Vol7Is1cabrera.pdf by JamieThackray

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									                     The Poetry of Science:
Effects of Using Poetry in a Middle School ELD Science Classroom




                            Matilda Cabrera
                     University of California, Davis
http://ejlts.ucdavis.edu                   Electronic Journal of Literacy Through Science Vol. 7 Issue 1


                                                  Abstract

      Research Question(s):
      What happens when English Language Learners write, illustrate, and share Cinquain poetry
      based on science concepts?
      Research Activities:
      The study was conducted in a middle school of 906 students in Northern California. The
      students involved were 7th and 8th graders in a SEI science class. The class contained fifteen
      students, all English Language Learners, with average CELDT scores of 2. The study focused
      on six students: a male and a female each, of high, middle, and low academic performance. The
      intervention occurred over six weeks and had three trials. After students were taught and quizzed
      on the science content and vocabulary, they were assigned a vocabulary word that would be the
      subject of their Cinquain poetry session. Each of three poetry sessions lasted three days, during
      which students wrote and illustrated their poems, and shared them in small groups. Afterward,
      students retook the quiz given prior to the poetry session. Data taken included pre and post
      quizzes, poem final drafts, student surveys about helpfulness of vocabulary strategies, and
      observations of student engagement. Students showed improvement between the pre and post
      quiz in each of the three trials by 13.6%, 7.8%, and 4.3% respectively. However, the
      intervention was not successful for all students. Conclusions gathered were (1) students were
      engaged during the three aspects of the poetry session, (2) students felt that all aspects of the
      poetry sessions were helpful for learning new vocabulary, and (3) poetry sessions were an
      effective tool for learning science vocabulary.
      Grade Level: Seventh and Eighth Grade
      Data Collection Methods: Teacher-made assessments, student work, surveys-attitude, and
      observations-student engagement
      Project Descriptors: Middle, Science, ELL, Student engagement, Vocabulary Development

                                                Introduction

              I was extremely happy to get a teaching position at the same middle school where I did
      my student teaching. The school has a great sense of community and teachers work together to
      create a positive, supportive environment for their students. One group of students that is being
      particularly focused on is the English Language Learners (ELL), which makes up about one
      fourth of our school’s population. This year, we have special classes for ELLs, including two
      levels of Structured English Immersion (SEI) science. I am teaching the higher of the two
      classes. In previous years, lower level ELLs would not have had the opportunity to take science
      or history classes; instead they would take extra English classes. Because these students are
      working on their English literacy skills as well as learning science, I have been challenged all
      year to find effective ways to help my class learn both academic and scientific vocabulary. I
      have tried a number of strategies, with varying success, but I thought that incorporating some of
      my student’s interest into learning vocabulary might get them more engaged. My research into
      both my students’ interest and new vocabulary strategies brought me to the question: how can I
      incorporate my students’ interest in art with their need for increased language ability, both
      written and verbal?




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                                                   Context

      The District
              The Nunes Joint Unified School District is located in a suburban, agricultural town of
      about 50,000 people. The district includes six pre-schools, twelve K-6 elementary schools
      (which include two multi-track and two single-track year-round schools), two middle schools,
      (grades 7 and 8), two comprehensive senior high schools for grades 9-12, a continuation high
      school and an adult school. The student population for grades K-12 exceeds 10,500 with an
      annual growth rate of approximately 2%. A $40 million construction bond in1999 allowed for a
      second 4-year high school to open in the fall of 2003. The bond also provided for modernization
      of most existing facilities. The demographics of the School District include 54.3% Latino
      students, 36.8% White students, 4.4% Asian students, and 1.3% African American students
      (Figure 1). The district also has 30.1% English Learners, 45.6% of students on free or reduced
      lunch, and 33% of students receiving compensatory education (Figure 2).




      Figure 1: District Ethnicity                   Figure 2: District & School ELLs

      The School
             The middle school where the intervention will occur has 445 seventh graders and 561
      eighth graders for a total of 906 students. Students live fairly close to the school, many walking
      or biking to and from school. The school is set up with three major wings containing mostly
      similar subject matter teachers. All of the science classrooms are in the same wing. The average
      class size in the school is 30.6 students. The average class size for science classes is 31.5
      students. Students are placed on a team and they will have classes with mostly teachers from
      that team. For example, I am an Aggie and most of my students will see all Aggie teachers for
      each subject. This is helpful for getting input from teachers across disciplines about individual
      students.
              The students at this middle school are 51.4% Latino, 38.2% White, 6.2% Asian, and less
      than 2% African American (Figure 3). English Learners make up 23.6% of the school’s
      population (Figure 2). Of the 214 English Learners, 192 students speak Spanish, 13 speak
      Punjabi, 5 speak Urdu, 3 speak Hindi, and 1 speaks Vietnamese. Thirty-seven percent of
      students receive free or reduced priced meals. The school met its 2005 target API goal and has
      an API of 720. This ranks it a 6 on a scale of 1 to 10 of schools with the same type. However,
      the school did not meet its goals for school-wide language arts and math proficiency, with 42.7%



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      of students being proficient and above in language arts and only 27.9% being proficient or above
      in math.




                                         Figure 3: School Ethnicity
      The Classroom
              My classroom is set up with nine tables that seat four students each. This setup works
      well for both individual and group work as well as doing labs and other activities. The walls
      have specific functions. There is a wall with vocabulary words and another that shows the
      California Content Standards that we are currently working on. There is also plenty of wall
      space for student work to be displayed. Most days start with a warm-up question, followed by
      some activity such as taking Cornell Notes, doing a lab, or reading the text, or a combination of
      these.


      The Students
               The class that I will be focusing my research on is a Structured English Immersion (SEI)
      Science class. The class has fifteen students, thirteen 7th graders and two 8th graders. These
      students range in overall English Language ability (based on CELDT scores) between 1 and 3 on
      a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being proficient in English. Most of these students are 2s (11 total) and
      3s (5 total) and one student is a 1. Of the three language aspects that are tested with the CELDT
      test (listening & speaking, writing, and reading) my students scored the lowest in reading and
      writing (Figure 4).




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                                   Figure 4: Class average CELDT levels
               The class consists of seven boys and eight girls ranging in age from eleven to thirteen.
      Eleven students are Latino, with a home language of Spanish. Three students are Asian Indian,
      two speak Punjabi at home and one speaks Urdu at home, and one student is Philipino, speaking
      Philipino (Tagalog) at home (Figure 5).




                                   Figure 5: Home Languages of students

          I will be focusing on six students within this class. I chose these students based on their
      academic achievement levels in my class before the intervention and their genders. I chose two
      lower performing students (Ds and Fs on tests), two middle performing students (Cs and Bs on
      tests), and two high performing students (As on tests). I chose a male and a female student

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      within each of these categories. I also took into consideration these students’ attendance history.
      Looking closely at this range of students will help me see if there is a difference in how the
      intervention works based on how students are currently performing in my class. Because all the
      students are English Language Learners (ELLs) at about the same CELDT level, this will also
      give insight into how the intervention helps ELL students who are at various performance levels.
      Figure 6 shows the CELDT levels of my focus students. I noticed that the CELDT levels of my
      focus students don’t align exactly with their performance in my class. This leads me to believe
      that other factors, perhaps motivation, may be influencing these students performance on tests.




                                   Figure 6: Focus Student CELDT levels

                                              Research question

      What happens when English Language Learners write, illustrate, and share Cinquain poetry
      based on science concepts?

      Sub-questions
      How does writing and illustrating poetry affect student learning of science concepts?
      How might sharing poems help EL students’ confidence in using scientific vocabulary?
      What is the importance of student engagement in learning science concepts?

                                             Purpose & Rationale

          Based on my students’ CELDT writing scores (Figure 4) and from assignments given in class
      I know that my students are struggling with writing in general, as well as using scientific
      vocabulary in their writing. For example, I looked at a writing assignment about a Kingdom that
      my students completed in September. On average, students had 7 complete sentences in their


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      paragraphs, but only used 4 vocabulary words correctly within these paragraphs. This was after
      three days of discussion and corrections. Also, on a student attitude survey, given on September
      29th, my students indicated that they enjoy art a lot more than they enjoy science. In fact,
      interest in science topics was given an overall average score of only 3.5 out of 10 (with the
      highest rank given being only 5 out of 10 by three students) compared to interest in art topics
      receiving an average overall score of 7 out of 10 (with the highest overall score being a 10 out of
      10) (Figure 7).




                               Figure 7: Class average interest in science & art

          Based on this data, I decided to make some connections between writing with science
      vocabulary and art. Poetry seems to be the perfect combination of the two. Because it is
      important to carefully choose words that express what the author is thinking when writing
      poetry, I hope that this will increase my student’s vocabulary along with their summarizing
      skills. Because I am working with my SEI science class (all English Language Learners) I
      thought it would also be beneficial to include a visual representation of the science
      concept/vocabulary by having students illustrate their poems. Finally, by giving students the
      opportunity to share their poems with small groups they will also be working on their
      communication skills. I want to work on improving their literacy skills as well as their
      knowledge of science concepts. My hope is that by writing, illustrating, and sharing their poems,
      students will have the opportunity to be creative, improve their writing and vocabulary, and
      reinforce science concepts.




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                                                   Literature

             I looked at the literature to determine if poetry had ever been successfully used in a science
      classroom. I found a couple of examples and looked closely at how their students were impacted
      by the poetry. These examples are outlined below:
            Liftig (1993) describes combining poetry with science education to help improve
               students' summarizing skills. She also describes different types of poems (acrostics,
               zigzag, formula, haiku, syntu, diamonte, and found) and explains how they can be used in
               science learning. I later decided to use a different poetry form, Cinquain, because I felt it
               could provide the most benefits for my EL students.
            Walders (2000) makes the case for using poetry in the teaching of science. He states
               “poems can braid curriculum areas, breaking through boundaries and weaving concepts
               together.” Walders explains that reading or writing a poem together can become a
               common experience for students to look back on and discuss later, this is something that
               can be very helpful to EL students who come into science with a wide range of
               background knowledge. Also, the article contains many examples of poems that
               demonstrate science concepts, some of which are very helpful as examples.
            Young (2005) gives some ideas about making vocabulary more engaging to students.
               One idea is to have students read and write poems. The article also contains a pre and
               post vocabulary survey that I incorporated into my pre and post attitude survey. The
               survey asks students’ opinions and ranking of different vocabulary strategies.
             Because my students are all English Language Learners at the beginning and intermediate
      level, I also looked at the research on English Language Development (ELD). I found that there
      are a number of instructional practices that have been accepted by research. According to
      numerous studies, ELD programs must include development of oral and written proficiency,
      including the development of basic conversational English and academic language (Saunders, et
      al., 1998; Fashola et al., 1996). I used the strategies outlined by the research in the ELD field to
      choose the type of poetry I wanted to use and to create a poetry session that involved these
      strategies, which are outlined below:
                  Using visuals to reinforce verbal content when teaching in English (Saunders, et al.,
                     1998; Reyes & Bos, 1998). I used this strategy within the poetry sessions by having
                     students illustrate their Cinquian poems.
                  Using both oral and written modalities (Saunders, et al., 1998). I also used this
                     strategy in the intervention. Students had to write and share their poems with small
                     groups of classmates as well as with their parents.
                  Employ strategic use of synonyms (Gersten & Jimenez, 1994). The Cinquian poem
                     involves finding a synonym for the word that is the poem’s subject. This synonym
                     is used in Line 5 of the poem.
                  Focus on five to eight core vocabulary words a unit (Saunders, et al., 1998). Each
                     of three trials of the intervention had five vocabulary words that were the main
                     focus of that unit.
                  Give students as many opportunities as possible to use academic language, both
                     written and oral, to increase their academic vocabulary (Kinsella, 2006). The
                     poetry sessions that I designed was meant to maximize the number of times students
                     used their vocabulary word properly.




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            Merino and Scarella (2005) were also useful for getting ideas about how to set up the
      intervention. The article reminded me of the importance of focusing not only on science
      standards but also on literacy skills that are key for my class. Some ideas that I worked directly
      on from the article include two of the practical recommendations that have been supported by
      research. These are “Focusing on accelerating ELs’ knowledge of concepts and vocabulary in
      multiple ways” and “Providing formative assessment and sufficient and supportive feedback to
      identify students’ language strengths and weaknesses” in the form of rubrics for written
      assignments.

                                               The Intervention

              I used a very structured, consistent pattern of instruction over the six-week period of my
      intervention. Each of the three trials within the intervention began with one week of instruction
      on the science content and vocabulary in the format that I had been using before the intervention
      began. I would introduce the new concepts and the students would take Cornell notes, read the
      textbook, and do a hands-on activity/lab when appropriate. After the week of instruction I gave a
      quiz on the science concepts and vocabulary. Afterwards, I assigned each student a Cinquain
      poem on one vocabulary word within that unit. Students would go through a three day poetry
      session, which consisted of writing a rough draft, writing a final draft and illustrating, and
      sharing poems in small groups of four to five students. After the poetry session students retook
      the quiz so that I could assess the impact of the poetry on student learning.
               Cinquain (pronounced "cin-kain") is a five-line poetic form, using a wavelike syllable
      count of two-four-six-eight-two. The rules of the poem are as follows: Line 1: One word that
      tells what the poem is about (a noun). Line 2: Two words that describe the subject (adjectives).
      Line 3: Three words that describe something the subject does (-ing words). Line 4: Four to six
      words describing the subject further (a phrase). Line 5: One or two words that rename what the
      poem is about (a synonym). I assigned each student the noun they will use in Line 1. After
      reading about and looking at many examples, I decided to drop the syllable rules, because I
      believe that added confinement may be too difficult for my class.
              Before the first poem that I assigned for Trial 1 of the intervention, I needed to introduce
      the poem format to my students. In order to do this, I explained the format, read aloud examples,
      and wrote an example poem together with my class. In order for students to practice writing
      their own Cinquian poem, I gave them a Cinquain Graphic Organizer from “Read – Write –
      Think” (Figure 8) to make the rough draft of a poem based on a word they had chosen, either
      their favorite food or favorite animal. They went through a full poetry session with this word,
      which included writing a rough draft, writing a final draft and illustrating it, and sharing their
      poem in small groups.




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                                   Figure 8: Cinquain Graphic Organizer


            Students repeated these steps in Trials 1 through 3 with vocabulary words from each unit:
      Reproduction, Heredity, and Meiosis & DNA. Students presented their words in small groups
      with students who were assigned different words. I hoped that this would help reinforce not only
      the one word assigned to the student but also the words that the other students in their group
      were assigned.
              In order to determine how each student’s poem demonstrated their knowledge of their
      word I created a rubric to grade them (Table 1). I gave each student a score from 0 to 2 in each
      of the three categories of word choice, poem format and illustration, for a maximum score of 6.




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                                     2                          1                          0
           Word            Shows deep                Shows some                 Shows no
           choices         understanding of          understanding of word,     understanding of
                           word, synonym is          synonym makes sense        word, synonym does
                           excellent                                            not work, or shows
                                                                                misconception
           Poem format     Follows format            Follows format most of     Does not follow
                           exactly                   the time                    format
           Illustration    Shows deep                Shows some                 Shows no
                           understanding of          understanding of word      understanding of
                           word, creative                                       word, or shows
                                                                                misconception
                                              Table 1: Poem Rubric

             After each poetry session, students were quizzed a second time on the science concepts and
      vocabulary. Table 2 outlines the intervention timeline as well as the focus words within each
      trial.

      Trial    Topic                    Focus Words                      Dates of poetry session
      Pre      Favorite food or         Student Choice                   Nov. 20 to 23, 2006
               animal
      1        Reproduction             reproduce, inherit, traits,      Nov. 27 to 29, 2006
                                        offspring, or binary fission
      2        Heredity                 punnett square, dominant         Dec. 6 to 8, 2006
                                        trait, recessive trait, or
                                        genetic variation
      3        Meiosis & DNA            genes, DNA, chromosome,          Dec.18 to 20, 2006
                                        meiosis, or sex cells
                                        Table 2: Intervention Timeline

                                          Trial Description & Results

      Trial 1 – Reproduction
              The first of three trials of my intervention took place between November 17 and 29,
      2006. I began by spending one week teaching my SEI class about the differences between
      sexual and asexual reproduction; this included talking about what the students already knew
      about the subject, reading the textbook aloud, highlighting the new terms in student dictionaries,
      taking Cornell notes, and practicing saying the words aloud and in sentences. The unit had five
      new vocabulary words in addition to sexual and asexual: reproduce, inherit, traits, offspring, and
      binary fission. At the end of the unit, the class took a quiz on this content and vocabulary.
      Afterward, I assigned each student one of the five major new terms. Because I have 15 students,
      this worked out so I would have exactly three groups with five students, each with a different
      word. I told my class that it was their responsibility to write and illustrate their poem in order to
      explain their word to the rest of their group. Then students wrote a rough draft using the


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      Cinquain graphic organizer (Figure 8). I collected and gave comments to each student, and then
      they wrote and illustrated a final draft. All of this was done in class. Students then took their
      final draft home and practiced reading and explaining their word to their parents. The next day,
      students got together with their groups and read their poems. They explained why they chose the
      words and explained their illustration to their group. During the three day intervention, I
      collected observation data by observing each of my six focus students and assigning them a score
      of 1 to 3 based on their engagement each day: while writing their poem, writing their final draft
      and illustrating, and sharing with their group. Finally, students retook the same quiz they had
      taken after the instruction on the content and vocabulary. Figure 9 shows a sample final draft
      poem for Trial 1. The vocabulary word for this poem was reproduce.




                                       Figure 9: Trial 1 Sample Poem

              After assessing all the poems using the rubric shown in Table 1, I looked closely at the
      scores of my focus students to determine their understanding of the word they had been assigned.
      Word choice, especially the synonym used in line 5 of the poem was a big indication of the
      student’s understanding. Also, the choice of illustration really helped me see if the students had
      any misconceptions about their word. Table 3 shows the scores for each focus student in each of
      the three categories and their overall score. Three focus students received the maximum score of
      6 on their poem, two received a score of 5 out of 6 and one student received a 2 out of 6. I found
      no huge misconceptions with word choice in this trial. In fact, all six focus students did an
      excellent job choosing words to express what their vocabulary word meant. Students had more
      difficulty illustrating their words. This was surprising to me, because I thought my students
      would do better with the illustrating part of the poetry session than the writing part based on
      previous assignments. Only one student struggled with the format: the low performing female
      student.


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                                            Trial 1 Poem Scores
                                        Word choice         Format       Illustration     Overall
                                          (0 to 2)          (0 to 2)        (0 to 2)      (0 to 6)
               High, Female                  2                 2               1              5
                High, Male                   2                 2               2              6
              Medium, Female                 2                 2               1              5
               Medium, Male                  2                 2               2              6
               Low, Female                   2                 0               0              2
                Low, Male                    2                 2               2              6
                                        Table 3: Trial 1 Focus Student Poem Scores

              Quizzes for Trial 1 were given on November 17, 2006, before the poetry intervention,
      and on November 28, 2006, after the poetry intervention. Both the pre and post quiz were the
      same (Figure 10). The quiz had both fill-in-the-blank questions and a short answer questions. It
      was worth ten points, with the short answer question being worth two points and each fill-in-the-
      blank question worth one point. I graded the quizzes by marking the fill-in-the-blank questions
      right or wrong and by giving a score of 0, 1, or 2 on the short answer question based on the
      amount of understanding that the answer showed. The quiz was administered in class, with no
      talking, textbook, or notes. Students were able to look at the vocabulary words that I had posted
      from the unit on the Vocabulary Wall to help them fill in the blanks. All 15 students took both
      quizzes and they had as much time as they needed to complete them.




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                                      Figure 10: Trial 1 Sample Quiz

              In order to see if the poetry session had an impact on student performance on the quiz, I
      compared the quizzes that were taken before the poetry session to those taken afterwards. The
      class average was 59.1% on the first quiz and 72.7% on the second quiz (Figure 11). I believe
      that this was a pretty good improvement for my class. The students that improved the most were
      those that did extremely poorly on the pre quiz, getting only 30% correct, and then improving to
      70% to 80% correct on the post quiz. I looked closely at my six focus students to see these
      individual improvements (Figure 13).




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                                Figure 11: Trial 1 Class Averages of Quizzes

              I also looked closer at each question on the quiz in more depth. I graphed the number of
      correct responses on each question of both quizzes (Figure 12). More students had correct
      answers on the second quiz than the first quiz on all but two questions. The same number of
      students got question number 5 correct, before and after the poetry session. When looking
      closely at the quiz questions with answers that were subjects of poems (starred questions), there
      were 18 more correct answers on these 5 questions combined and only 7 more correct answers
      on the other 5 questions combined. This shows me that students did better on the post quiz on
      those questions that were emphasized during the poetry session than those questions that were
      not.




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                             Figure 12: Trial 1 Correct Responses by Question

             When I look closely at my six focus students I notice that both low and both medium
      performing students did better on the quiz after the poetry session (Figure 13). In fact, the low
      performing students did significantly better, increasing their scores by a total of eleven points.
      The poetry session did not have such a great impact on the high performing students, one scoring
      100% on both quizzes and one doing worse on the second quiz.




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                                  Figure 13: Trial 1 Focus Student Scores

               I also recorded my observations of student engagement during the three aspects of the
      poetry session; while students were writing their rough drafts, while students were illustrating
      their final drafts, and while student were sharing their poems in small groups. I walked around
      and recorded conversations and general interest/non-interest of students. I rated each student on
      a scale of 1 to 3 (3 being most engaged, 1 being least engaged) during each part of the poetry
      session. For example, a student that was not participating or talking about an unrelated topic was
      scored a 1, a student that was working on the assigned task but did not seem interested or
      expressed that he or she was not interested when questioned was scored a 2, and a student that
      was actively participating and showing thought and creativity was scored a 3. The rough draft
      writing occurred on November 26, 2006. The final draft writing and illustrating was on
      November 27, 2006 and the poem sharing was on November 28, 2006. All 15 students were
      present throughout the session.
               In order to see if there was a pattern in student engagement, I put the data for my focus
      students in a chart (Figure 14). I noticed that in general, the higher performing students had a
      higher level of overall engagement than the lower performing students. However, different
      students were more engaged in certain parts of the intervention. For example, while the low
      performing male was not very engaged in writing and illustrating his poem, he was highly
      engaged in sharing it with his group. It was typical to see that different students were more
      engaged in different aspects of the poetry session. However, overall, students were on average
      highly engaged throughout the poetry session.




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                                Figure 14: Trial 1 Focus Student Engagement

               Based on the data I collected in Trial 1, it is difficult to come to any major conclusions.
      It appears that many students improved their scores during the poetry intervention. It is possible
      that repeating the quiz may have been helpful to some students, although they did not get back
      their first quiz before they took the second one. Most students used their textbook to help them
      find words to put on their poem, and rereading the material may have been a major contributing
      factor. Listening to their peers talk about the words during the poetry sharing and looking at
      illustrations that their peers drew and explained may have also helped some students grasp the
      material. However, the poetry session did not help all students. Looking specifically at my high
      performing focus students it is clear that the poems had little or no impact on some students.
      Because this is Trial 1, lack of familiarity with the format may have influenced some of their
      scores as well.

      Trial 2 – Heredity
              Trial 2 of the intervention followed virtually the same format as Trial 1. The content that
      was covered in this trial was Heredity. After five days of instruction and activities, students were
      given a quiz on December 6, 2006. After the quiz, we began a three-day poetry session. The
      words that were subjects of poems in this trial were Punnett Square, dominant trait, recessive
      trait and genetic variation. Figure 15 is a sample poem final draft. The subject of the poem was
      genetic variation.




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                                       Figure 15: Trial 2 sample poem

              I used the same rubric (Table 1) to grade the poems in order to assess understanding.
      Once again, I looked closely at my six focus students to assess their understanding of their
      assigned word. Of the focus students, the low performing, female student was absent during the
      poetry session, although she did take both the pre and post quizzes. Overall, I think the words
      were more difficult for students in this trial than in Trial 1 due to the science content being more
      abstract. Only one student, the high performing male student, received the maximum score on
      his poem. Students struggled the most on word choice (Table 4). This was typical of the rest of
      the class as well. There is a big difference in poem scores when comparing them to the scores in
      the previous trial, where all six focus students received the maximum score on word choice.
      Once again, I believe that the science content was the biggest factor. The vocabulary words were
      more abstract, which made them harder to describe and illustrate for most students.




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                                          Trial 2 Poem Scores
                                      Word choice     Format        Illustration    Overall
                                        (0 to 2)      (0 to 2)         (0 to 2)     (0 to 6)
                High, Female               1             2                1            4
                 High, Male                2             2                2            6
               Medium, Female              1             2                1            4
                Medium, Male               1             2                2            5
                Low, Female                -             -                -             -
                 Low, Male                 1             2                2            5
                                Table 4: Trial 2 Focus Student Poem Scores

             After the poetry session students were given the quiz again on December 8, 2006. This
      quiz had a similar format to the quiz in Trial 1, however, it had a maximum of twelve points
      (Figure 16).




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                                       Figure 16: Trial 2 sample quiz


              In order to determine the impact of the poetry session, I once again compared the class
      averages for both quizzes (Figure 17). Although the average for the second quiz was higher,
      74.3% compared to 82.05%, the standard deviations show that the scores were much more
      variable on the post quiz. This shows that although some students did improve substantially,
      others did worse on the post quiz.




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                                 Figure 17: Trial 2 Class averages on quizzes

              I also looked at each quiz question and compared the number of correct responses on
      each question before and after the poetry sessions (Figure 18). More students correctly
      responded to eight of twelve questions on the second quiz, and four questions had the same
      number of correct responses. None of the questions had less correct responses after the poetry
      session. The four questions that had the same number of correct responses were the four boxes
      in the Punnett Square (Figure 17). The starred questions on the graph show those that had
      answers that were used as subjects of poems. More students correctly answered all four of these
      questions after the poetry session than on the quiz before the session, with a total of nine more
      correct responses on these questions combined. In addition, students improved the most on
      question number seven, which asked them to compare two of the words that were subjects of
      poems. There were a total of five more correct responses on that question alone. This tells me
      that although students did not do as well on their poems as in Trial 1, they still improved on the
      quiz questions that had answers that were emphasized during the poetry session compared to
      those that were not emphasized. However, the improvement was not as substantial as in Trial 1.
      I believe there were two major factors contributing to this, first, the content was more difficult,
      as I described earlier, and second, the quiz may have been easier. Because students did so well
      before the poetry session, with a class average of 74%, there was not as much room for
      improvement as in Trial 1.




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                               Figure 18: Trial 2 Correct answers per question

              I also took a closer look at my six focus students’ scores on the two quizzes (Figure 19).
      My medium performing female student was not present during the first quiz but she did
      participate in the poetry session and take the post quiz. Interestingly, all five focus students who
      took the pre-quiz received the same score, a nine out of twelve. This was consistent with scores
      from the rest of the class. On the post quiz, three focus students improved: the low male student,
      the medium male student, and the high male student. The low female student’s score decreased
      on the post quiz and the high female student scored the same on both quizzes. Because the low
      performing, female student was absent throughout the poetry session, I am not surprised that her
      score decreased. As I mentioned above, I believe that the content and quiz difficulty were the
      main factors that student’s scores did not increase more. The whole class scored very high on
      the pre quiz because I may have designed a quiz that did not adequately assess student
      understanding of the content.




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                                    Figure 19: Trial 2 Focus student data

             As in Trial 1, I also rated each focus students’ engagement during the three aspects of the
      poetry session on a scale of 1 to 3 (with 3 being the most engaged (Figure 20). I found that the
      medium performing male student was most engaged throughout the session, and the medium
      performing female and low performing male were least engaged. I also noticed that students
      were most engaged in the poetry sharing portion of the session, and least engaged in the writing
      portion of the session. This was typical of the whole class.




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                                Figure 20: Trial 2 Focus Student Engagement

               Based on the class averages, the class as a whole did not improve significantly on the
      post quiz, but some individual students did improve a great deal. This affected the number of
      correct responses on each question, which shows me that more students had correct responses on
      most questions, especially those that were subjects of poems. I was not surprised that more
      students did not improve on their ability to fill in a Punnett Square, because they did not have
      any extra practice doing this during the poetry session. Although some students were assigned
      the term Punnett Square, and drew one on their poem, I do not think they actually practiced
      filling in a Punnett Square. I was very surprised that all five focus students scored the same on
      the pre quiz. After looking over the quizzes, I believe that I possibly made the quiz too easy, and
      the questions did not adequately show students’ understanding of the material. It is interesting
      that all three male focus students improved, while the female students did not. I do not think this
      is significant, however, because that was not the case in Trial 1, and only one of the three female
      focus students completed all of Trial 2. When looking at the pattern of my focus students’
      performance on both trials so far, it seems that perhaps the poetry is not helping my high female
      student, but may be helping both my low and medium performing male students. I do not see
      that my focus students’ performance based on previous academic performance is typical or can
      be generalized across the entire class. It looks like the poetry sessions are not helping one group
      of students more than others, for example low versus high performing students. But it does
      appear, based on focus student data, that engagement in the poetry session and poetry scores are
      the biggest indicators of quiz performance.

      Trial 3 – Meiosis & DNA
             Trial 3 followed the same format as the previous trials. It spanned from December 9
      through 20, 2006. The subject matter was Meiosis and DNA. I began by spending five days on


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      the material. Students read allowed, took Cornell notes, practiced saying and using new
      vocabulary in sentences, and did an activity where they extracted DNA from strawberries. After
      the five days of instruction, students took a quiz on the material and then were assigned one of
      five words to write a Cinquian poem on. The five vocabulary words were: genes, DNA,
      chromosome, meiosis, and sex cells. Students then did a three-day poetry session, exactly as in
      Trials 1 and 2. A sample final draft poem for Trial 3 is shown in Figure 21, the topic is DNA.




                                         Figure 21: Trial 3 Sample Poem

               I used the same rubric as in previous trials to assess understanding of the vocabulary
      (Table 1). I looked closely at the performance of the six focus students (Table 5). There was a
      large variation in scores on their poems, but most students used the correct format. This makes
      sense considering that this is their fourth attempt at writing a Cinquian poem. Word choices
      were difficult for some students. This was the main factor I looked at to determine
      understanding of the word, especially the word they chose for line 5 of the poem, the synonym. I
      was able to see major misconceptions in two of the focus students’ poems, which was typical of
      the rest of the class in this trial. I believe that the content in this trial was similar in difficulty to
      Trial 1, however, students were less engaged in the poetry writing by this point in the
      intervention and I believe that affected the quality of poems, especially in the word choice and
      illustration categories.




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                                           Trial 3 Poem Scores
                                   Word choice       Format    Illustration        Overall
                                     (0 to 2)        (0 to 2)     (0 to 2)         (0 to 6)
               High, Female             1               2            2                5
                High, Male              2               2            2                6
              Medium, Female            0               2            1                3
               Medium, Male             2               2            2                6
               Low, Female              0               0            1                1
                Low, Male               2               2            1                5
                                Table 5: Trial 3 Focus Student Poem Scores

         Students took the first quiz for Trial 3 on December 17, 2006 and the second quiz after the
      poetry session on December 20, 2006. This quiz had a similar format to the quizzes in Trials 1
      and 2, but was out of a maximum of 10 points. All fifteen students were present for the entire
      poetry session and both quizzes. Students took both quizzes under the same conditions as
      previously and both quizzes were graded using the same criteria (Figure 22).




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                                       Figure 22: Trial 3 Sample Quiz

               I compared the class average scores on the two quizzes to see if there was improvement
      after the poetry session (Figure 23). I found that Trial 3 had very few differences between
      quizzes, with an average of 80.7% on the first quiz and 85% on the second quiz. When looking
      at the standard deviations, it is apparent that students had only a very slight improvement after
      the poetry session. However, the average on both quizzes was higher than in previous trials,
      which may indicate better student understanding of the content in Trial 3.




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                               Figure 23: Trial 3 Class averages on quizzes

              I also wanted to see how students performed specifically on the questions that were
      asking about poem subjects. I analyzed the quiz by question and compared the number of
      correct responses before and after the poetry session. The questions starred on Figure 24 were
      the questions that were subjects of poems: question numbers 1, 4, 5, 6, and 7. Students
      performed about the same on these questions. Most of the improvement came on question
      number 9, which asked for an explanation of one of the poetry words: meiosis. There were three
      more correct responses on this question after the poetry session.




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                              Figure 24: Trial 3 Correct Responses by Question

              Finally, I took a closer look at my focus students’ quiz scores to see if the poetry session
      affected their understanding of the science content (Figure 25). I found that my focus students
      performed very similar to the rest of the class; there was not a great deal of difference between
      the two quizzes. This may be due to the quiz itself, which may not have assessed student
      knowledge to the degree that I had hoped.




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                                Figure 25: Trial 3 Focus Student Quiz Scores

          Finally, I recorded observations of my focus students’ engagement during the three parts of
      the poetry session: writing, illustrating, and sharing. Like in previous trials, students were rated
      on a scale of 1 to 3, with 3 being most engaged, during all three parts of the session (Figure 26).
      Typical of the rest of the class, my focus students were less engaged in writing their poems and
      more engaged in sharing in small groups.




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                        Figure 26: Trial 3 Observation of Focus Student Engagement

                                               Data Across Trials

      Achievement Data
              After all three trials were finished I compared the results across the three trials. First, in
      order to address the question of whether poems written about scientific vocabulary will affect
      student learning, I looked at the average poem scores across the three trials (Figure 27). All
      three scores are very similar. However, it is clear that students struggled the most when writing
      poems for Trial 2. I believe that this is mostly due to the difficulty of the content. Trials 1 and 3
      were based largely on nouns such as offspring, traits, genes, chromosomes, and DNA, while
      Trial 2 had more descriptive words, such as dominant, recessive, and genetic variation. This
      may have made these words harder to write poems about, as well as more difficult conceptually.




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                           Figure 27: Class Average Poem Scores Across Trials

              In order to really answer the question, I had to also look at student performance on
      quizzes before and after each poetry session (Figure 28). It appears that students improved the
      most during the poetry session in Trial 1. Trial 2 shows the smallest improvement, and this may
      be due to students’ difficulty with the poems during this trial. Perhaps the words were too
      difficult and so even writing a poem about them did not improve understanding for most
      students.




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                  Figure 28: Class Average Quiz Scores Before and After Poetry Sessions

      Observation Data
              In order to answer the question about whether student engagement can affect student
      learning, I looked at the overall engagement of my focus students in the three parts of the poetry
      session across all three trials (Figure 29). It is clear that engagement in poetry writing went
      down over time during the intervention. I think this may be due to the fact that students became
      used to writing the poems; it was no longer new and exciting. Engagement in illustrating stayed
      high throughout the intervention, which doesn’t surprise me based on students’ interest in art on
      the pre-intervention attitude survey (Figure 7). Students were most engaged during the sharing
      portion of each poetry session. I was very happy to see that students enjoyed this part of the
      intervention because of the increased learning potential when students, especially ELs, have the
      opportunity to say new words out loud (Kinsella, 2006).




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                    Figure 29: Observations of Focus Student Engagement Across Trials

      Attitude Data
              In order to see how students felt about the intervention I gave them the same survey
      before and after the complete intervention. The survey was given on November 17, 2006, before
      students had experienced a poetry session and then again on December 21, 2006 after the
      intervention was complete. Figure 30 shows a sample survey. The survey included ten
      strategies that students have used to learn vocabulary and asked students to rate each on a scale
      of 1 to 5 (1 being not helpful in learning new words, 5 being the very helpful). Students were
      given as much time as they needed to complete the survey and I answered any questions that
      students had about what each strategy was.




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                                   Figure 30: Vocabulary Attitude Survey
              While the data on all ten strategies was interesting, I chose to look closely at the three
      strategies that were particularly relevant to my intervention. These were “writing poems,”
      “drawing pictures”, and “talking about words in class” (writing, illustrating, and sharing
      Cinquain poems). Figures 31, 32, and 33 show the survey results of all three strategies,
      respectively.
              The results of the surveys show that although students were not as engaged in poetry
      writing over time (Figure 29), they did overwhelmingly think writing poems helped them learn
      vocabulary words after the intervention (Figure 31). A total of 56.8% of students rated “writing
      poems about words” as either sometimes helpful or very helpful before the intervention. After
      the intervention, this number jumped to 85.7% of students.




                              Figure 31: Students’ Attitudes – Writing Poems


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              Similar to “writing poems,” more students rated the strategies “drawing pictures of
      words” higher in the category of very helpful after the intervention. However, when combining
      the categories of sometimes helpful and very helpful together “drawing pictures” went from
      78.6% before the intervention to 78.4% after. Which showed that their attitudes about drawing
      pictures did not change very much during the intervention,




                                Figure 32: Students’ Attitudes – Illustrating

              For the category of “talking about words in class” 57.2% of students rated it a sometimes
      helpful or very helpful vocabulary strategy before the intervention, after the intervention 71.4%
      of students rated it either sometimes helpful or very helpful.




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                                  Figure 33: Students’ Attitudes – Sharing

                                                 Conclusions

      Overall Effects – Trends Across Data Types
               One of the trends that I noticed when looking at all of my data was that the science
      content made a difference in the effectiveness of the intervention. For example, of the three
      trials, Trial 2 had the most difficult content matter. During Trial 2, students were introduced to
      simple genetics. They learned about dominant and recessive alleles, as well as how to use
      Punnett Squares. The average poetry scores in Trial 2 were lower than in the over two trials, by
      about 15% (Figure 27). I believe this was due to the words being more difficult to write poems
      about. Trial 2 also had the smallest increase in average quiz scores after the intervention. The
      class average only increased by about 6%, and the standard deviation shows that the scores were
      much more variable after the intervention (Figure 30). Although achievement data does not
      show much improvement, students were still engaged throughout Trial 2. In fact, students were
      more engaged while sharing their poems in Trial 2 than in the other two trials (Figure 31). I
      think that although the words in Trial 2 were difficult, students still tried hard and many enjoyed
      writing, illustrating, and sharing their poems.
               Another trend I noticed was that students improved the most on the quiz, about 13%, and
      were most engaged in the poetry writing during Trial 1. I believe this may be due to the novelty
      of the intervention. Writing poems was new, and students put a lot of effort into writing their
      first poems correctly. As the intervention proceeded, student engagement in poetry writing went
      down, while engagement in the other aspects of the intervention, illustrating and sharing, stayed
      high (Figure 31). Because students put such effort into writing their poems in Trial 1, this may
      have helped improve their scores on the quiz in this trial, more than in the following trials.
      While the novelty of the intervention may have impacted student scores in Trial 1, it is
      interesting to note that the quiz scores, on both the pre and post quiz, in Trial 1 were lower on
      average than quiz scores Trials 2 and 3 (Figure 30). This may be due to students getting used to
      the quiz format, or differences in the difficulty of the quizzes across trials.


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      `        The quizzes were a very important part of my intervention that I would have liked to
      make more consistent. When looking back on my intervention, I believe some results are due to
      the difficulty of the different quizzes and the inconsistencies in the formats of the three quizzes.
      While I tried to make them similar, I think that the quiz in Trial 1 was most difficult, and the
      quizzes in Trials 2 and 3 were similar in difficulty to each other. Because the quiz in Trial 1 was
      more difficult, I believe it allowed for more growth during the poetry session. In Trials 2 and 3,
      students did well on the quizzes, average 74% and 80%, before the poetry, not leaving very
      much room for improvement (Figure 30).
               Finally, I noticed a trend in student attitudes throughout the intervention. The results of
      the attitude survey are pretty clear, most students felt that the poetry writing, illustrating, and
      sharing were helpful ways to learn new vocabulary. However, many students did not enjoy
      doing some of these activities, while others were enthusiastic participants throughout. In
      general, morale in poetry writing went down as the intervention went on. I believe that the three
      trials done consecutively became repetitious, and it might have been better to break them up over
      a longer period of time. After the intervention was complete, I have had several students ask on
      numerous occasions when I plan to assign poems again because they enjoyed them. This has
      made me feel good about the intervention because I believe I have found a way to teach new
      words that may be both beneficial and engaging to students.

      Effects on Focus Students
               The six focus students fell into three categories during the intervention: those whose quiz
      scores improved or stayed the same in the three trials, those whose quiz scores decreased or
      stayed the same in the three trials, and those whose results were variable due to absences during
      the intervention.
               Three students’ quiz scores improved or stayed the same in all three trials. These were
      the three male students: low, middle, and high performing. Of these three students, the medium
      and low performing males were affected more than the high performing male, who only
      improved in Trial 2. The medium performing, male improved the most. He did better on each
      post quiz, improving by 25%, 18%, and 10% in the three trials. When looking at his engagement
      data, this student received the maximum engagement score, a 3, in every aspect of each trial,
      except in writing his poem for Trial 3, when he received a 2 out of 3. His poems also received
      very high scores, a 6/6, 5/6, and 6/6 on his three poems, respectively. It seems that the medium
      performing, male student may have been impacted during the intervention because of his
      engagement in the poetry sessions, and high quality of work that he was creating. From my
      observations of all students during the intervention, I believe that the data gathered on the middle
      performing, male student is likely true for other students; those students who were engaged
      throughout the poetry sessions, and got high poetry scores, also improved on their quiz scores.
               The intervention actually seemed to hinder one student. The high performing, female
      student’s quiz scores decreased in one of the trials, and stayed the same in the other two. In fact
      her score dropped by 35% in Trial 1. When looking at her engagement over the three trials, she
      received an equal number of 3s and 2s. Her engagement was highest during the sharing portion
      of the sessions, and lowest during the illustrating portions. This student’s poems received
      average scores, a 5/6, 4/6, and 5/6 in the three trials. Interestingly, this student typed each of her
      final drafts and she found pictures online for two of her illustrations instead of making her own
      drawings. She was the only student that did this, and I believe that not making her own
      illustrations may have affected her overall learning.



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               The other two female students were absent during parts of Trial 2 due to suspensions so it
      is difficult to find trends within their data. However, the low performing female student was
      present for both the pre and post quizzes during Trial 2, and missed the entire poetry session.
      Her score dropped significantly during this time, which may indicate the poetry sessions were
      helpful in retaining information, if nothing else.

      Parent & Family Communication
              In order to incorporate students’ families into the intervention, I asked students to take
      home the final drafts of their poems to read to their parents or guardians as practice before the
      poetry sharing. Parents signed the back of the poem to indicate that their child had read it to
      them. I felt that this was another opportunity for students to read their poem and talk about their
      word aloud. It also got parents involved in their student’s academics, which is usually difficult
      for me because the majority of my EL parents do not speak English and I have to get a translator
      to speak to them. While I don’t have data to show that this had an impact on student learning, I
      believe, based on my observations, that this added step may have increased my student’s efforts
      in creating their poems. This added effort helped keep poem quality high, and I believe, had an
      impact on their learning as a result.

      Implications for EL Students
              Because my whole class is made up of English Language Learners, most of the
      conclusions drawn are specific to EL students. I believe that my intervention was successful
      because I looked closely at my class and what their needs were. It was important to me that
      students would be engaged in the intervention, because of the disconnect I saw between
      academic performance and the CELDT scores of my students. Focusing on my students’
      interests in art really got them excited about the process and they were proud of the work that
      they created.
              The other factor that was important for my intervention was English Language
      Development. I wanted my students to get as many opportunities as possible to use the academic
      vocabulary. The poetry sessions really gave students that chance. Looking back at my research,
      it would have been great to actually get a count of the number of times students were using the
      vocabulary properly, both written and oral, within a poetry session.
              While my intervention was not a typical EL strategy, I tired to incorporate the major ELD
      strategies into the intervention: such as using visual representations of vocabulary, scaffolding
      procedures, and using synonyms. I believe that my intervention successfully incorporated these
      strategies, while still being new and engaging for my EL students.

      Implications for My Teaching Practice
              This intervention has taught me a lot about my teaching. I have really learned the
      importance of knowing my students and using strategies specific for them. In the future I will
      continue to do the research to find out not only my student’s weaknesses, but also their strengths
      and interests to get them engaged in the content.
              I have also learned that even in a very small class of students with similar CELDT scores,
      my students are all very different. New strategies will help some and not others, so it is
      imperative that I always use a variety of strategies and continue to try new things within my
      teaching practice. While I did not find that I could generalize that my low, middle, or high
      performing students all were helped during my intervention, I did find that it consistently helped



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      those students who were engaged and producing high quality poems. This leads me to believe
      that student interest is just as important as where students stand academically.
              The intervention also gave me insight into my ability to create summative assessments
      that are consistent and truly assess student understanding of content. I will continue to work
      hard to improve this element of my teaching practice because it is extremely important for me to
      be aware of student understanding.
              Looking back on the intervention, I believe that it would have been beneficial for
      students to receive their final poems with comments back throughout the intervention. I chose to
      keep the poems and only return their scores because I did not want to lose the poems for my data
      analysis and conclusions. However, the formative assessment of getting feedback after each
      poetry session could potentially have improved student’s understanding of my expectations, and
      in turn, the quality of their poetry. In the future I plan to keep this in mind and try my best to
      give students back both my comments and their work.
              Finally, I plan to continue to use poetry within my teaching of science. I believe that it
      can be an effective way to bring together science content, student interests, and language
      development.




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                                                  References


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              Walders, Davi (2000) Poetry and Science Education. ERIC Digest. Report: EDO-SE-00-
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