Sunday, January 26, 2014

What's UR Rxn? A chemistry class blog, part 3

This is the final installment of my development of a chemistry writing blog project for my Organic and AP chemistry classes. I will cede the keyboard to my students for the next post as we launch our “What’s UR Rxn?” blog.

One of the problems for science teachers assigning writing projects is the necessity to assess the student’s writing. It can be a very intimidating process, especially for teachers who are more used to black-and-white answers instead of the shades in between associated with the more subjective grading of writing. For the last five years, I have done a writing/role-play project called The Ethanol Project.  (I published this project in the NSTA journal The Science Teacher in March, 2013.) The journal reviewers wanted a “turn-key” lesson, and so I produced a two-page detailed table of writing objectives and expectations. This blog project has a much looser rubric, because I wanted to allow students to write about science or chemistry in their own voice and with a style suited to their topic.

I have spent the last two days reading and assessing the student’s posts and also their comments as peer-reviewers. Oh, it has been joyful for me NOT to be reading about ethanol!!  My students wrote about deer antler spray, cranberries, crowdsourcing antibiotics, Indian silk, the need for pot-testing labs, honey, caffeine, turmeric, snowflakes, and the biology of listening to music. So many interesting topics, it was not as much of a chore as I thought it would be. 

Another goal of this project was to make it completely paper-less and cloud-based. I did not want my email inbox filled with documents to transfer to various folders. Just as each student had a Microsoft SkyDrive folder for their documents (rough draft, two peer edits, the final draft, and a checklist which included a list of sources, image sources, and an honor statement), I decided to create an assessment page in a Microsoft OneNote folder for each student. As I went through the SkyDrive folder, I would toggle over to the OneNote folder and write comments and grade their blog posts, in addition to commenting on their editing. I did not want to put the assessments into the SkyDrive folder as they are open to everyone, so the OneNote folder allowed for private assessment space. I can now email each page to each student. The following table was copied into each OneNote page.

Rubric Grading Template
Final draft (50 points)
1.     Creative title (5) 
2.     Writing is thoughtful, organized and uses a colloquial voice, as opposed to an analytical one. (25) 

3.     No grammar or spelling errors (5) 
4.     Image(s) must supplement the writing. (5) 
5.     General creativity (5) 

6.     All requirements met: at least one current source, source a minimum 400 words, title, hyperlinks, and a copyright-free image (5) (Bonus points for primary sources.)


45-50 = 100
40-44 = 95
35-39 = 90
30-34 = 85
25-29 = 80
20-24 = 75

Yes, I have a rather generous grading scheme. The beauty of the student peer-review process (and the fact that I think our school’s English and history teachers do an amazing job of teaching writing!) is that there were very few distracting errors in grammar, spelling, or sentence syntax. Also, my organic chemistry students’ grades were pretty low coming into this assignment due to just finishing units on spectroscopy and stereochemistry, so they needed a bit of a grade boost!

The chemistry blog project has definitely been a success: it was fun to develop with my students, interesting to implement, and even rather enjoyable to assess. My AP chemistry students will be writing their posts during second semester. I listed this project on my AP chemistry audit document as my method to meet the Curriculum Requirement 4:  “the opportunity to connect their knowledge of chemistry and science to major societal or technological components.” I have checked the box required by the College Board, but I would have done this project even without that requirement. 

You’ll get to read my students’ posts once they have produced their own blog site

I would love to know “What’s UR Rxn?”

1 comment:

  1. Great Work! Perfectly write this Blog according to the requirements and not even write the unnecessary things just provide the factual data and this blog will help the students related to there studies.