Developing Defining Sentences (CA Dept of Education)

>>I’m Toni David. I teach in the Stanislaus
Union School District at Agnes Baptist School. I teach fifth grade. I teach a blended fifth-grade
class, part gate-identified and a cluster of students who are non-gate. At the beginning
of the lesson, I clarified the intended learning by stating the learning objective, which was
to construct a scientific explanation using defining vocabulary in a sentence and focusing
on a specific audience for this task. So the task today–I’m gonna clarify it again–is
we’re going to write a scientific explanation to a specific audience using “defining vocabulary”
in our sentences. My students have been exploring earth systems, specifically water, for a good
part of the year. As we’ve progressed through these lessons, their background knowledge,
their evidence, and their reasoning have been pretty well developed. So my students have
been learning about some water issues in a fictitious community called East Farris. So
today, the students had to construct an explanation about why it rains. My students work in collaborative
groups on a daily basis. We change groups every week, so the groups that they were working
in today were set up on a previous day. They have at their hand an idea board. They had
their scientific notebooks. They had writing utensils, and then they have an investigation
notebook that they’d been working on for several weeks now. The students had to collaborate
in a group and work on their scientific explanation for why it rains. They had to discuss the
concepts together. They had to identify scientific vocabulary that they would like to include
in their explanations, so all the groups created a word bank of vocabulary that they had learned
from their previous lessons and their hands-on learning and words that they learned in the
simulation. When we wrote that first explanation, you wrote it for me ’cause I was going to
pick your book up, and I was going to read them that night and find out how well our
discussion about water shortage went on in the classroom. And normally when you write,
the audience you’re writing for is Mrs. David. Sometimes with the peace essay contest we
wrote for the community. So today I wanted you to think about the focus of this explanation,
because even though East Farris is a fictitious community, it could be a real community, and
community is made up of all kinds of different people, so your explanation is going to a
wider audience. It’s–the mayor’s gonna read it, but the community consists of all kinds
of different people. So you have to be thinking about this explanation, about how you’re going
to write this to explain why it rains. How is this audience going to be different than
writing to me or to a committee at school? You’re writing to a community, so I want you
to talk about how this explanation needs to be written for the specific audience. I’m
gonna give you about three minutes. Go.>>She knows a little more than maybe, like,
an ordinary person would know, so it makes it–so we get to put it in more complex words.
So–but since we’re writing to the community, we might have to, like, break it down a little
and make it a little easier to understand so we’re not just, like, using big words so
they can’t understand it. But not just that, I think we have to go off from the basics
and then move up, you know, a little harder explanations as you go up.
>>Yeah.>>You’re going to get to, today, collaborate
on this answer. “Why does it rain?” You’re going to get to collaborate. You’re going
to get to record your thinking on the idea board. You’re going to get to write a word
bank on your idea board. Together, collaborate and think about what words that we’ve learned
in this unit would be good to use in our scientific explanation. So together you’re going to create
your word bank, and then I’m gonna show you some examples of sentences that use our vocabulary
and sentences that use defining vocabulary. But I’m giving you some brainstorm time because
a lot of you are thinking about all this information and processing it, and I think it’s important
that you put it down on your boards together as a group. So this next piece is gonna be
a little longer. This collaboration piece is getting your ideas about why it rains down
on your whiteboards, jotting down some vocabulary that you think you might want to use in your
explanations, and then we’re gonna come back together and look at the sentences that we
might compose in our explanation. “Water vapor, engineer, reservoir, evaporation, groundwater,
resource, diagram, explanation, synthesis, atmosphere, and molecules. So as the students
created their word banks, I demonstrated a sentence on the board using scientific vocabulary,
and then I changed that sentence into a defining sentence, so defining a scientific word in
the sentence. When students weren’t working collaboratively, it was my job to walk around
and to elicit evidence of progress towards this goal. So have you all decided those are
the words we’re gonna use?>>We might use more, but we all came up with
some.>>Okay, perfect.
>>But then we might not use, like, every single one. We might use more than half, yeah.
>>Exactly. And when you–it’s okay to come up with a list. When you do this, craft this,
independently at the very end, you might decide to use a different set out of this group,
okay? Okay. Get started. Good. So how–what kinds of things do you need to consider in
writing for an audience like that?>>Evaporation, condensation, and precipitation.
>>Oh, okay, so you need to give some scientific terminology? Okay, so keep talking. All right.
Okay, but what about your audience? How are they gonna understand that? What do you need
to do to make that audience understand that concept? How are you going to write this specific
to this audience? As I walked around the room, I could see which students were stuck on where
to go in explaining why it rains. I saw a lot of nice diagrams as I walked around, but
some groups had a really difficult time explaining and writing what was actually happening when
it rains. So you just gave me a definition.>>Oh.
>>But in–okay, in that sentence right there, what do you see? “The atmosphere, the air–
>>Oh, so it kind of explains it?>>Yes. �Sh–shield around Earth, makes
life possible.” So you’ve got the first part of it. What were you going to say about evaporation?
Is it necessary for rain to happen?>>Yes.
>>Ah, do you see what I mean?>>Oh, yeah. Now I see.
>>All right. Eliciting that evidence prompted me to interpret that many other groups might
have had the same difficulties. So as I walked around, I realized that we needed to provide
more examples, so I called upon students in different groups. So I’m thinking this is
more difficult for us than we first–when we did the example. This may be a little challenge
for us to write some defining sentences, so I’m gonna ask for some sharing. Is there a
group that has a defining sentence, other than the one I gave an example with, that
would like to share that?>>Okay, so the word that we defined was “precipitation,”
and we said, “When water molecules are fully stored in a cloud, it soon falls as precipitation
or rain.”>>Ah, precipitation–comma–or rain. So when
the person’s reading that sentence, and they get to that word “precipitation,” and they’re
like, “Oh, where are my context clues?” Right after it, right? “Oh, it’s rain, precipitation
or rain. Oh, they must be one in the same.” Do you understand, Michael? Does that make
more sense? Does that sound like a good defining sentence?
>>”The main step of a water cycle is evaporation, or when a liquid turns in to a gas.”
>>Good. I like that. “Evaporation. When a liquid turns in to a gas.” You put that comma
>>Okay, good. At the end of the lesson, the students had an exit ticket in their investigation
notebook. They were to write, independently write, an explanation of why it rains on their
own. They were provided about 15 minutes of quiet work time to put their thinking from
the collaborative process, from the modeling done in the classroom, from the redirection
during the lesson, and put that thinking into their exit ticket. So students really need
to be able to communicate their thinking, their ideas, their reasoning behind their
ideas, the evidence they have to support their ideas, throughout the curriculum, not only
in science, but mathematics, in language arts, in social studies. Everywhere across the curriculum,
students are called upon to make claims and back them up with reasoning, evidence, and
do this in a clear, concise manner. So defining sentences are important in every curricular
area. So an important piece in this lesson was the realization from students that this
is–learning is an ongoing process and that they use what they know today to enhance what
they’re going to learn tomorrow. So many of the students had written a previous explanation,
and they understood that they had a limited amount of knowledge for that explanation.
And as they gather more scientific thinking, as they learn more strategies like writing
defining sentences and writing a better explanation, that their learning is an ongoing process
and will continue for them in the future. So that’s exciting for me as a teacher to
know that learning–they understand that learning is a continual process and that they’re excited
about that opportunity to learn more.

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