressed the importance of writing independently and explained to them it was a part of a project that I was doing, to which they actually listened and did work independently). From this lab, I marked their conclusions and determined which students I would track. Example of lab sheet included in Appendix A. …Unfortunately I can not locate the copies of the student work.

2. Second writing opportunity (Chemical vs. Physical change) -students were instructed to write a conclusion “what did you learn, refer to the purpose of the lab”. Conclusions were not evaluated, I gave written feedback only. See Appendix B

3. Third writing opportunity (Ionic vs. molecular compound) -some guidance was given for writing the conclusion for the next lab. On the chalk board I wrote a sort of “fill-in-the-blank” style of conclusion. Students then had to fill in the missing information from their lab results. This, it turned out, was not an effective way to help students. Also the concept being taught in the lab was a difficult one for students to grasp; therefore writing the conclusions became even more difficult. Examples of student work included. Appendix B

4. Teaching time -for the next several labs there were some time gaps and absences due to illness and no school days. Because of this, I took a different strategy and used the “gradual release of responsibility” approach. We had done several labs in a row, but had not had time to do much reporting or concluding, so I took the opportunity to work on writing several conclusions in a row. These happened in stages. Together as a class we made a board note that focused on these questions: Students came up with the answers to my questions:

a. Why write a conclusion?

  • To summarize the information that you have gathered
  • To have something to study from
  • To answer the question/solve the problem

b. Why kind of information should conclusion contain?

  • The answer to the question or problem
  • Include the problem/ question re-stated
  • Evidence to back up or explain your answer

I then took the information that they came up with and put it into a logical order for a conclusion and created a rubric for it. …*see rubric “SNC 2? Writing Conclusions” Appendix A

5. Anchor Charts -From these last three bullets we re-ordered them to what they thought was logical and came up with the information on the flip chart paper. The information on the flip chart paper was colour coded for the three pieces of information to include:

a. What is the purpose of the lab? What is the question you are trying to answer?
b. What evidence or data to you have to answer the question?
c. Can you use that evidence to write a “therefore” statement to answer the question and/ or solve the problem?

We then worked together as a class to write a conclusion for one of the labs we had recently completed (Molecular vs. ionic compound) that they had had difficulty writing a conclusion for. The example was then colour coded to show where the parts of the conclusion were, and what the information was. See f’lip Chart #1 Appendix C

6. Anchor Chart #2 -The next step involved the students working in groups to write a conclusion for the Law of Conservation of Mass lab. This was a difficult concept for them to write about because there were two teacher demonstrations that showed different results. Students worked in partners, used the results from the demonstration and the colour coded flip chart. They wrote a conclusion with their partner and then shared it with the class. After each group shared, I gave oral feedback on what was good about their conclusion and what they need to improve for the next time or if they have made incorrect assumptions (which some did). At this point I shared the “SNC 2P Writing Conclusions” rubric with them, they were able to see that rubric is very closely linked to the Anchor Chart. See flip Chart #2 Appendix C and Examples of student work. Appendix B.

7. Another Lab (Rates of Reaction) -students completed the next lab “Factors Affecting the Rates of Reactions” and wrote their own conclusions with some guidance and help from my self or their peers. Conclusions were assessed and feedback was given using the same rubric. See student work included Appendix B.

8. Yet another Lab (PH of household substances) -students worked with various household substances to determine their pH using cabbage juice as an indicator. The purpose of the lab was written on the board and the results recorded there also. Students wrote their own report, including a conclusion. This was also assessed. See student work included Appendix B.

9. Summative lab (Antacid report) – As the final task in the chemistry unit, students were asked to determine the most effective antacid out of four tested. They were to plan their procedure (a difficult task for them -a lot of guidance was given) and conduct their lab. Some students did not use their time effectively and ran out of time to complete all the tests. This made it difficult for these students to write a clear conclusion. The one difference with this lab (other then it was Summative) was that they had the opportunity to use the computers to type up their report and conclusion. I think that the use of computers was particularly helpful for many of the students in my class, but it did increase the task completion time. Appendix B.

10. The most recent (and probably last) conclusion that student wrote was based on their experiences at Wawanosh Conservation area where they assessed the abiotic and biotic factors and overall health of the Belgrave Creek. The marks for these conclusions have also been included in the data, but student work has not been included.

Results: Students were selected for “tracking data” based on their previously assessed writing abilities, their attitude in class (perceived willingness to learn) and their attendance. I felt that these factors were all important because to otherwise select students would lead to false data or no data at all!

If you want to see a trend in this “data” I suppose that it would be a slight improvement for all students shown here, but realistically that is not enough data to support any kind of “scientific conclusion” (how ironic). Looking at whole class data I could see this same “general” improvement in communication ability, see Appendix A page 3.

Some anecdotal conclusions can be made just through observing student behaviour, effort and understanding during the time we were working on writing conclusions.

  • Students really became familiar with using the Anchor Charts; you could see them turning their heads to read the information on the side board to help them remember what to do.
  • Students became more confident about writing conclusions. There was much less “what do I doll don’t get it” questions and expressions on their faces.
  • Students were able to complete the task of writing a conclusion in a much shorter time frame. With confidence comes speed!
  • Even without looking at the “data”, as I have marked the conclusions I can see that their writing and understanding of what a conclusion means has improved.
  • This project resulted in more assessments being marked which meant that I got behind with my marking and students did not always get the immediate feedback about their conclusions that they could have benefited from.
  • I will do this again with 2P’s, I think that it had helped both them and me have a better focus when it comes to doing lab work.
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Inquiry: How do I help students write persuasively and to go beyond the one-two sentence responses that I have received in the past?

Specific Task to Improve: “Save Energy!” poster assigned to students at the end of the semester (as part of their culminating activity) – I have always been a bit disappointed by the amount of persuasive writing (or lack thereof!) on this final project.

Class:  CGC 1PA (Gr. 9 Geography; students who choose locally-developed course type)


Step 1 – students were asked to try and persuade an audience to move to a specific location in Canada because of the climate there (Climate Unit!).  To make this task more engaging, they were asked to write a script and were given the opportunity to tape themselves using a video camera.

Click image to view larger version in new window


Hover the mouse over the cue card image for text

Whistler is the best place to live because they have four seasons year around like spring, summer, fall and winter

cue card 1

In the Summer, the temperature is about 18 C on average so you can go dirtbiking, 4-wheeling, and go for hikes. There is not too much precipitation to ruin your activities.

cue card 2

In the winter the temperature is about -10c on average. This is good weather for snowmobiling, skiing & snowboarding. There are good hills & trails for all these activities.

cue card 3

So, come to Whistler B.C. because there is a good climate all year round and you won't be disappointed!

cue card 4

Step 2 – we viewed their brief videos as a class.  The class was asked to give input on what made each skit effective (persuasive) – they thought the following was important:  organization, entertaining (has to catch their attention), quality facts, and a selling statement to wrap it all up.  We discussed our final project (the “Save Energy!” poster) and talked about how we could relate these ideas to the poster.

Step 3 – I presented the students with a sample “Save Energy!” poster via overhead, delivered in various stages of persuasion (level 1 – 4).  The students identified what was lacking from the first sample, and as the samples shown became progressively better, they identified what had improved.  A process wall was created from this activity and reference was made to this throughout their work sessions.  A checklist that mirrored the various stages on the process wall was given to each student and kept in their process folder.  When students attempted to hand in their work (“I’m all done!”), they were re-directed back to their checklist to see if they had covered all the necessary qualities of a persuasive visual and written piece.

Click links to view larger versions of levels in new window

Level 1    Level 2     Level 3     Level 4     Process Wall
Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4

Additional Strategies: In addition to the process wall, the students were encouraged to tackle this project is small pieces.  We started by having them select one method for saving energy and encouraged them to stick with just this one suggestion.  Then the students were encouraged to gather as many supportive facts as they could on this one idea, and then narrow these down to the three most convincing facts.  The next session, we focused on finding a descriptive visual (a picture says a thousand words!), etc.  By sticking to one task per work period, the students avoided becoming overwhelmed and unfocused.
A sample opinion paragraph (unrelated to this project) was posted in the corner of the classroom; some reference was made to this to encourage students to include an intro, body, and conclusion in their writing (as shown in my sample on the process wall).
incentive for a good final product was given by letting the students know that their work would be displayed in the Geography Hall display case during the final exam period.

Students were encouraged to ask each other for feedback (“does this convince you to change your energy-wasting habits?”) during the poster process.

Summary of Process: Overall, the final product I received from students this year was much better than what I have received from similar students in previous years.  They were much more in-tune to the significance of visual communication, they realized why “less is more” (too many energy-saving suggestions and too much random information can detract from the persuasiveness of their efforts), and their written communication was much more effective and organized.  In future, I will extend this process further to help students improve the structure of their final written piece even more.

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Inquiry: I wanted to discover, utilize and evaluate methods of integrating art history into studio and course work in a more meaningful, engaging and relevant manner for students. Teaching mostly open courses meant that I had many different types of learners in my classes which made the art history component of the course a challenge for me and many of my students.

Summary of Strategies Used to Improve Student Achievement

  • I used more word walls to introduce and review principles of art history periods.
  • I used exemplars to demonstrate methods of analysing artists’ work from different time periods as well as their own.
  • I used handouts to help students organize their analysis of art periods and specific art periods.
  • I used technologies and formats (blogs) that were familiar to and more engaging for the students.
  • I used performance charts to demonstrate how to improve art analysis skills.

Sample Assignment

Sample Assignment

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How do I help students support and add detail to their design reports by teaching elements of the report throughout the course?

Kieth Edwards – Enquiry from Kim McGill on Vimeo.

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How do I improve students’ written responses to questions?

Gord Gillespie from Kim McGill on Vimeo.

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