Can a mathematician, scientist, or engineer solve complex problems successfully without being able to interpret the solution in words? It seems essential to me!
This is why writing in a STEM class is so important. Writing should accompany every assignment.
But how? How can you add more writing to STEM? I have some information for you and some ideas. Some really good ideas- that I have tried! And a special offer!
Writing is Critical Thinking Made Visible
Think about it- writing is a way to have our ideas immediately available for review or reevaluation. Checking our thinking is a way to refine those ideas and make them better. Doing this with the input of peers is a way for many to learn at the same time.
Writing Conveys Clear Thinking
Writing is a tool. To put thoughts on paper means you gather information and then convey its meaning in a way that makes sense for others. Writing solidifies the learning (from a 1977 study, Emig). We learn what we think- by writing.
In a 2004 survey from Business Roundtable, one survey respondent wrote, “Good writing is a sign of good thinking.”
Ergo, unclear writing may mean unclear thinking. Additionally, the survey concluded that writing gets students ready for almost any career.
Just think about the use of writing in today’s job market. Employees must be able to document, track data, report problems, write instructions, and more. Writing must be crystal clear.
To apply the quote to our elementary students – transforming data can mean jotting down notes about how a design is going, the steps that are not working, the materials that did not perform as expected, or why their group is successful. The insight derived are those ‘aha’ moments when students realize what to do to make a design work. But again, how? How do we do this?
Three Ideas for Adding Writing to STEM
I have three quick ways to get your STEM students involved in writing and then an offer for you!
Students write down notes about the background given before the challenge. This can include drawings. We do this often! Part of the scenario of a STEM Challenge is learning about the phenomenon being studied – whether it is flooding, rescuing someone, or finding out how to stabilize a building.
*This Flood Barrier challenge asks students to write about flooding and storm surge, This is information they can access as they are completing the challenge. Being able to write these notes means they understand what happens during a flood.
Research is a perfect way to tackle writing at the beginning of a STEM activity. The photo above is from our Catapults Challenge. In the test class, I discovered that students didn’t quite understand how to make a catapult work. I added the research component to the lab sheet and bookmarked some websites for students to use.
We spent about 15 minutes just exploring the sites and jotting down notes about catapults. This helped identify different methods to try as the teams started building.
*This Catapult STEM Challenge is a multi-day activity that includes experimenting with angles and averaging data.
The sketches are from a Cargo Drop Rescue challenge. Students must build the cargo container and it must secure fragile cargo and prevent it from moving during the drop. What if a student is not comfortable with drawing an idea?
Have the students create a bulleted list of the main points of the idea. Suggest the students also make a list of the materials and how each would be used. This could be extended further by having students make a list of the jobs needed for the challenge and who will taking on each job.
*The Cargo Drop Rescue challenge is a one-day challenge. We watched a video of real cargo drops and talked about why a drop may be needed.
Need More Ideas for Adding Writing?
I have a special offer for you!
The offer is my Ebook called 10 Ways to Add Writing to STEM Class. The book includes so many things that will help you add more writing to your STEM classes.
Take a look at the list below!
What is included?
- Overview page
- 10 Writing Ideas – each 2-page set covers one idea for writing with extra tips sprinkled on each page. Each idea includes a description of the writing method, a photo of a challenge that features the method, and more details about completing the writing,
- Each idea also features a STEM challenge. In describing the STEM challenge I have included how the writing method was part of the challenge. A photo of the challenge in action is included.
- Synopsis page listing all the writing ideas
This 24-page book is available to you for FREE.