Writing in the Sciences Lesson Plan: Sequencing Ideas from Observations

Lesson Plan on Sequencing Ideas from Observations
Esther Muehlbauer, Queens College Department of Biology
CW2: Writing in the Sciences – Evolutionary Themes

Lesson Objective:  To logically sequence information in a written research log from observations of organisms in the field/ laboratory.

Total Estimated Time: 75 minutes

Additional Outcomes:  Applying methods of logical sequencing of ideas to other genres of writing.

Assignment Underway:  Writing Assignment #1: Scientists Writing for Themselves – A Field Journal.  Modeled after Charles Darwin’s Journal of Researches, from his legendary journey on the H.M.S. Beagle, students are writing several entries for a journal log, based on their own hypothetical “visit” to the Galapagos Archipelago.

Work completed before class: Students will have previously “visited” the Galapagos by researching information about a specific bird, reptile or mammal, indigenous to the islands, and will have taken online “virtual tours” of the Archipelago.  Students will also have read a few of Darwin’s original journal entries, and passages on animal behavior.

Sequence of classroom activities:

  1. Observing and recording. Students are shown a Youtube film: Galapagos –Researching the Animals, where several species of indigenous birds,  marine iguanas and Galapagos tortoises are filmed in their island habitat, and as researchers take measurements, blood samples, etc. from a few captive  specimens. Students are instructed to record ten observations from the film, listed as a series of bullets.  (15 minutes)
  2. Discussion.  Several student volunteers are asked to read their lists to the class, spurring discussion on the logical development of ideas. Do these lists accurately describe the action on the film? Are the ideas listed in a progressive sequence that allows the reader/listener to visualize the action?  (10 minutes)
  3. Writing in paragraph form. Students are asked to reformat their lists into paragraph form, paying particular attention to logical sequencing of ideas and making transitions from one idea to the next. (15 minutes)
  4. Peer review. Students are instructed to trade paragraphs with another student in the class, and to evaluate two aspects of the writing: Is the sequence of events logically formatted?  How are transitions accomplished?  With regard to transitions, students may be asked to underline successful transitional phrasing in the writing. (10 minutes)
  5. Several student volunteers are asked to read their paragraphs to the class, with intermittent class discussion evaluating the sequencing and transitioning of ideas. Alternately, an overhead projector can be used to project the student writing on a screen.

Successful transition words/phrases can be listed on the board by the instructor. (15 minutes)

Students are encouraged to utilize these sequencing and transitional phrasing techniques in the journal entries they are writing for Assignment #1.

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