Thursday, April 5, 2012

Questions, Claims and Evidence: The Important Place of Argument in Children's Science Writing.

Norton-Meier, L., Hand, B., Hockenberry, L., & Wise, K. (2008). Questions, claims and evidence: The important place of argument in children's science writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

This book goes into more detail on using the Science Writing Heuristic developed by the authors (specifically Brian Hand) and described in previous articles. It includes student and teacher voices, as well as examples of student work. Each chapter ends with a Key Understandings paragraph that nicely sum up what is contained in the book. 

Chapter summaries:

1. "There are two important major cognitive ideas that we need to focus on within science classrooms. First, every individual's learning is an activity that is undertaken by the individual for which we as teachers have no control. Learning is an activity that is controlled by an individual. Second, knowledge is stored in long-term memory as conceptual frameworks, not as separate content knowledge points. The function of learning leading to understanding is to develop and enrich one's conceptual frameworks. The key point is that  that individual learner controls learning."

2. "Matching teaching to our views of learning means that we have to change some of the strategies that  we use in our classrooms. ... We need to change how we question students, how we use group work, and how much control we think we have of student learning. Our encouragement is to keep trying: Work on one particular aspect and the other parts of the teaching and learning dynamic will change also. ...  It is up to teachers to orchestrate opportunities where students can share an expand their developing understandings."

3. ".... The purposes involved in the various writing skills change as a consequence of focusing on the learning and with consideration to topic, type, purpose, audience, and the method of text production. Assessing this writing is also an important consideration, but with a reminder of who controls learning, it is essential to include the student in this assessment process by allowing the audience for the writing to provide key feedback and assessment in addition to the teacher."

4. "Developing good questions takes time and practice. Understanding Bloom's Taxonomy and using tools such as the Bloom's Question Starters can help us develop questions and move students to higher levels of thinking as they negotiate meaning about the big idea. Activating prior knowledge is essential to developing good questions. When student are curious about a concept, questions flow naturally. A good question is one that requires students to think critically and investigate thoroughly, and leads to negotiation of meaning and a deeper understanding of the big idea."

5. "Good questions, questions that require higher-level thinking, lead to evidence. the process of students negotiating understanding of the big idea, the process that takes studetns from questions to evidence, is often "messy" and takes time. Students need to:"
  • Investigate
  • Observe
  • Think about what they're observing
  • Discuss their observations with peers
  • Ask questions about what they are seeing
  • Reflect upon their observations and have opportunities to record their observations in a variety of ways
"When students are actively engaged in negotiation their understanding through observation and investigation of their questions, teachers support students by: "
    • Observing students to identify misconceptions in their understanding
    • Prompting students to "look again" while providing additional opportunities to investigate
    • Asking additional higher-level questions to help students negotiate understanding of the big idea
    • Providing a safe environment that encourages students to take risks and think critically
    6. The last three chapters are focused on tools to help teachers implement the SWH approach, including identifying pitfalls and guidance for helping students through the process. 

      A final note - this book primarily focuses on elementary school age children. 


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