Academic journal article Science and Children

Science for Two Voices: In a Poetry-Inspired Invertebrate Investigation, Observations Are the Basis for Both Scientific Discovery and Writing

Academic journal article Science and Children

Science for Two Voices: In a Poetry-Inspired Invertebrate Investigation, Observations Are the Basis for Both Scientific Discovery and Writing

Article excerpt

During inquiry investigations with third graders, we urge our students not to just make observations but also to record them. Inspired by Joel Fleishman's A Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices (1988), we developed an activity that increases students' motivation to record accurate and detailed observations. This investigation is one activity within a larger unit of study intended to support subsequent activities. More detailed observations lead to more confident conclusions and greater detail for poetry. This lesson is appropriate for grades 3-5 and best aligns with the Next Generation Science Standards in grade 4 (NGSS Lead States 2013).

Poems for Two Voices

A Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices relates two subjects and is designed for two people to read in tandem (Fleischman 1988). Lines with common content are read together; lines that highlight the differences between the two subjects are read separately in turn. For example, one of our favorites is a poem called "Bumblebees." This poem is written from the perspective of a queen bee and from the perspective of a drone. The readers begin in unison, "Being a bee ...," and the queen finishes her sentence with, "... is a joy." The drone then finishes with, "... is a pain." The poem continues on playfully detailing the differences between the experiences of drones and queens in beehives. The book can be used for many different science topics (see Table 1). The general approach toward creating similar poems is as follows. First, individual students generate detailed, written observations about the science topic being investigated (which can be supplemented with researched information). In our example, students investigated invertebrates. After this, two students combine information into a Venn diagram, with each one contributing information about his or her animal. This serves as a graphic organizer to demonstrate differences and similarities between two related topics as well as a foundation for creating "poems for two voices." In our class, we followed student poetry writing with student poetry readings that increased the incentive for creativity. The readings are an opportunity for students to develop oral language and speaking skills. In this article, we outline this example lesson illustrating the strategy of combining scientific observations with poetry.

Studying Invertebrates

As poems for two voices are most successful and meaningful when following hands-on inquiry science experiences, we embedded our poetry writing in a modified 5E lesson. The first half of the example lesson encourages students to observe and learn about invertebrates. The second half asks students to use what they've learned to compare and write a poem about two different invertebrates. Throughout this activity, students learned about the external features of organisms and the functions performed by these structures. In addition, students were engaged in reading grade-appropriate complex texts and other reliable media to summarize and obtain scientific imformation. Comparing and combining across texts supported their identification of similarities and differences to sort and classify natural objects.


A portion of the Engage phase is determining prior knowledge from students. This should be done prior to moving on and should inform instruction. To engage student thinking and activate prior knowledge in the potential diversity of invertebrates, we read Under One Rock: Bugs, Slugs, and Other Ughs by Anthony D. Fredericks (2001). Using an interactive reading process and teacher-directed discussion of the book content, we asked students to recall examples of invertebrates in the book while creating a working definition of invertebrates. A supplemental PowerPoint presentation reviewed basic information about invertebrates and prepared students for their exploration and collection of animals. This teacher-generated presentation allowed us to provide the specific supports our students needed to make content and vocabulary comprehensible. …

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