Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Classroom Writing Workshop for Biology

In chapter 8 of our textbook Content-Area Writing: Every Teacher’s Guide, it explains why having a writing workshop during class time is beneficial. First, they will be writing in class so the teacher can see where students need assistance and guide them properly. Also, students can choose specific topics that interest them in the content area, so they will hopefully be more motivated in the assignment.

I think a writing workshop would work well in Biology. Our textbook gives a great example of using a writing workshop to write lab reports (p. 197). Earlier this year, I assigned my Biology students a persuasive essay when we studied Genetics and Heredity. The students could choose to write about the Human Genome Project or DNA manipulation in living organisms. They needed to choose one side of the debate on whether their topic was advantageous to society or more dangerous to society.

This would have been a great assignment for a writing workshop. I would have begun the workshop by modeling how I would write an essay. I would choose a topic and a side of the debate. I would write this out and project it on the classroom screen so they could see it. I would also hand out the assignment to them so they would have it in written form. I wouldn’t need to show them the whole essay, but point out that they need an introductory paragraph, three or so supporting paragraphs making their argument, and a concluding paragraph. I would then show them how I want them to cite their sources. After modeling this, I would have them choose a topic, pick a side, and use what information there is in their textbooks to begin writing information for their essay. I would circulate and see if they have questions and where they are going with the essay.

I think writing workshops can be used in many content areas, even getting the opinion of students on topics like bullying or cheating. A teacher can model an essay and then let the students get started and circulate around the students to see how they are doing. Writing workshops are a great tool for writing in the classroom.

Daniels, Zemelman & Steneke, Content-Area Writing: Every Teacher’s Guide, 2007 Edition.

The Current Writing Crisis and Strategies to Combat It

When thinking about the current writing crisis in America, there seems to be a dis-connect. From our readings in Content-Area Writing: Every Teacher’s Guide, it gives two perspectives. On one hand, the students of the current generation are prolific writers in instant messaging, email, Facebook, blogging, chatrooms, etc. (3). On the other hand, standardized writing exams and employers looking for employees who can write well, say that we have a writing crisis on our hands (2).

How can we as teachers use writing to get our students to learn? Here is a strategy that we can use in our classrooms. It is to take writing breaks. In the strategy, we want the students to think and then get their thinking down on paper. Pick a good time to have the students stop and write in response to a question. The question could be, “What information so far stands out to you and why?” Or they could just write what they are thinking of right now.

I observed my colleagues 7th grade English class last week. After reading A Midsummer’s Nights Dream and discussing it, each student was assigned a part of the book and wrote it as a script for a play in their own words. It was compiled and now they are performing this play. This strategy encourages students to write the learned information in their own words and this is also a tool that can be used in all content areas.

Daniels, Zemelman, & Steneke, Content-Area Writing: Every Teacher’s Guide, 2007 Edition.

Daniels, Zemelman, & Steneke, Content-Area Writing: Every Teacher’s Guide, 2007 Edition.

Strategies for Reading about the Digestive System

Secondary students struggle with reading and comprehending the science textbook for many reasons. Some of my students are reading a text in English and they just began reading English or are not proficient. How can I help my students who struggle or those who I want to challenge to get more out of the text? Daniels and Zemelman give us a combination of cognitive and instructional activities to help our secondary students (87).

One pre-reading strategy is frontloading with images. This strategy involves showing the students images about the unit or text before the students read it. We are studying the digestive system in one of my classes, so I could show images of a mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, villi and large intestine. I could also show an animation of a food particle going through these organs. Another strategy involves visual prompts during reading. While students are reading a text, they will stop and draw a simple picture to illustrate what they are reading. This will help students visualize what they are reading (131). An example of this strategy can be used with my students reading about the digestive system. After they read about the job of the stomach in digestion, they would stop and draw a picture of a stomach and also symbols that reflect mechanical digestion and chemical digestion.


Daniels & Zemelman. Subjects Matter, Second Edition: Exceeding Standards Through Powerful Content-Area Reading, 2014 edition.

Overcoming Textbook Blahs in Biology

The problem with American textbooks is simple. Most textbooks are not engaging and may I say, even boring. Daniels and Zemelman state it well, “When we assign students to read pages 234–245 in the textbook and answer the questions at the end of the chapter, they hardly ever get on a bus and go share their learning with fellow citizens across town” (13). Even if students do read their textbooks and answer the questions at the end of the chapter, how much of the information is retained?

One solution is to incorporate articles, books, and other primary sources in the content area. I have used this in the beginning of my class time with a hook of a “Science Alert”, a new discovery in the field of science or an answer to a question a student had from the previous class. These articles are interesting and have a cool picture to go with them. I also have used Ted Talks or other videos from YouTube to introduce or reinforce the content we are covering. A fellow art teacher from a previous class introduced the idea of going on virtual tours of museums from around the world. I look forward to incorporating more interesting literature that will excite and engage my students in science.


Daniels & Zemelman. Subjects Matter, First Edition: Exceeding Standards Through Powerful Content-Area Reading, 2007 edition.

Content Methods Course Reflection

H1 – Honor student diversity and development. To me, H1 means respecting each of my students for who they are as a person and helping them to grow.

Because I teach at an international school, my students and their backgrounds are very diverse. Through my coursework and preparing for edTPA, I have been learning to incorporate student background and interest into my lesson plans. This helps to engage my students with the content material and honor their experiences as they share them with the class.

In one of my lesson plans, I am introducing my students to the nervous system of different animals. I begin by asking them, “Who has a pet dog?” Many of them raise their hand and I will ask them their dogs’ names. I choose one of these dogs as an example of what this dog does as he hears a car pull into the driveway. The response of the dog is all about the interaction of his nervous system. When I began the lesson this way, the students were immediately engaged and enjoyed learning about their classmates’ dogs. I then continued to use this as an example throughout the lesson as we learned about the 3 types of neurons and their interaction with one another. Below is an excerpt from this lesson plan.


I learned that using personal examples or experiences from my students engages them in the lesson and content. It helps them to relate what they are learning in the classroom to their personal lives and so increases the potential for retaining this information. I will continue to use this strategy for classroom instruction.