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The Vermont Writing Collaborative is a group of teachers in Vermont (and elsewhere!) whose mission is to help all students, K - 12, write thoughtfully and effectively.
The five founding members are: Jane Miller of Burlington, Karen Kurzman of Derby Line, Eloise Ginty of Thetford, Joey Hawkins of Strafford, and Diana Leddy of Strafford. Among us, we have over 130 years of public school teaching experience at all grade levels.
In the fall of 2008, we published a book through Authentic Education (with a foreword by Grant Wiggins) called Writing for Understanding:Using Backward Design to Help All Students Write Effectively.
Since then, we have offered courses and workshops in the principles of Writing for Understanding around Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and elsewhere.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Conclusion writing in science 5th and 6th grade

Next Steps - Lesson Planner

Identified Learning Intention/ Purpose - Writing effective conclusions to science activities / lab reports.

How many students are in this group ?- 20 students

How much time per session do you have? - 1 hour science class 5 x per week for 2 weeks. This writing will take place within the science class.

How many weeks do you have? 2 weeks, again this conclusion writing to a lab report will take place as a whole group lesson within the time alloted for science class.

How often will you assess progress? Daily anecdotally, as a formal assessment as I read their lab / activity reports.

Lesson Plan Sequence

Background - Students in 5th and 6th grade have been studying a unit on Motion, with the outcome being an understanding of Newton’s 3 laws of Motion. During this unit students will be divided into groups and given an activity titled Friction Challenge. During this activity students will be given a ramp of the same size and incline. The students’ job is to add friction to the ramp using materials. All students will be given access to the same materials, what they choose to do with their materials is up to their group. The idea is to send the same vehicle down the “frictionized” ramp that makes it to the bottom of the ramp using the most amount of time. In other words using the materials in the most effective way to create friction that slows the vehicle down the most, but still allowing it to move.

The students at the beginning, during and after this activity will be creating a lab / activity report that includes all the basic elements of a lab report, (Hypothesis, Procedure, Results/ Hypothesis tested, Conclusion) with the focus being on the conclusion.

Plan / Procedure to address focus

Day 1 - Introduce students to the Friction Challenge, materials, groups, brainstorm ideas, discuss Hypothesis. Students write hypothesis with groups.

Day 2 - Share Hypothesis in large group. Discuss plan. Meet in lab groups to develop plan. Begin writing plan, teacher circulates to address problems / concerns.

Day 3 and 4 - Finish writing plan. Begin working on ramps. Share plans. Address concerns / problems.
Day 5 - Work on ramp.

Day 6 - Finish ramp. Test hypothesis. Write results.

Day 7 - Group lesson. How to write a conclusion. There are 3 parts I am looking for in the conclusion.
1.So what? (What did you discover about friction during this activity).
What questions? (What do you wonder about friction?).
What might you try next if you were to do this again?
In a group we will write a conclusion that fits the above criteria. This will be a model. It will be posted in the room, either on chart paper or on the smartboard. I may even give copies to each group.

Day 8 - Using the model from the day before students will write a conclusion with their group using their data that reflects answers to the 3 questions we went over the day before. Students will share their conclusions with another group for feedback.

Day 9 - Edit lab report including paying special attention to the conclusion.

Day 10 - Turn in final copy of the lab report.


  1. Hi, Alicia,
    Thanks for the idea for teaching conclusions that will be useful for my class since I teach the same unit. I think the model you plan to use on day 7 will be useful for your students. What content will you use for that model? If you haven't thought of it already, you could consider doing a lab report and/or conclusion together that reports on increasing the speed of the car. Or have you taught lab report writing in some previous unit? If you have other models of lab report or materials for this lab, I'd like a copy. I'd also be interested in the model you and your class write together. And last, I appreciate the structure you set up for writing the hypothesis. I'm still struggling to wrap my brain around hypothesis vs predictions. Thanks, Bonnie

  2. Alicia,

    I am excited for you to work on conclusion writing with 5th and 6th graders! I think that this is an excellent way to show them how conclusions are important in our writing because it wraps up our ideas. I think it would be really effective if you wrote a conclusion paragraph together as a class in a unit prior to this, so that the students can talk through it together with you facilitating the writing and discussion, then it could serve as your model! (Although, I believe this will be your first science unit, if I remember correctly...) Either way, I think that the constant practice of this skill is very beneficial for the students, especially when they can learn to apply it to other types of writing as well. I will definitely have to venture down to the elementary wing to watch the progression of these motion projects!