An I-Pod Inspired Writing Lesson from WritingFix & ScienceFix

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Teacher's Guide:

Podcasting Science

summarizing current science news that has been reported on Science Times

This lesson was created by Nevada teacher
Nick Nemsgern
while attending the NNWP's
I-Pod's Across the Curriculum Workshop.

This writing prompt inspired by

the Science Times podcasts.

Click here to subscribe to any of the
New York Times

A note for teacher users: These lessons are posted so that you may borrow ideas from them, but our intention in providing this resource is not to give teachers a word-for-word script to follow. Please, use this lesson's big ideas but adapt everything else. And adapt it recklessly; that's how you become an authentic writing teacher.

Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources :

Pre-step…setting the stage: Teachers, please listen to and select a current “Science Times” podcast that you would like to play in your classroom on your classroom I-Pod. There are a multitude of options involving current science (within the last year). Choosing appropriate content and episodes is crucial. Says Nick, "I only play one Science Times podcast episode every three weeks, so I choose to play a podcast with very interesting and student-related theme." You could also select a specific podcast to merge your current curriculum with current events in the world of science. You can subscribe to the "Science Times" (and other current events podcasts) by clicking here.

Or on, search for “Science Times” under the podcast category. There you will find a wide array of podcasts from the last two years from The New York Times “Science Times”.

Before playing the podcast, with your students, discuss the difference between a) fact, b) opinion and c) superfluous information in science with your students. Says Nick, "I use these three separate science articles on one topic to demonstrate and differentiate between fact, opinion, and superfluous information in writing science essays. Use the three articles that I have linked to this lesson. I chose to use a science article for my factual example, which is devoid of anything else. I used an editorial on the same topic to show the expression of the author’s opinions. I have also included a personal essay on the same topic which incorporates fact, opinion and superfluous and unessential information. Each of the provided articles contains underlined text to indicate the factual, opinion-based, and unnecessary or superfluous information in these essays. If you want to choose a more applicable content area as the central theme of these example essays, it might add more relevance. I have also included this guide to scientific writing, which I share with my students before they write."

Step one…sharing the Podcast: Once you have selected your Science Times podcast and briefed your students on what factual science essays look like, it is time to use your i-Pod in class! Each Science Times podcast is approximately 15 minutes in length. These short episodes also allow time to replay segments if needed.

As the students listen to the podcast, they will be using page one of the graphic organizer to document factual information, supporting details, and interesting sub-topics which are purposefully included that relate the topic to the students’ own lives.

Step two…introducing student models of writing:  To give them an idea of the writing assignment at hand, in small groups, have your students read and respond to any or all of the student models that come with this lesson.  The groups should certainly talk about the idea development and the organization, since these are the focus of the lesson.

WritingFix Safely Publishes Students from Around the World! In 2008, we first began accepting students samples from teachers anywhere who use this lesson. Hundreds of new published students now go up at our site annually!

We're currently looking for student samples for other grade levels for this lesson!  Help us obtain some from your students, and we'll send you a free resource for your classroom!  Visit this lesson's student samples page for details.

Step three…thinking and pre-writing:  Have students discuss the podcast with others at their tables. Students may be able to help each other with some facts from the episode and/or give a different perspective on what was interesting about the podcast. Make sure that they confirm with other students whether or not their information is completely factual, which means they are not include any superfluous information (opinions, unnecessary or unrelated stuff, etc.).

Once the students have completed 1) page one of their graphic organizer and 2) their small group discussion: Instruct students to choose only one of the podcast topics to write about. They will use the template (page 2 of the graphic organizer) to formulate a factual paragraph about the Science Times podcast. They must place the facts they learned from the podcast into complete sentences. Also, have them write the facts that they can share with others and their most interesting points from the podcast into complete sentences. They are to create both an introductory thought and a concluding thought to wrap their “factual” paragraph in-between.

Have students write a completed paragraph (in a logical order for your reader) at the bottom of page 2 of their graphic organizer. Students will take the information from the graphic organizer above, and rewrite their factual summary of the Science Times podcast in the space below. Students need to include both the intro and concluding sentences. Once students are finished, have them pick an appropriate title for their own podcast summary paragraph.

Share Original Graphic Organizers (for Pre-Writing)
from Your Teaching Toolbox.

We share graphic organizers with our peers, we find them in books, and we think we should also be able to find tried-and-true ones online at WritingFix. This year, if you create an original graphic organizer (or adapt one of ours) when you teach this page's lesson, and post it, we might just end up publishing it directly here at WritingFix, and we will post it here, giving you full credit.

  • Original graphic organizers for specific lessons, like this one, can be submitted as an attachment at this link. Look for the "Reply to this Box" beneath the post. To be able to post, you will need to be a member of our free Writing Lesson of the Month Network.

Step four (revising with specific trait language):   To promote response and revision to students' first drafts, attach WritingFix's Revision and Response Post-it® Note-sized templates to your students' drafts.  Make sure the students rank their use of the trait-specific skills on the Post-it® Note-sized templates, which means they'll only have one "1" and one "5."   Have them commit to ideas for revision based on their Post-It rankings.  For more ideas on WritingFix's Revision & Response Post-it® Note-sized templates, click here.

Share Original Revision Techniques or
Adaptations from Your Toolbox.

Inspired by Barry Lane's Reviser's Toolbox, the WritingFix website encourages its teacher users to adapt our lessons, especially the tools of revision we have posted here. If you create an original revision tool (or adapt one of ours) when you teach this page's lesson, and post it, we might just end up publishing it directly here at WritingFix, and we will post it here, giving you full credit.

  • Original revision ideas from teacher users of WritingFix can be submitted through copy/paste or as an attachment at this link. Look for the "Reply to this Box" beneath the post. To be able to post, you will need to be a member of our free Writing Lesson of the Month Network.

Step five (editing for conventions):  After students apply their revision ideas to their drafts and re-write neatly, require them to find an editor.   If you've established a "Community of Editors" among your students, have each student exchange his/her paper with multiple peers.  With yellow high-lighters in hand, each peer reads for and highlights suspected errors for just one item from the Editing Post-it.  The "Community of Editors" idea is just one of dozens and dozens of inspiring ideas that is talked about in detail in the Northern Nevada Writing Project's Going Deep with 6 Trait Language Workbook for Teachers.


Step six (publishing out loud and on-line):  The goal of most lessons posted at WritingFix is that students end up with a piece of writing they like, and that their writing was taken through all steps of the writing process. After revising, invite your students to come back to this piece once more during an upcoming writer's workshop block.  The writing started with this lesson might become even more polished for final placement in the portfolio, or the big ideas being written about here might transform into a completely different piece of writing. Most likely, your students will enjoy creating an illustration for this writing as they ready to place final drafts in their portfolios.

OR...if your students are up for the challenge, why not end the year by having them write and publish their own science podcast on a scientific current event that intrigues them. They can do this alone or with student partners.

Interested in publishing student work on-line? You might earn a free classroom resource from the NNWP! We invite teachers to teach this lesson completely, then share up to three of their students' best revised and edited samples at our ning's Publish Student Writers group.

To submit student samples for this page's lesson, click here. You won't be able to post unless you are a verified member of this site's Writing Lesson of the Month ning.

Learn more about NY Times' Science Times here!

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