Friday, August 1, 2014

Refutation Writing

I've been reading a lot about refutation writing lately and its role in overcoming students misconceptions. I see a lot of similarities between how we teach persuasive argument in ELA and how we can teach refutation writing in science. Writing refutation texts can aid students in seeing the connection from language arts writing skills to science writing skills. It is also a great way to continue to practice arguing from evidence, making students thinking visible, and directly addressing common misconceptions. This could be especially helpful when discussing the nature of science in the beginning of the school year. Students could refute the common misconception that there is a single scientific method that all scientists use or that scientific ideas are absolute. You can find more common misconceptions from Cal, here. Below is a quick summary of the standards, structure, and basic uses of both a traditional "persuasive" or argumentative essay and writing refutation texts.

Refutation Writing
According to the Common Core, starting in 6th grade, students are to:
Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
Introduce claim(s) and organize the reasons and evidence clearly.
Support claim(s) with clear reasons and relevant evidence, using credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.
Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from the argument presented.
According to the Common Core, starting in 6th grade, students are to:
Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.
In the Next Generation Science Standards, – Connects to NGSS Science and Engineering Practice #7: Engaging in Argument from Evidence and starting in grade 3, students are to:
·   Compare and refine arguments based on an evaluation of the evidence presented.
·   Distinguish among facts,
reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in an explanation
1. Claim
2. Evidence – text-based
3. Counterclaim (starting in 7th grade)
4. Conclusion
1.    Counterclaim
2.    Claim
3.    Data – investigation, text
4.    Evidence
5.    Reasoning connected to science concepts
6.    Conclusion
Best Uses
To help students evaluate others’ claims and clarify their own thoughts.
To spur conceptual change, to address misconceptions.

To help our students start to write refutation texts, I've used this simple graphic organizer with sentence starters:

Students jot down ideas in each of the four boxes, share their ideas with a partner, then go on to translate this organizer into a more formalized piece of writing. To continue the conversation, students could post their writing on a blog and comment on the strength of their peers' refutations.

This is a writing activity that could result in real conceptual change for our students - can't wait to see how it turns out!

Here's my current Prezi on Refutation Writing: