Everybody Writes

This is a ubiquitous technique that I’ve been aching to try on a regular basis.  The technique is in essence exactly as it sounds.  Students are given a prompt and everyone writes about it.  Many teachers use Everybody Writes as a closure piece but it can appear anywhere in a lesson.  I chose to do it after an activity on Newton’s 3rd Law as a type of closure and ticket out.  Each class had at least 5 minutes of writing where most managed 4-5 sentences.

For the activity two students sit on skateboards (criss, cross, applesauce) facing each other.  I borrow both a 4 kg and 10 kg medicine ball from the weight room that they toss to each other.  We vary the mass of students so that a student of little mass throws the ball to one of greater mass.  Students should notice from the activity that as they push the ball to make it accelerate to the other student, they in turn also accelerate in the opposite direction.  They push the ball but the ball also pushes them:  Newton’s 3rd Law.

I put the prompt on the board which read something like, “How did the activity with the skateboards show Newton’s 3rd Law?  When a student threw the large ball what happened?  How did the mass of the student change the results?”

That day I had many great responses and all students turned something in (this is in itself remarkable).  Based on the results of the test on Newton’s Laws this week, though, nothing set in from that activity for most students.  Sorting out how to improve that lesson is the hard part.  Where did it go wrong?  Was it that students were too excited about the throwing/skateboard bit that they failed to glean any of the science from it?  Should I do the Everybody writes the next day for a warm-up and encourage some carry-over from the previous day?  Do I just need more activities and materials for the topic?

I’ll be trying Everybody Writes again this week with gravity.  More of a general “write as much as you can remember about gravity” prompt this time.