Grade: Senior
Subject: Science

#820. Chemistry Journal Writing Prompts

Science, level: Senior
Posted Wed Dec 2 07:01:13 PST 2009 by Sarah Knoke (Sarah Knoke).
Valley High School, West Des Moines, IA
Materials Required: notebooks, pencils
Activity Time: 5 min., multiple times throughout the year
Concepts Taught: Chemistry, science, writing

Science Journal -- High School Chemistry Class

Research shows that writing-to-learn can be effective in any classroom, and particularly in a science classroom. Writing encourages students to think about what they know and don't know, and can help them to reflect on how they learn best. In addition, when students see writing in all classes, and not just English classes, their overall ability to write will improve.

The following writing prompts are intended for use in a high school general science classroom. They can be used throughout the year, although some prompts are more specific to a particular unit.

Sample Journal Prompts for a High School Chemistry Class

Beginning of the year

• Make a list of things that you wonder about. They don't have to be related to science, although they can be. Keep writing until I tell you to stop. [After students compose their list, talk about how questioning and wondering are important to science.]
• What is chemistry? [After students write, have them volunteer ideas and discuss as a class. This leads into discussion of "textbook definition" of chemistry.]
• We will be doing labs at least once a week in chemistry. How do you feel about the prospect of doing lab activities, working with chemicals, etc.?
• What were your feelings about the first lab? Did it go well? Was it what you expected? Did you get along with your partner? Now what are your feelings about future labs?
Getting to Know the Students
• Tell me about something that you're good at.
• Tell me about something that's good in your life right now. It could be something at home, something related to school, or anything else that makes you happy. [This is a good prompt to lighten the mood when students are working on something particularly challenging.]

Naming Compounds

• Explain the difference between naming a covalent compound and an ionic compound. Be sure to include both how you can tell a compound is covalent or ionic from the formula, and how each are named differently.
• Why might it be important to be able to write chemical names correctly? Give a specific example of a possible situation that could occur.
Solids, Liquids, and Gases
• Write your own definitions of solid, liquid, and gas. Make sure your definitions will apply to all solids, liquids and gases. (Example -- What makes both a block of wood and Play Dough solids?) [This entry should be done at the beginning of the unit.]
• Listen to the song "Solid, Liquid, Gas" by They Might Be Giants. In your journal, explain how you think the song uses music to demonstrate microscopic properties of solids, liquids, and gases. [This can be done before or after students learn about microscopic properties of solids, liquids, and gases.]

Chemical Reactions

• First, do your best to predict the product(s) for the following reaction:
AlCl3 + Cu -->
Then, explain why you decided on the product(s) that you did. [This should be done before teaching reaction types of how to predict products.]
• Look back at your original answer for the product(s) that you predicted for the reaction:
CuCl2 + Al -->
Do you still agree with the product(s) you predicted? If not, what do you believe they are now? Explain how you determine the products in a chemical reaction. [This should be done after students learn how to predict products in a chemical reaction.]
• Have you ever balance equations before? If so, how well did you understand how to do it? Was there anything that gave you problems? If not, what do you know about balance equations? [Ask this before teaching students how to balance equations.]

Solutions, Intermolecular Forces, Polarity, or Soap

• How do you think soap makes people clean? Or does it? [Do this before learning about soap. Most will probably say that it kills bacteria. Then talk to the class about the fact that not all soap is antibacterial. (In fact, most people don't wash with antibacterial soap long enough to actually kill the bacteria.)]
• Write a refutational text about how soap works. Be sure to begin with a common misconception, and why that misconception is actually false. Then explain how soap actually works. [Do this after learning about soap, and preferably after having written other refutational texts.]

Generic Journal Entry Ideas

• Brainstorm a list of things you know about. . ..
• Write a haiku or acrostic poem about. . ..
• Why do we do labs in chemistry class? [Give this entry after doing a number of labs.]
• Think about one math strategy that we've used that you also use in a math class. Explain what the strategy is and how we've used it. If you learned it in a different way in your math class, explain how you learned it there.
• Explain in detail something that you think you understand about this chapter. Give specific information, don't just list things from a study guide! Then, tell me about something you're still confused about. Again, give details! [Ask this before a test.]
• How did you study for this test, and how much time did you spend studying? Do you feel like the studying was effective? [Ask this after a test.]