I’ve been asking students to use more sentence frames to structure writing in inquiry. I’m trying to strike a balance between giving them freedom to write in ways that allow them to express themselves while also giving them structure to work within.
For example, a few weeks ago, students had to make two diagrams–one depicting how light from a stoplight would enter a pinhole camera with a small hole and large hole. I asked students to use the following sentence frame to describe each feature of their diagrams.
In the _________ part of my diagram, I am showing how __________. This is important to show, because __________________.
Then to compare and contrast their diagrams, I asked them to write.
In my first diagram with the small hole, you can see how __________. The reason I think this happens is because,_______________________________.
In my second diagram with the large hole, you can see how __________. The reason I think this happens is because _______________________.
One reason I have found this useful is because it helps students to think about their diagrams in an dialogic way. You try to craft your diagrams to actually show things you care about, but you also let the diagrams speak to you to tell you things you might not have known. Another reason I have found this useful is that it makes it easier for students to read each other’s work, because it’s in an easily comparable format. Third, it significantly reduces the number of assignment that are way off the mark.
In a recent assignment further exploring blurriness, I gave student freedom to begin their writing assignment, but the assignment had to end with and lead up to the following sentence frame:
To me, a clear image is made when ______________________________, and blurriness happens when ___________________________________. Based on my ideas, in order for a lens to change a blurry image into a clear image, a lens would somehow have to ________________________________. I’m notsure if this is right, but it might make sense because ___________________.
In this sentence frame, I’m trying to get them to think about implications of theory. We have five different theories of why a large hole causes blurriness, some that seem quite different and some quite similar. The theories are
(1) A big hole is like a lot of small holes. Since a small hole places a clear image, multiple small holes would make multiple clear images that are juxtaposed. Those images being in slightly differently locations makes it like you are seeing in “double vision”.
(2) A big hole allows light to expand and spread out more. When light expands and spreads out, it loses it’s clarity and the intensity of light weakens.
(3) A big hole allows in too much stray white light. This stray light “whitewashes” the image making it fade, which is why it looks blurry.
(4) A big hole causes light from one point on an object to land in a “blobspot” rather than a precise location. Large “blobspots” make for a bad image in the same way an old TV with large pixels.
(5) Same general idea as #4, except blurriness is caused by overlapping “blobspots”. It’s the overlapping of of blobspots that makes it look like a blob rather than an image.
On the assignment, students were supposed to elaborate on and diagram their favorite theory (or combination), but I wanted them to start thinking about implications. If blurry is “too much light”, what might a lens have to do to make in unblurry. If blurry is “too big of blogspots”, what would a lens have to do to make it unblurry” Etc. In getting them to think about implications of their theories for lenses, I’m hoping to prepare them for transfer as move to talking more about the eye.