This writing across the curriculum lesson was written by WritingFix Webmaster, Corbett Harrison, who thinks this lesson could be easily adapted to work with students in grades 4-12. Corbett's lesson is based on another WritingFix lesson: Unusual Diary Keepers, which is found on our Picture Book Lesson Collection.
This lesson was proposed to ScienceFix using this template. If you have a science/mentor text lesson you'd like to have published, fill out the template and send it to Yvette Deighton, our ScienceFix Coordinator: YDeighton@washoeschools.net. We'll send you an NNWP Print Publication if we post your lesson here!
Lesson Objective: Students translate research about an animal or other living creature into their own words by writing a "life-span diary" that shares fact-filled entries from 10-12 days in the life of the creature they have researched. Students draft their diaries on paper, revise and edit with peer response groups, then publish their final diary using a Power Point slide show.
Writing skills (traits) to stress while teaching this lesson:
- Idea Development (putting learned information and research into one's own words)
- Voice (capturing an imaginary perspective in their diary's entries, using humor to show deeper thinking about a topic.)
- Conventions (using correct spelling, especially of scientific vocabulary words from their research)
- A list of facts about earthworms. Here is one example list that you might share with your students
- Doreen Cronin's picture book, Diary of a Worm
- Information about living things (other than worms) from which your students can gather research
- Rough draft planning sheet for Power Point Slides
- Student samples of life-span diaries for students to analyze and discuss before writing their own
- Optional: This idea was adapted from a lesson found in Barry Lane's wonderful book, 51 Wacky We-Search Reports
- Share some facts about earthworms. Ask students to select three favorite facts, then stand up (without their lists in hand), and find a partner. With the partner, they are to discuss why they chose the three facts as the most interesting.
- When students return to their seats, tell them that one way to put research into one's own words is to put the research away and discuss the research orally. Tell students when they had a conversation about the worm facts, they were beginning to put the research into their own words. For this writing assignment, students will put research about a living thing into their own words.
- Share Doreen Cronin's picture book, Diary of a Worm. Ask students to recall actual facts about worms that Cronin weaves so skillfully into her humorous account of the life of a worm. Tell students that one thing they might consider adding to their own writing is smart humor...like Cronin has done.
- Show one or more student samples of a life-span diary in Power Point. form. Make sure students note how the life-span diary--unlike Cronin's book--contains entries that show beginning of life to death of the living creature they will research.
- Have students research a living creature, making a list of interesting facts that span the creature's entire life-span. Have students talk to each other once they have a list, sharing ideas from their list they find interesting. Encourage them to talk about their facts without reading them straight from their notes or from the research.
- Use this rough-draft planning sheet to have them plan the topics they will discuss in their Power Point diaries. On the lines, have them brainstorm just words and phrases that each diary entry will be about; they will do their actual rough-draft writing on their own piece of lined paper. The first slide should become their "title page," and if they'd like to make the second page a "dedication page," they can. Each diary entry needs to focus on an actual fact about the living creature they have researched.
- Once students have planned the layout of their slideshow by topics, they may begin rough-drafting the three or four sentences that will appear on each slide. Encourage them to put researched ideas in their own words and to try to use humor, if possible.
- Have your students respond to each other's rough drafts and make revisions. Tell them they will not be allowed to put their words into an actual Power Point. slideshow unless they show evidence of revision on their rough drafts.
- Have students help each other edit one another's second drafts. Tell them they will not be allowed to put their words into an actual Power Point slideshow unless they show evidence of editing on their second drafts.
- Once students have gone through the steps of the writing process mentioned above, allow them to create their Power Point. slideshows.
- Power Point tip: Given free reign, students will often design PowerPoint presentations with these flaws: 1) eye-harming color schemes, 2) overuse of transitions, and 3) adding way too many sound effects. Encourage them not to do this. Celebrate Power Points that are subtle, and focus students on the writing, not the gimmicks of the technology.
Student Samples for this Lesson:
Diary of a Giraffe
by Julia, 4th grade writer
Click on the "Diary of a Giraffe" title slide to view Julia's PowerPoint.
Do you have a student sample to share?
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