Thursday, January 9, 2014


As with most units in science, I try to have students make connections to their own lives. These often make excellent essential questions that aligned nicely with the Understanding by Design process.  During our current unit in 8th grade science on wave energy, students were learning about wave characteristics, such as frequency and amplitude, but I think we lost sight of why wave energy is important to us.  Enter the headline routine from Making Thinking Visible, which is great at allowing students to determine importance.  I assigned students a random partner to collaborate with and to answer the prompt, "How do waves benefit humans?"  Additionally, I have them write a brief paragraph to give supporting details to clarify their headline. The example below was exactly what I was hoping for.

They nicely explained that visible light waves from the sun allow photosynthesis to occur produce oxygen for us to breathe, as well as to be able to see.


  1. Hi Jon! I love science because each strand deepens our understanding of the natural world and its connection to our lives. What was your essential questions for your 8th grade wave energy unit? Was is "How do waves benefit humans?" Did that evolve as the unit progressed or was it the question that you came back to each day from the beginning? Did you have more than one question - topical and overarching? What is your Enduring Understanding? You continue to challenge me to use the headline routine from Making Thinking Visible because you clearly show how it helps students determine the most important idea and synthesize it visually. My favorite part, of course, is when you have them write a brief paragraph to give supporting details to clarify their headline. Our unit in 3rd and 4th grade literacy is Realistic Fiction. Our essential question is, "What makes a story worth reading?" My students have come up with incredible reading and writing connections and rubrics that support their understanding of stories. I am inspired by you to have students create headlines as a formative assessment. I'll let you know how it turns out after I struggle my way through! :) I am also trying to create great Enduring Understandings for the unit. Any ideas? - Val

  2. I love the added explanation in writing in addition to the headline. Your post make me wonder what might happen if I used the headlines my students made as a springboard for incorporating more writing into science. Would using these headlines lend themselves to a short constructed response prompt? Thanks for inspiring me to push my own thinking with using headlines as more than just a synthesizing routine!

  3. Jon: I loved watching how students progress over time. I watched some of your students who were once my 5th graders write headlines that blew me away. The depth of their thinking was impressive and very visisble. I didn't feel that way when I used this thinking strategy in 5th grade. I've now learned that making sure my essential question drives my thinking activity will make it more meaningful and students transer the learning to a new level. The writing piece ("brief paragraph") to support thier thinking brought this activity to a new level of understanding. Do you feel that is was a good way to assess students key understandings?