LESSON PLANS AND ACTIVITIES
Check out our new History and Creative Writing lessons for our Becoming Los Angeles exhibit:
Continued Traditions - Explore traditions of the Gabrielino-Tongva people and how those traditions live on today. Become a museum archaeologist to examine artifacts and write, draw, and record your findings.
Coming to California - Discover how 49ers traveled to California during the Gold Rush by examining Museum objects and historical photographs. Investigate one migrant's journey to California in search of riches.
Grades 2 - 5
Found History - Get your students' creativity flowing by using exhibit text to create their own unique poetry.
Grades 6 - 12
Found History - Creative writing and critical thinking come together in this L.A. history-inspired, found poetry exercise.
Check out our Scavenger Hunt for a student-centered learning activity to do anywhere in the Museum! Suitable for grades 2 - 12.
Click on each grade to the left to find more lesson plans. These are updated often — keep checking back to see what's new!
FOR TEACHERS, BY TEACHERS
Where do these lesson plans and activities come from? Many of these lesson plans were written by local teachers. We collaborate with classroom teachers to create curricula that works for you.
Thanks to the For Teachers By Teachers team!
2013 — 2014 Nature Gardens
Arlene Casis, Grades PreK - 1
Tamara Flores, Grade 7
Andrea Lofthouse-Quesada, Grades 9 - 12
2011 — 2012: Gem and Mineral Hall
Arlene Casis, Grades Pre K - 2
Gina Goodman, Grades 3 - 5
Hailey Foster, Grades 6 - 12
2010 — 2011: Dinosaur Hall
Gwen Campbell, Grade 2
Schlonda Chapron, Grades Pre K - 1
Riley Leary, Grades 6-12
Janet Mazon, Grades Pre K - 1
Cate Tolnai, Grades 3 - 5
Christy Waishwile, Grades 6 - 12
2009 — 2012: Age of Mammals
Luisa Barba, Grades K - 3
Margarita Fernandez, Grades K - 3
Lena Garcia, Grades K - 3
Cate Tolnai, Grades 4 - 12
Sara Zinsser, Grades 4 - 12
2008 — 2009: Bird and Mammal Teachable Moments
Luisa Barba, Grades K - 3
Margarita Fernances, Grades K - 3
Magdalena Garcia, Greads K - 3
Annie Lefkowitz, Grades 4 - 5
Jaime Reichbach, Grades K - 3
Margit Edwards, Consulting Educator
Sarah Zinsser, Consulting Educator
It’s essential that we encourage our students to develop their effective science communication skills in frequent low-stakes activities, such as quick-writes and short paragraphs. (Syda Productions/Shutterstock)
When my students see a writing prompt on the board, inevitably one of them sighs and says, “this is science, not english class!”
This always makes for a great discussion about what scientists do, and how the majority of their work involves reading, writing, and math. All scientists, and science students, must be able to effectively communicate their ideas. The Common Core Standards for Science and Technical Subjects grades 6-8 expect students to use the knowledge they gain from experiments, multimedia sources such as graphics or videos, and texts. Students also must be able to identify the author’s purpose and claim, and extract evidence that supports this claim.
Writing should not be reserved for special occasions, like research papers and lab reports. Instead, it is essential that we encourage our students to develop their effective science communication skills in frequent low-stakes activities, such as quick-writes and short paragraphs.
Writing in science also must go hand-in-hand with reading engaging and interesting pieces of text. There is a time and place for science textbooks. However, they rarely spark students’ love of science. Replace textbook reading with current event articles and news stories. Kids Discover Online has many great informational pieces and text on a wide variety of topics. Some of my other favorite sources for current events are Science News for Students (Society for Science), and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab News.
I use writing prompts as warm-up activities in my science class to build prior knowledge and get students brains to shift to science. Occasionally I collect their informal writing, but I never grade it. I prefer to keep the stakes low, and remove that pressure from my students. Typically, I’m circulating the class as students are writing, peeking over their shoulders, and asking them questions about their writing that will encourage them to write more.
Here are six writing prompts that will get our students’ brains in gear for writing in science:
- Who is a scientist you admire? Why do you admire them? What qualities do they have that make them special?
- Describe how our lives would be different if the lightbulb had never been invented.
- “Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth” (Jules Verne). What does this quote mean to you?
- Are humans hurting or helping our environment? Support your answer with evidence from your experiences.
- Should we colonize Mars? Why or why not?
- Science is all around us, when we do things like cook, ride a bike, or watch TV. Pick a hobby or activity you do at least once a week, and explain how science is involved.
Anytime we write, at any grade level, it is important to scaffold the writing. Providing sentence starters and paragraph frames is an easy and simple way to support all learners. Also, allowing students to first brainstorm their ideas with a partner before they write is also a simple way to improve students’ writing.
One of my favorite ways to scaffold writing is to have students first do a quickdraw. Students divide a piece of paper in two (can also be done on any app that allows students to draw), hamburger style. I project the writing prompt, and give them 5 silent minutes to draw their answer. Then, I project the same prompt, and have them write their response. I’ve done this as a stand-alone writing prompt, in response to an article, and as a reflection on a short 3-4 minute video.
A new thing I’m excited to try in 2017 is Recap, an app and website that allows students to record short video responses to a prompt. As a teacher, I can listen to my students’ speaking skills, and watch as their confidence grows.
How will you get your students writing more in 2017?
6 Writing Prompts to Jumpstart Your Science Class | Mari Venturino