Writing in the Sciences Lesson Plan: Developing a Chapter Summary for a Science Text

Lesson Plan on Developing a Chapter Summary for a Science Text
Esther Muehlbauer, Queens College Department of Biology
CW2: Writing in the Sciences – Evolutionary Themes

Lesson Objective:  To effectively outline and summarize ideas for a chapter summary in an evolution textbook

Total Estimated Time: 75 minutes

Additional Outcomes:  To apply outlining and summarizing techniques to writing in other academic fields.

Assignment Underway:  Writing Assignment #3: Scientists Writing for Students – A Textbook Passage on Cultural Evolution.   Students are writing a chapter section for a college evolution textbook, on the advent of cultural evolution.

Work completed before class: Students have read the chapter on “Cultural Evolution” in the textbook, Biology, Evolution and Human Nature (Wiley, 2001), and have brought reprints of the chapter to class. In a previous class students have worked on sequencing topics in this chapter, and have brought these topic lists to class.

Sequence of classroom activities:

  1. Making a list. The instructor distributes reprints of chapter summaries (written in paragraph form) from an evolution text that students are unfamiliar.  Starting from the summary, students are instructed to work backwards, and develop a list of chapter topics that would be logically included in the actual text.   (15 minutes)
  2. Sharing work. One or two student volunteers read their chapter topics to the class, pausing after each topic to see how many other students had included that topic on their list.  (10 minutes)
  3. The instructor then reads the actual list of chapter topics from the textbook that the summary was based.  (5 minutes)
  4. Writing. Students are then asked to use their own chapter topics lists, formulated during the previous class, to draft a paragraph for a textbook chapter summary on “Cultural Evolution”.  (They may refer to the chapter reprint as well.) (20 minutes)
  5. Reading and discussion. Several student volunteers read their paragraphs to the class and offer insights about their writing. The class is invited to comment on the writing and its effectiveness in summarizing ideas.  (20 minutes)
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