Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

The Use of Haiku and Portfolio Entry to Teach the Change of Seasons

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

The Use of Haiku and Portfolio Entry to Teach the Change of Seasons

Article excerpt


One of the major misconceptions among students of all ages is the cause of the change of seasons. A middle school science teacher and a professional geologist teamed up to construct a combined "hands-on/minds-on" lesson to demonstrate the cause of the change of seasons. Two writing exercises were employed to further cement the lesson and allow assessment of student comprehension. The "hands on" activity required the students to maneuver a globe at a constant 23.5 degree tilt around a stationary light source and then draw the pattern of light as it reflected on the globe. The students were encouraged to visualize how the Earth's relative position to the sun affects the change of seasons. They then wrote a five-sentence portfolio entry upon reflecting on their newly learned concepts. In an additional "minds on" activity, the students constructed a three-lined science poem (haiku). Evaluation through rubric scoring indicated that 82% of students significantly improved their conceptual understanding of seasonal change through the use of haiku. Additionally, it appears that differing levels of knowledge, (per Bloom's Taxonomy) were assessed with each technique, as the haiku appeared to represent higher order thinking due to the synthesis skills that were required for its completion.


Many educational researchers have suggested that standard multiple-choice tests cannot provide a complete picture of what has been learned. In the vast majority of subject fields the primary mode of presentation is verbal or written language. Eisner (2002) suggested that more than one modality is necessary to authentically assess student learning. He saw that allowing opportunity for written expression creates a much deeper, richer picture of student knowledge. In this spirit, the authors undertook this study to measure the effectiveness of alternative forms of assessment of knowledge of the seasons in a real classroom setting.

Developing student conceptual understanding of what causes the change of seasons has proved problematic. Misconceptions regarding the change of seasons are persistent even among our nation's best students (and pre-service teachers) and have been noted by several researchers (e.g., Sadler, 1987; Atwood and Atwood, 1996; Barnett, et al, 2000) as well as documented in the well known film A Private Universe (1988). Sadler (1998) reported that only 12% of middle school students he tested could accurately identify that summer warmth was due to the sun's location (directly overhead) in relation to the earth at that time. He further found that many students believe that the change of seasons is caused by an eccentricity in the earth's orbit so that the entire earth is physically closer to the sun in summer than in winter. Sadler (1998) suggested that a more comprehensive explanation would be that the earth leans (due to tilt) towards the sun in summer and away from the sun in winter, causing the change in seasons for the northern and southern hemispheres.

A middle school science classroom provides an excellent opportunity for hands-on manipulation of scientific apparatus and models that promote concrete student experiences and improved higher order thinking and visualization skills. This study evaluates the use of portfolio and haiku poem construction following a hands-on lesson. A group of 62 physical science students at a middle school located in northeastern Kansas participated in the study. The students are in sixth grade and include 38 boys and 24 girls ranging in age from 11-12 years old. Some students nave Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for learning disabilities and/or behavior disorder as well as gifted and talented plans.


In March 2003, the authors presented the Change of Seasons lesson that incorporated both "hands on and "minds on" activities to explain how the earth's tilt is responsible for the change of seasons as the earth revolves around the sun. …

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