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ECO 101

Scientific Writing Made Easy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Undergraduate Writing in the Biological Sciences

Authors

  • Sheela P. Turbek,

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA
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  • Taylor M. Chock,

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA
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  • Kyle Donahue,

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA
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  • Caroline A. Havrilla,

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA
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  • Angela M. Oliverio,

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA
    2. Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA
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  • Stephanie K. Polutchko,

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA
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  • Lauren G. Shoemaker,

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA
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  • Lara Vimercati

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA
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  • Note: Charlene D'Avanzo is the editor of Ecology 101. Anyone wishing to contribute articles or reviews to this section should contact her at the School of Natural Sciences, Hampshire College, 893 West Street, Amherst, MA 01002. E-mail: cdavanzo@hampshire.edu

Abstract

Scientific writing, while an indispensable step of the scientific process, is often overlooked in undergraduate courses in favor of maximizing class time devoted to scientific concepts. However, the ability to effectively communicate research findings is crucial for success in the biological sciences. Graduate students are encouraged to publish early and often, and professional scientists are generally evaluated by the quantity of articles published and the number of citations those articles receive. It is therefore important that undergraduate students receive a solid foundation in scientific writing early in their academic careers. In order to increase the emphasis on effective writing in the classroom, we assembled a succinct step-by-Step guide to scientific writing that can be directly disseminated to undergraduates enrolled in biological science courses. The guide breaks down the scientific writing process into easily digestible pieces, providing concrete examples that students can refer to when preparing a scientific manuscript or laboratory report. By increasing undergraduate exposure to the scientific writing process, we hope to better prepare undergraduates for graduate school and productive careers in the biological sciences.

An introduction to the guide

While writing is a critical part of the scientific process, it is often taught secondarily to scientific concepts and becomes an afterthought to students. How many students can you recall who worked on a laboratory assignment or class project for weeks, only to throw together the written report the day before it was due?

For many, this pattern occurs because we focus almost exclusively on the scientific process, all but neglecting the scientific writing process. Scientific writing is often a difficult and arduous task for many students. It follows a different format and deviates in structure from how we were initially taught to write, or even how we currently write for English, history, or social science classes. This can make the scientific writing process appear overwhelming, especially when presented with new, complex content. However, effective writing can deepen understanding of the topic at hand by compelling the writer to present a coherent and logical story that is supported by previous research and new results.

Clear scientific writing generally follows a specific format with key sections: an introduction to a particular topic, hypotheses to be tested, a description of methods, key results, and finally, a discussion that ties these results to our broader knowledge of the topic (Day and Gastel 2012). This general format is inherent in most scientific writing and facilitates the transfer of information from author to reader if a few guidelines are followed.

Here, we present a succinct step-by-step guide that lays out strategies for effective scientific writing with the intention that the guide be disseminated to undergraduate students to increase the focus on the writing process in the college classroom. While we recognize that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to scientific writing, and more experienced writers may choose to disregard our suggestions these guidelines will assist undergraduates in overcoming the initial challenges associated with writing scientific papers. This guide was inspired by Joshua Schimel's Writing Science: How to Write Papers that Get Cited and Proposals that Get Funded—an excellent book about scientific writing for graduate students and professional scientists—but designed to address undergraduate students. While the guide was written by a group of ecologists and evolutionary biologists, the strategies and suggestions presented here are applicable across the biological sciences and other scientific disciplines. Regardless of the specific course being taught, this guide can be used as a reference when writing scientific papers, independent research projects, and laboratory reports. For students looking for more in-depth advice, additional resources are listed at the end of the guide.

To illustrate points regarding each step of the scientific writing process, we draw examples throughout the guide from Kilner et al. (2004), a paper on brown-headed cowbirds—a species of bird that lays its eggs in the nests of other bird species, or hosts—that was published in the journal Science. Kilner et al. investigate why cowbird nestlings tolerate the company of host offspring during development rather than pushing host eggs out of the nest upon hatching to monopolize parental resources. While articles in the journal Science are especially concise and lack the divisions of a normal scientific paper, Kilner et al. (2004) offers plenty of examples of effective communication strategies that are utilized in scientific writing. We hope that the guidelines that follow, as well as the concrete examples provided, will lead to scientific papers that are information rich, concise, and clear, while simultaneously alleviating frustration and streamlining the writing process.

Undergraduate guide to writing in the biological sciences

The before steps

The scientific writing process can be a daunting and often procrastinated “last step” in the scientific process, leading to cursory attempts to get scientific arguments and results down on paper. However, scientific writing is not an afterthought and should begin well before drafting the first outline. Successful writing starts with researching how your work fits into existing literature, crafting a compelling story, and determining how to best tailor your message to an intended audience.

Research how your work fits into existing literature

It is important to decide how your research compares to other studies of its kind by familiarizing yourself with previous research on the topic. If you are preparing a laboratory write-up, refer to your textbook and laboratory manual for background information. For a research article, perform a thorough literature search on a credible search engine (e.g., Web of Science, Google Scholar). Ask the following questions: What do we know about the topic? What open questions and knowledge do we not yet know? Why is this information important? This will provide critical insight into the structure and style that others have used when writing about the field and communicating ideas on this specific topic. It will also set you up to successfully craft a compelling story, as you will begin writing with precise knowledge of how your work builds on previous research and what sets your research apart from the current published literature.

Understand your audience (and write to them)

In order to write effectively, you must identify your audience and decide what story you want them to learn. While this may seem obvious, writing about science as a narrative is often not done, largely because you were probably taught to remain dispassionate and impartial while communicating scientific findings. The purpose of science writing is not explaining what you did or what you learned, but rather what you want your audience to understand. Start by asking: Who is my audience? What are their goals in reading my writing? What message do I want them to take away from my writing? There are great resources available to help science writers answer these questions (Nisbet 2009, Baron 2010). If you are interested in publishing a scientific paper, academic journal websites also provide clear journal mission statements and submission guidelines for prospective authors. The most effective science writers are familiar with the background of their topic, have a clear story that they want to convey, and effectively craft their message to communicate that story to their audience.

Introduction

The Introduction sets the tone of the paper by providing relevant background information and clearly identifying the problem you plan to address. Think of your Introduction as the beginning of a funnel: Start wide to put your research into a broad context that someone outside of the field would understand, and then narrow the scope until you reach the specific question that you are trying to answer (Fig. 1; Schimel 2012). Clearly state the wider implications of your work for the field of study, or, if relevant, any societal impacts it may have, and provide enough background information that the reader can understand your topic. Perform a thorough sweep of the literature; however, do not parrot everything you find. Background information should only include material that is directly relevant to your research and fits into your story; it does not need to contain an entire history of the field of interest. Remember to include in-text citations in the format of (Author, year published) for each paper that you cite and avoid using the author's name as the subject of the sentence:

“Kilner et al. (2004) found that cowbird nestlings use host offspring to procure more food.”

Instead, use an in-text citation:

“Cowbird nestlings use host offspring to procure more food.”

(Kilner et al. 2004)

Upon narrowing the background information presented to arrive at the specific focus of your research, clearly state the problem that your paper addresses. The problem is also known as the knowledge gap, or a specific area of the literature that contains an unknown question or problem (e.g., it is unclear why cowbird nestlings tolerate host offspring when they must compete with host offspring for food) (refer to the section “Research how your work fits into existing literature”). The knowledge gap tends to be a small piece of a much larger field of study. Explicitly state how your work will contribute to filling that knowledge gap. This is a crucial section of your manuscript; your discussion and conclusion should all be aimed at answering the knowledge gap that you are trying to fill. In addition, the knowledge gap will drive your hypotheses and questions that you design your experiment to answer.

Your hypothesis will often logically follow the identification of the knowledge gap (Table 1). Define the hypotheses you wish to address, state the approach of your experiment, and provide a 1–2 sentence overview of your experimental design, leaving the specific details for the methods section. If your methods are complicated, consider briefly explaining the reasoning behind your choice of experimental design. Here, you may also state your system, study organism, or study site, and provide justification for why you chose this particular system for your research. Is your system, study organism, or site a good representation of a more generalized pattern? Providing a brief outline of your project will allow your Introduction to segue smoothly into your 'Materials and Methods' section.

A hypothesis is a testable explanation of an observed occurrence in nature, or, more specifically, why something you observed is occurring. Hypotheses relate directly to research questions, are written in the present tense, and can be tested through observation or experimentation. Although the terms “hypothesis” and “prediction” are often incorrectly used interchangeably, they refer to different but complementary concepts. A hypothesis attempts to explain the mechanism underlying a pattern, while a prediction states an expectation regarding the results. While challenging to construct, hypotheses provide powerful tools for structuring research, generating specific predictions, and designing experiments.
Example:
Observation: Brown-headed cowbird nestlings refrain from ejecting host offspring from the nest even though those offspring compete for limited parental resources.
Research question: Why do nestling cowbirds tolerate the presence of host offspring in the nest?
Hypothesis: The presence of host offspring causes parents to bring more food to the nest.
Prediction: Cowbird nestlings will grow at a faster rate in nests that contain host offspring.

Materials and Methods

The 'Materials and Methods' section is arguably the most straightforward section to write; you can even begin writing it while performing your experiments to avoid forgetting any details of your experimental design. In order to make your paper as clear as possible, organize this section into subsections with headers for each procedure you describe (e.g., field collection vs. laboratory analysis). We recommend reusing these headers in your Results and Discussion to help orient your readers.

The aim of the 'Materials and Methods' section is to demonstrate that you used scientifically valid methods and provide the reader with enough information to recreate your experiment. In chronological order, clearly state the procedural steps you took, remembering to include the model numbers and specific settings of all equipment used (e.g., centrifuged in Beckman Coulter Benchtop Centrifuge Model Allegra X -15R at 12,000 × g for 45 minutes). In addition to your experimental procedure, describe any statistical analyses that you performed. While the parameters you include in your 'Materials and Methods' section will vary based on your experimental design, we list common ones in Table 2 (Journal of Young Investigators 2005) that are usually mentioned. If you followed a procedure developed from another paper, cite the source that it came from and provide a general description of the method. There is no need to reiterate every detail, unless you deviated from the source and changed a step in your procedure. However, it is important to provide enough information that the reader can follow your methods without referring to the original source. As you explain your experiment step by step, you may be tempted to include qualifiers where sources of error occurred (e.g., the tube was supposed to be centrifuged for 5 minutes, but was actually centrifuged for 10). However, generally wait until the Discussion to mention these subjective qualifiers and avoid discussing them in the 'Materials and Methods' section.

• Site characterization:
Study organism used, its origin, any pre-experiment handling or care
Description of field site or site where experiment was performed
• Experimental design:
Step-by-step procedures in paragraph form
Sample preparation
Experimental controls
Equipment used, including model numbers and year
Important equipment settings (e.g., temperature of incubation, speed of centrifuge)
Amount of reagents used
Specific measurements taken (e.g., wing length, weight of organism)
• Statistical analyses conducted (e.g., ANOVA, linear regression)

The 'Materials and Methods' section should be written in the past tense:

“On hatch day, and every day thereafter for 9 days, we weighed chicks, measured their tibia length, and calculated the instantaneous growth constant K to summarize rates of mass gain and skeletal growth.”

(Kilner et al. 2004)

While it is generally advisable to use active voice throughout the paper (refer to the section “Putting It All Together,” below), you may want to use a mixture of active and passive voice in the 'Materials and Methods' section in order to vary sentence structure and avoid repetitive clauses.

Results

The Results section provides a space to present your key findings in a purely objective manner and lay the foundation for the Discussion section, where those data are subjectively interpreted. Before diving into this section, identify which graphs, tables, and data are absolutely necessary for telling your story. Then, craft a descriptive sentence or two that summarizes each result, referring to corresponding table and figure numbers. Rather than presenting the details all at once, write a short summary about each data set. If you carried out a complicated study, we recommend dividing your results into multiple sections with clear headers following the sequence laid out in the 'Materials and Methods' section.

As you relate each finding, be as specific as possible and describe your data biologically rather than through the lens of statistics. While statistical tests give your data credibility by allowing you to attribute observed differences to nonrandom variation, they fail to address the actual meaning of the data. Instead, translate the data into biological terms and refer to statistical results as supplemental information, or even in parenthetical clauses (Schimel 2012). For example, if your dependent variable changed in response to a treatment, report the magnitude and direction of the effect, with the P-value in parentheses.

“By day 8, cowbirds reared with host young were, on average, 14% heavier than cowbirds reared alone (unpaired t16 = −2.23, P = 0.041, Fig. 2A).”

(Kilner et al. 2004)

If your P-value exceeded 0.05 (or your other statistical tests yielded nonsignificant results), report any noticeable trends in the data rather than simply dismissing the treatment as having no significant effect (Fry 1993). By focusing on the data and leaving out any interpretation of the results in this section, you will provide the reader with the tools necessary to objectively evaluate your findings.

Discussion and conclusion

The Discussion section usually requires the most consideration, as this is where you interpret your results. Your Discussion should form a self-contained story tying together your Introduction and Results sections (Schimel 2012). One potential strategy for writing the Discussion is to begin by explicitly stating the main finding(s) of your research (Cals and Kotz 2013). Remind the reader of the knowledge gap identified in the Introduction to re-spark curiosity about the question you set out to answer. Then, explicitly state how your experiment moved the field forward by filling that knowledge gap.

After the opening paragraph of your Discussion, we suggest addressing your question and hypotheses with specific evidence from your results. If there are multiple possible interpretations of a result, clearly lay out each competing explanation. In the cowbird example, a higher feeding rate in the presence of host offspring could indicate either (1) that the parents were more responsive to the begging behavior of their own species or (2) that the collective begging behavior of more offspring in the nest motivated the host parents to provide additional food (Kilner et al. 2004). Presenting and evaluating alternative explanations of your findings will provide clear opportunities for future research. However, be sure to keep your Discussion concrete by referring to your results to support each given interpretation.

Intermingled with these interpretations, reference preexisting literature and report how your results relate to previous findings (Casenove and Kirk 2016). Ask yourself the following questions: How do my results compare to those of similar studies? Are they consistent or inconsistent with what other researchers have found? If they are inconsistent, discuss why this might be the case. For example, are you asking a similar question in a different system, organism, or site? Was there a difference in the methods or experimental design? Any caveats of the study (e.g., small sample size, procedural mistakes, or known biases in the methods) should be transparent and briefly discussed.

The conclusion, generally located in its own short section or the last paragraph of the Discussion, represents your final opportunity to state the significance of your research. Rather than merely restating your main findings, the conclusion should summarize the outcome of your study in a way that incorporates new insights or frames interesting questions that arose as a result of your research. Broaden your perspective again as you reach the bottom of the hourglass (Fig. 1). While it is important to acknowledge the shortcomings or caveats of the research project, generally include these near the beginning of the conclusion or earlier in the Discussion. You want your take-home sentences to focus on what you have accomplished and the broader implications of your study, rather than your study's limitations or shortcomings (Schimel 2012). End on a strong note.

Putting it all together

No matter how many boards you stack on top of each other, you still need nails to prevent the pile from falling apart. The same logic applies to a scientific paper. Little things—such as flow, structure, voice, and word choice—will connect your story, polish your paper, and make it enjoyable to read.

First, a paper needs to flow. The reader should easily be able to move from one concept to another, either within a sentence or between paragraphs. To bolster the flow, constantly remind yourself of the overarching story; always connect new questions with resolutions and tie new concepts to previously presented ideas. As a general rule, try to maintain the same subject throughout a section and mix up sentence structure in order to emphasize different concepts. Keep in mind that words or ideas placed toward the end of a sentence often convey the most importance (Schimel 2012).

The use of active voice with occasional sentences in passive voice will additionally strengthen your writing. Scientific writing is rife with passive voice that weakens otherwise powerful sentences by stripping the subjects of action. However, when used properly, the passive voice can improve flow by strategically placing a sentence's subject so that it echoes the emphasis of the preceding sentence. Compare the following sentences:

“The cowbird nestlings tolerated the host nestlings.”

(active)

“The host nestlings were tolerated by the cowbird nestlings.”

(passive)

If host nestlings are the focus of the paragraph as a whole, it may make more sense to present the passive sentence in this case, even though it is weaker than the active version. While passive and active voices can complement each other in particular situations, you should typically use the active voice whenever possible.

Lastly, word choice is critical for effective storytelling (Journal of Young Investigators 2005). Rather than peppering your report or manuscript with overly complicated words, use simple words to lay the framework of your study and discuss your findings. Eliminating any flourish and choosing words that get your point across as clearly as possible will make your work much more enjoyable to read (Strunk and White 1979, Schimel 2012).

Editing and peer review

Although you have finally finished collecting data and writing your report, you are not done yet! Re-reading your paper and incorporating constructive feedback from others can make the difference between getting a paper accepted or rejected from a journal or receiving one letter grade over another on a report. The editing stage is where you put the finishing touches on your work.

Start by taking some time away from your paper. Ideally, you began your paper early enough that you can refrain from looking at it for a day or two. However, if the deadline looms large, take an hour break at the very least. Come back to your paper and verify that it still expresses what you intended to say. Where are the gaps in your story structure? What has not been explained clearly? Where is the writing awkward, making it difficult to understand your point? Consider reading the paper out loud first, and then print and edit a hard copy to inspect the paper from different angles.

Editing is best done in stages. On the first run-through of your paper, make sure you addressed all of the main ideas of the study. One way to achieve this is by writing down the key points you want to hit prior to re-reading your paper. If your paper deviates from these points, you may need to delete some paragraphs. In contrast, if you forgot to include something, add it in. To check the flow of your paragraphs, verify that a common thread ties each paragraph to the preceding one, and similarly, that each sentence within a paragraph builds on the previous sentence. Finally, re-read the paper with a finer lens, editing sentence structure and word choice as you go to put the finishing touches on your work. Grammar and spelling are just as important as your scientific story; a poorly written paper will have limited impact regardless of the quality of the ideas expressed (Harley et al. 2004).

After editing your own paper, ask someone else to read it. A classmate is ideal because he/she understands the assignment and could exchange papers with you. The editing steps described above also apply when editing someone else's paper. If a classmate is not available, try asking a family member or a friend. Having a fresh set of eyes examine your work may help you identify sections of your paper that need clarification. This procedure will also give you a glimpse into the peer review process, which is integral to professional science writing (Guilford 2001). Don't be discouraged by negative comments—incorporating the feedback of reviewers will only strengthen your paper. Good criticism is constructive.

Conclusion

While the basics of writing are generally taught early in life, many people constantly work to refine their writing ability throughout their careers. Even professional scientists feel that they can always write more effectively. Focusing on the strategies for success laid out in this guide will not only improve your writing skills, but also make the scientific writing process easier and more efficient. However, keep in mind that there is no single correct way to write a scientific paper, and as you gain experience with scientific writing, you will begin to find your own voice. Good luck and happy writing!

Additional resources

For those interested in learning more about the skill of scientific writing, we recommend the following resources. We note that much of the inspiration and concrete ideas for this step-by-step guide originated from Schimel's Writing Science: How to Write Papers that Get Cited and Proposals that Get Funded.

  1. Journal of Young Investigators. 2005. Writing scientific manuscripts: a guide for undergraduates. Journal of Young Investigators, California.
  2. Lanciani, C. A. 1998. Reader-friendly writing in science. Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America 79: 171–172.
  3. Morris, J., T. Jehn, C. Vaughan, E. Pantages, T. Torello, M. Bucheli, D. Lohman, and R. Jue. 2007. A student's guide to writing in the life sciences. The President and Fellows of Harvard University, Massachusetts.
  4. Schimel, J. 2012. Writing science: how to write papers that get cited and proposals that get funded. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Acknowledgments

We thank Nichole Barger and the University of Colorado, Boulder 2016 graduate writing seminar for helpful discussions that greatly enhanced the quality of this essay.

Potential Conflicts of Interest

None.

Ancillary

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© 2016 The Authors. The Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America, published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc., on behalf of the Ecological Society of America.

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Literature Cited

  • Baron, N.2010. Escape from the ivory tower: a guide to making your science matter. Island Press, Washington, D.C.
  • Cals, J. W., and D. Kotz. 2013. Effective writing and publishing scientific papers, part VI: discussion. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology66:1064.
  • Casenove, D., and S. Kirk. 2016. A spoonful of science can make science writing more hedged. Electronic Journal of Science Education20:138–149.
  • Day, R., and B. Gastel. 2012. How to write and publish a scientific paper. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Fry, J. C.1993. Biological data analysis: a practical approach. IRL Press Ltd, Oxford.
  • Guilford, W. H.2001. Teaching peer review and the process of scientific writing. Advances in Physiology Education25:167–175.
  • Harley, C. D., M. A. Hixon, and L. A. Levin. 2004. Scientific Writing And Publishing-A Guide For Students. Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America85:74–78.
  • Journal of Young Investigators. 2005. Writing scientific manuscripts: a guide for undergraduates. Journal of Young Investigators.
  • Kilner, R., J. Madden, and M. Hauber. 2004. Brood parasitic cowbird nestlings use host young to procure resources. Science305:877–879.
  • Nisbet, M. C.2009. Framing science: a new paradigm in public engagement. Pages 40–67inL. Kahlor and P. Stout, editors. Understanding science: new agendas in science communication. Taylor and Francis, New York, New York.
  • Schimel, J.2012. Writing science: how to write papers that get cited and proposals that get funded. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Strunk, W., and E. B. White. 1979. The elements of style. Third edition. Macmillan Publishing Co, New York, New York.

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Reading log (signed) is due 10-25

 BES and Literary Analyis is due: October 24




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Christmas/Holiday giftpreference- Every year kids get me holiday gifts, and I certainly appreciate them.  But this year I would be honored if, instead of buying me something, families donated to Medical Teams International.  Here is a linkwith information.

I have done mission work with this organization and they are the real deal.  Not only that, but if you check Charity Navigator you will discover that they are rated 4 of 4.  They do not use the money for overhead and large salaries - they use it to make the world a better place.

Update:  Most assignments are now in Google Classroom.  Additionally, as of 12-11-17 I am now putting daily assignments and vocab words (link) onto Planbook - Find it here.  

Assignment due date calendar here

This website is still useful for finding resources with resources on units like Anne Frank and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Google Classroom Codes Semester 2:
P1 - jo2mr87
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P7 - ipzxczi


Semester 1:
P1   7436su
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As of 12-11-17, assignments will be found on Planbook.  Find it here. 

Update:  Most assignments are now in Google Classroom.  I am working on transferring the daily lessons onto Planbook - Link here. 


Book Events Sheet and Reading Program changes for the rest of the year:
(Students informed 11-20-17).

      The first change is that students will add the reading level of their book when they complete their BES (which is on Google Classroom rather than handwritten).  This can be found on Amazon or by checking lexile.com. 
     The second change is that I am no longer making exceptions to the "no book if there is a movie" rule.  Kids are clearly abusing it, which is why it was my policy originally.  Even after they finish a different book, they cannot count pages on their reading log if there is a movie or TV show. 
      The third change is that to earn credit for books read mostly at home that I have not seen regular progress for, to earn credit for that book, students will need to complete a 2nd BES on it. 


Update:  I am now putting most assignments on the Google Classroom, so look there for current work to do.  
Vocabulary is still on the vocab page, and other pages are also useful, it's just the daily assignment list that I will not be updating.
(If you are absent more than a day or two, email and check.)

10-6, Friday10-5, Thursday
  • Writing process in Ms. J's class.
  • Perfect paragraph about yourself.   (This will likely happen next week, depending on how the other assignments go.  And we will likely finally do booktalks next week too.  yay!)
10-4, Wednesday
  • Introduction to Theme - Is it a Theme or Summary Worksheet
10-3, Tuesday
  • Turn in Scope worksheets if you didn't yesterday.
  • Complete "Getting to Know You"  
  • Possible work time for the article.
  • Review new vocab words.
  • Hand out for how to cite text evidence.  Keep for reference.
i10-2, Monday
  • Vocabulary quiz - 1st 10 words
  • Turn in vocab sheet and the 2 Scope articles.
  • Return papers - explain about grading and the report card standard for vocab in context.
  • 5 new words - write them in your Vocab Word Record Packet
  • Work on vocab sheet - due next Monday.
  • If you finish, work on the Scope article and worksheets which are due today.  Period 1 has an extension until tomorrow.
9-22, Friday
  • SSR -
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9-21, Thursday

9-20, Wednesday
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9-19, Tuesday
  • Work on vocab sheet in class.  Due Tuesday because there is no school on Monday)
  • Note - vocab words and practice link can be found here.
9-18, Monday
  • Vocabulary program handout and reviewed.
  • Vocab word record packet (we will add words to this all year)
  • First 5 words given - we will work on the vocab sheet Tuesday. 
9-15, Friday9-14, Thursday
  • Reaching log handed out and explained.
  • Reaching rubric handed out and explained. 
  • Time to find books if the class was on task.
9-13, Wednesday
  • MAZE test
  • Reading program guidelines.
  • Info & Procedures - quick highlights (then read on your own).
9-12, Tuesday
  • Syllabus - go over in detail.
9-11, Monday
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  • Turn in parent letter
9-6 to 9-8   Wednesday - Friday
  • Friday - Scavenger hunt - begin
  • Thursday - Parent letter, attendance and names, Ms. J demonstrates book talks
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The entries below are from last year.




6-7 Wednesday - Thursday (and possibly part of Friday)
  • Watch "Remember the Titans"  You will be completing this worksheet, which is due Monday.
  • Friday for whatever time is remaining we will have our final SSR.  Please return all books or make arrangements with me.
6-1  Thursday 
  • Internet validity and critical thinking.  (How to avoid "fake news," unreliable sources, and scams). 
  • You can find the PowerPoint on my website here. 
4-28 Friday
  • SSR - I will collect reading logs for a graded reading progress check
  • 2nd reminder - You cannot participate in the Socratic Seminar if you don't turn in both note packets. 
4-27 Thursday - If you know you will be absent Friday, bring your reading log to me beforehand.
  • Poetry lesson continued.  See copies of the handouts and poems on yesterday's entry.  This is due May 4
  • If you didn't turn in your TWO Socratic Seminar note packets yesterday, do so today.  Friday latest.
4-26 Wednesday
  • Because of One-Acts we are taking a break from the seminar until next week   If you haven't finished the notes packets, though, be sure to do them and get them turned in tomorrow.  We've been working on these since April 18th.  They should be done by now.
  • Poetry lesson - how to analyze a poem using the SIFT method.
  • Pizza party for 6th period.  They will have to do this lesson on Friday and have a shorter SSR period.  Thank you to parents who helped out financially (and with sodas!)  You know who you are.  :)
  • Extra credit opportunity - read all 5 poems and do a SIFT analysis for each.  5-10 points for each, depending on how well done and if your work is original.
  • LA alternative for those who exceeded the benchmark.  This is optional of course.  You may do another literary analysis if you'd prefer.  Come see me about reading the play, "A Raisin in the Sun" and then comparing it to the poem, "Harlem."
2-21- Tuesday 
  • vocab, due Monday
  • I will be here after school to help students
2-20- Monday  - No school
1-31,  Tuesday-  
1-27,  Friday-  
  • SSR - second one for new quarter.
1-20,  Friday-  (Happy almost birthday to Ms. J - which is tomorrow)
  • SSR - first one for new quarter.
1-19,  Thursday-
  • Short write - advice to Ms. J for how to improve teaching writing and getting kids to DO the writing assignments. 
  • Turn in signed reading log!

  • Return argument essays.  Students will copy comments I made into their composition notebooks to help them focus on what she said.  My notes are a teaching tool and you should pay attention to them in order to improve to the next level.

  • Work time to improve your essay - or for those who haven't yet turned it in, to work on it.  If that is done, work on missing assignments, if any.  If none, you will have free reading time.  Yay you.
1-18,  Wednesday- return from Icemageggon
  • Turn in AF worksheet A1 S4-5
  • Remember that reading logs are due tomorrow, even with snow days you've had many weeks to accomplish your reading, and many days away from school where you had nothing but time.

  • Because it was short periods and late start, Ms. J. shared action research showing correlation between writing success and actually doing the writing.  This should not be a surprise.  Do each assignment to the best of your own ability, and you will be a successful student.
  • Tomorrow we will have time to work on improving the argument essay.  If you didn't do yours, you will have the time to do it then.  Students who met or exceeded the benchmark can work on other assignments and/or read.
1-12,  Friday- snow day.  Monday and Tuesday also.  Yikes
  • Turn in AF worksheet A1 S4-5
  • SSR
1-11,  Wednesday-
  • Continue reading Anne Frank
1-10 - Tuesday
  • Because of snow day, do what was scheduled for Monday
1-9,  Monday- oops - snow day
  • MAZE test
  • mini-lesson on writing an argument essay
  • Begin Act 2 in Anne Frank
  • Turn in worksheet for A! S1-3
1-6,  Friday-
  • SSR
  • Turn in Snowflake story
  • ​Remember to finish the AF Worksheet this weekend
1-5,  Thursday-
  • Read Anne Frank through Act 1
  • Worksheet - A1 S1-3 due Monday.  Work on in class, then it's homework.  Use a separate sheet of paper for this one (or Google docs).
  • Worksheet - A1 S4-5 due next Friday.  Work on it whenever you have free time in class.  Otherwise homework.  You may answer on the paper for this one - or use gdocs.
1-4,  Wednesday-
  • Read Anne Frank 
1-3,  Tuesday - Welcome back!
12-16,  Friday- Have a wonderful winter holiday break.   Be sure to read!
  • SSR - if you are going to absent it is essential that I see your log before you go.  Because we missed last week SSR, it would otherwise be a month before I see them.
12-14,  Wednesday
  • Turn in BES and literary analysis
  • make sure you have enough reading material for over break.
  • read Anne Frank
12-13,  Tuesday
  • Read Anne Frank
  • Remember that BES and literary analysis are due tomorrow
  • I cannot help kids after school as planned because I have a parent meeting (required).  I am so sorry!  Maybe Thursday.  Come talk to me.
  • If you didn't get your super late POS work turned in by this morning, come see me about an alternate assignment for partical credit.
12-12,  Monday
  • Read Anne Frank
  • Remember that BES and literary analysis are due on Wednesday
12-9  Friday - another surprise snow day!
  • SSR  (Unless we had a snow day Thursday, in which case we'll read Anne Frank instead.)
12-8  Thursday - surprise snow day
  • Read Anne Frank.  If we are home due to snow, read.  We will consider that our SSR for this week and read AF on Friday.  If we do have school, we'll have SSR on Friday as usual.
  • If you didn't turn in your argument essay, or the notes, or a rough draft, you need to get on that right away. 
  • The literary analysis and Book Events Sheet are both due next Wednesday, December 14.
12-7  Wednesday
  • Read Anne Frank.  We got through scene 2 today, so if you were absent, read it right away so you understand what's going on.  Each scene is linked on my Anne Frank page.
12-6  Tuesday
  • Work on packet.  If you are absent or couldn't take notes fast enough, check the Anne Frank page for notes.
12-5,  Monday
  • Preview scene 1
  • Begin reading Anne Frank - we will skip vocab this week so we can get started with AF.  The quiz will be next Monday.  If you lost which parts you have, please look them up under the assignments tab above.  Select the Anne Frank page.

  • After scene 1 we will take some time to complete parts of the packet.
12-2,  Friday
  • SSR.  I will do a graded check to show progress and if students are on track.  This will be worth 10 points whereas the end-of-the-quarter grade is 60 points. 
12-1,  Thursday
  • Hand out Anne Frank packets.  Work on notes together.
11-30,  Wednesday   (I have a half-day sub to do some literacy work with other teachers.)
  • vocab quiz
  • composition notebook - list the things you wrong bring into hiding if you had just overnight to prepare and could take only one regular sized backpack.  It would be if you were going into hiding in this time (not Anne's).  Remember that if you arouse suspicion you will likely be arrested and sent to a concentration camp.  You will wear several layers of clothes, and assume that food will be provided.
  • Return TTH post-test.  If you are not happy with your grade, in order to do a retake you must show me your composition notebook where you took complete notes.  (If you didn't, the notes are here to copy.)  Also, you must have done the worksheet.  After those 2 things are done, you may retake the test.   Also, to be helpful, here is a copy of the test key.  (You will not be taking the exact same test.)
11-29,  Tuesday - Welcome back!   (We could sure use some pretzels!)
  • 5 new vocab words
  • vocab quiz will be tomorrow.  After this many days off we need a review.
  • Get reading goals and Anne Frank parts requests from students who were absent.
  • mini lesson on Tell Tale Heart literary elements.  Put these into your composition notebook. 
  • finish historical context notes if time.
11-28,  Monday
  • Teacher professional development.
11-25,  Friday
  • Holiday weekend - be sure to read, and be thankful for awesome books.
11-24,  Thursday - Happy Thanksgiving.  I am thankful for my students and the honor of teaching them.  I am also thankful to be an American.
11-23,  Wednesday
  • SSR and end-of-quarter celebration/prizes for top achievers.
11-22,  Tuesday
  • Historical context lecture for Anne Frank.  Take notes.
11-21,  Monday
  • vocab quiz
  • 5 new words
  • students work on vocab sheet or SAT prep, as appropriate. 
11-17,  Thursday  (I am in Atlanta at a national conference, making a presentation.  I will return on Wednesday.)
  • Write essay - due Tuesday
  • If this is done on Google docs, students must share it with me and give me editing permission so I can see their writing process and edits.
11-16,  Wednesday
  • Writing process lesson.
  • Reflection quarter 1 - due tomorrow
  • Student choice of persuasive writing topic.  Articles handed out.  Today students carefully read the article and make annotations and other notes.  They have learned this in Social Studies.
11-15,  Tuesday
  • Return vocab final.  If want to improve score, gave option to write sentences showing meaning for items missed for 1/2 credit each. 
  • SAT analogy lesson to those exceeding the standard in vocab Q1 - this is also optional.
  • Most of the period was work time for VS or improving vocab final score.
11-14,  Monday
  • 5 new vocab words
  • Return papers - discuss Q2 and upcoming plans
  • Vocab sheets - writing sentences for context (standards grade explained).
  • New seating chart
11-11,  Happy Veteran's Day.   Thank you veterans for your service and keeping America safe and free.
11-10,  Thursday - grading day

11-9,  Wednesday
  • Remember to read over the next few days!
  • The possibility exists that we will have SSR instead.  Of course, you should always have your book and reading log in class, but be sure to bring it today in case.
11-8,  Tuesday
  • Tell-tale Heart final
  • Turn in POS task cards activity.
11-7,  Monday
  • Vocab final.  Study all words (weekly and academic).  Parts of speech questions, connotations questions, and antonym questions will be included.  This will go on next quarter's gradebook.
11-4,  Friday
  • SSR
  • Check the vocab page for practice sets for vocab final on Monday
11-3,  Thursday
  • Turn in TTH Q's
  • Complete Anne Frank parts request
  • POS activity (unless exempt from pre-test).  Two handouts.  One is the examples, one is the tally sheet for answers.  Due Tuesday.  This one is not group work and I would like you to figure them out yourselves without checking a dictionary or online.  That is the only way you will really learn them.
11-2,  Wednesday
  • Work on TTH worksheet - ADD to it on the back, 3 examples of repetition, 2 examples of metaphors, and 3 examples of similes.  Add the page number, but a bulleted list is okay.  
  • Tell-tale Heart story.
10-31,  Monday
  • vocab quiz
  • turn in vocab sheet
  • 5 new words
  • work on (should finish) new vocab sheet
10-28,  Friday
  • SSR - first one for new quarter.
  • Note that I have links to Tell-tale Heart vocab and lit terms on the vocab page of this website.
10-27,  Thursday
  • Tell-tale Heart notes packet is due.
  • Signed reading log is due.  Ms. J is having mercy and will accept for full credit tomorrow because she was absent yesterday. 
  • Students performed or shared their skits or drawings.  Turn in for daily work grade.
  • New reading log distributed.  Due date is January 19
  • New BES distributed.  Due date for that and literary analysis is December 14
  • Reading rubric distributed and analyzed for grade requirement clarification.
10-26,  Wednesday
  • Tell-tale Heart notes packet work continues.  Due tomorrow.
  • Sub will put students into pre-assigned work groups to come up with a skit or drawing for the word assigned - to share with class tomorrow.  If you are absent, come see me and I will give you a word to create a drawing of.
10-25,  Tuesday
  • Tell-tale Heart notes packet work continues.  Sub will give definitions, students are to come up with examples and sentences as requested.  If absent, here are the notes. 
10-24,  Monday
  • vocab quiz​
  • turn in vocab sheet
  • work on new vocab sheet
10-19,  Thursday and Friday
  • Conferences - these are on a drop-in basis and must be limited to 5 minutes each.  If you have need of a longer conference, please let us know and we will set up a time.

  • Students should use the time at home to read and work on vocabulary and any missing assignments.
10-19,  Wednesday
  • Worksheet for Tell-tale Heart.  When finished either SSR or extra work time for missing work.
10-18,  Tuesday
  • Irony lesson
  • go over vocabulary and literary terms/devices  in Tell-tale Heart

10-17,  Monday
  • vocab quiz
  • 5 new vocab words
  • Tell-tale Heart pre-test
10-12,  Wednesday -
  • Work day for literary analysis, which is due next Wednesday.
  • ​Students who have not yet finished a book had the period to read.
  • I will be here after school on Monday and Tuesday for students needing individual help with the literary analysis.
10-11,  Tuesday -
  • How to write a literary analysis
  • ​handouts - list of theme/topics, frame for writing your LA, directions, rubric
  • warm up - list the parts of speech in your composition notebook (all 8).  From your book (or the 8th-grade textbook) find 10 examples of nouns, 5 of action verbs and 5 of state-of-being verbs, 10 adjectives, 5 adverbs, 1 interjection, 5 prepositions, 5 conjunctions, and 10 pronouns.
10-10,  Monday -
  • Vocab - 5 new words
  • vocab quiz
  • Presented opportunity for writer kids for Saturday workshops.  See my Oregon Writing Festival page for a handout copy.
10-7,  Friday - please check out the Scholastic book orders online.  See information on the left side of this page.
  • SSR of course
  • Reading Logs collected as a mid-quarter reference point.  I will copy them and return them on Monday.  This will be graded to show if students are on track for the quarter or not.   (Note - this is only 10 points.  The final grade will total 60 points for the reading log portion.  It's intended to be a signal for students and parents  to know if they are on track or not.
10-6,  Thursday
  • warm up - The "Be Verb" Rap.
  • How to write an academic paragraph
  • transition words reference sheet handout
  • Finish and correct theme/summary WS from Wednesday
10-5,  Wednesday
  • warm up - Parts of Speech
  • What is a theme?  What is a literary analysis?  How is it different than a summary or book report?
  • Worksheet with examples of themes vs. summaries - due tomorrow
10-4,  Tuesday
  • warm up - watch video on grit and answer questions in composition notebook.
  • Vocab quiz (P6 only)
  • Marshmallow Test brief lecture on delaying gratification for success.  Sleep and electronics was part of that discussion.
  • choose a topic for the next argument writing assignment.
  • Work time - VS, BES, missing work, or read.



10-3,  Monday
  • Vocab quiz
  • 5 new words - into planner, plus one new academic vocab word (see vocab page on this website)
  • group work on 7-up sentences showing vocab meaning in context.
  • Seating chart change
9-29,  Friday
  • SSR - be sure to have your book and reading log
9-28,  Thursday
  • warm-up activity
  • finish writing pre-test finish (in-class, not at home)
9-28,  Wednesday
  • warm-up activity - the first of many to come.  Please have your composition notebook in your file, whee it is to stay.  If you still don't have one, ask Mr. Clark nicely because he has some extras.
  • finish book talks
  • begin writing pre-test (Please work on this only in class, not at home.  I need to see what you can do on your own.)
9-27,  Tuesday
  • vocab quiz
  • 5 new vocab words - write them in your planner.  Vocab sheet will be due on Monday
  • finish book talks and turn in pink personal reading list
  • Hand out directions for vocabulary program
9-26,  Monday - teacher training day - no school for kids.   
  • Be sure to read if you are behind.  You should be close to 200 - 400 pages by now..
9-23, Friday
  • SSR - Note that you should have 150 pages at least by now to score at the "B" or proficient level, 300 pages if you hope to exceed and score at the "A" or exceeds level.
9-22 Thursday
  • Book Talks - finish
  • Turn in your personal reading log (the pink sheets that you've been listing the book talks on)
9-21 Wednesday
  • Book Talks
  • Scholastic book orders are due by tomorrow. 
9-20, Tuesday
  • Turn in "Why Read" assignment
  • Group work - review End of Year Reflections in various categories and report to the class what you learned.
  • Handed out book-talk frame to use tomorrow.
  • Do you have a composition notebook?  Is it in your class file?  If not, please get one.  Mr. Clark does have some extras, so ask nicely.
9-19, Monday
  • Worked on vocabulary program directions and the first vocab sheet - which is due on Monday.  1st quiz is next Monday as well.   Words are listed on my vocab page.

  • "Why Read" assignment.  List 10 or more reasons it's important to read.  Put a proper heading on the top right side of your paper (full name, date, period).  Highlight your favorite one or two.  Count how many and put the number on the top of your page--circle it.   This is due tomorrow.
9-16, Friday
  • First SSR - a big thank you to the kids and parents who contributed pretzels and smarties!
9-15, Thursday
  • Job One - do you have a book for SSR tomorrow?
  • finish going over Book Talk assignment
  • If time, begin writing pre-test
9-14, Wednesday
  • Syllabus and grading information - handout and explanation
  • POS pre-test - if you are absent be sure to come in during RV or after school to make it up.
  • Vocabulary program handout
  • 1st 5 vocab words - work in pairs to complete (this will usually be homework)
  • If time, hand out book talk information
9-13, Tuesday
  • Reading Program handout and discussion
  • Reading log handout
  • BES handout
  • Classroom Information and Procedures - handout and quick overview
9-12, Monday
  • Grade scavenger hunt
  • Genre overview
9-9, Friday
  • Scavenger Hunt - grade in class
  • MAZE test
9-8, Thursday
  • Getting to Know You (20 Questions), due tomorrow
  • Book orders - due 9-22
  • Scavenger Hunt (start)
9-7, Wednesday
  • 15 minutes to say "Hello."
  • Seating Chart
  • Parent Letter (due Friday)
  • Reminder, bring composition notebook by Monday

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