1.) R.A.F.T. – I still love RAFT. It stands for Role, Audience, Format, and Topic. I have my students use this all the time in science. For example, in my plant unit, students pretend they are one of the structures of the plant (roots, leaves, stem, flower, or seed) and have to write an email to another part of the plant requesting a vacation and explaining all the work they do, a speech to the president explaining why they should be voted Most Important Plant Part, and so on. The kids love the creativity, and I can evaluate whether they understand (in this case) the parts and functions of the plant. Plus, it gives them practice at different writing formats.
2.) Ticket-out-the-Door – It’s a classic, but it still gets them writing. There are many variations as to how you use it. You could simply have them answer a question. You could do the 3-2-1: write down 3 important ideas, 2 questions they have, and 1 thing they want you to know. You could have them do a quick-write, where for two minutes, they just write everything that comes to their mind related to science. You could have them create a T-chart and label one side “clear” and the other side “mud” (clear as mud), and they list things that are clear on one side, and on the other side (mud), they list things they aren’t sure of yet. Either way, they are writing, and you are able to evaluate their understanding a bit.
3.) Journals and Lab Reports – Even at third grade, you could have students write lab reports. It is never too early to start. Students can maintain an interactive notebook and keep track of observations, experiments, and results. It doesn’t have to be as detailed as high school, but it would be wonderful if they could at least start taking some notes and reports. Even having it set up or outlined would help tremendously!
4.) Science Picture of the Day – In my classroom, I like to get my students to think outside the box as much as possible – any chance I can get them to infer, I run with it. In this activity, I use it as a warm-up activity. I just provide each student with a regular, real-life picture, and they have to list all the things they observe in it (science process skills, along with noting key details – a reading Common Core standard). Then, they list any questions they have and things they infer. Finally, they list any science they see. I love this activity because it makes students start to notice the science that is around them in their everyday lives, all while thinking critically, inferring, using reading skills, and writing skills! There is a free sample here.
5.) Summaries – At the end of each chapter, lesson, lab, or activity, have students write a quick summary using the incredible shrinking summary method. Mix it up a bit and challenge students to 1-word summaries, 1-sentence summaries, 10-word summaries, and so on.