Special Writing Assignments

[Expect this page to be fully updated by September 2017]


The aim of this writing assignment is to encourage middle school science students to communicate complex material simply, clearly, and engagingly. The guidelines for the assignment are simple:

1. Answer a question posed by the teacher in a way a 4th or 5th grader (9-11 years old) will find instructive, interesting, and maybe even fun.
2. Submit your final answer in a timely manner.
3. Answers can be submitted in writing, as videos, or as graphics (e.g., a comic or a poster).
4. Written entries must be less than 300 words, and videos must be shorter than 5 minutes.
5. Answers must be in English.
6. All written entries should be typed. Video makers must submit a typed script and/or storyboard.
7. Entries must be the original work of the person or persons submitting them. All sources of information used in the assignment must be formatted correctly and submitted in writing.
8. Team entries are allowed, but teams can include no more than two science students. The formation of a team requires the permission of the teacher.

Students should be sure to use the What Is…? grading rubric when creating their answer. Dr. Merritt uses grading rubrics both with points and without points.


The aim of this writing assignment is to help middle school students learn how to summarize information. According to the good folks at Visionlearning, microthemes are short writing assignments (500 words or less) that students usually do either in class or as a short homework assignment. Some microtheme examples include: asking students to write a 200 word synopsis of a popular science article; providing students with a contradictory proposition and having them choose an angle and defend it; or providing students with a dataset and asking them to uncover a thesis or general statement that gives meaning to the data.


The aim of this writing assignment is to help middle school students (quickly) review the most information presented in during a class period. True to their name, 5-Minute Essays are completed with five minutes of a given class, but frequently in the last five minutes of a class period. They ask students to freewrite (write without stopping) on what they have learned in class that day, but also to share what questions and concerns they still have.