21. An explanation of the water cycle

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Task details

Task details

Name of writing assessment task An explanation of the water cycle
EAL curriculum level range  B2, B3, C2, C3, C4
Text orientation Informative
Task type Cued response


Task specification

Task specification

Purpose  To assess students’ ability to explain a process: The water cycle
Description  Students are given a diagram of the water cycle. Learners use the diagram to explain the process in writing.
Assumed knowledge and description
  1. Content knowledge: understanding of the water cycle
  2. Text type, genre: informative, an explanation of the water cycle
  3. Linguistic structures and features:
    • present tense to explain a process
    • active and passive voices
    • time sequence: then, next, after…
  4. Vocabulary: key vocabulary in the water cycle: ground water, lakes, soil, the sea, water from ocean, to evaporate, to condense, precipitation, surface run off


Learning/teaching context

Learning/teaching context

Language centre/mainstream class Mainstream class – EAL support
Subject/key curriculum objectives, outcomes   Geography, Science
Topic/teaching unit  The water cycle
Assessment conditions
  1. Individual activity
  2. Formal/informal: formal
  3. Time limit: flexible
  4. Teacher intervention: limited to response to student request for clarification and encouragement 
  5. Access to resourcesdiagram of the water cycle; students may use their own personal dictionaries, classroom dictionaries
  6. Scaffolding (modelled/guided/independent support): guided
  7. Accommodations:
Notes
  • The assessment is done on students’ first draft.
  • Pre-assessment activities can be extended as appropriate for students.
  • The diagram of the water cycle is an example only. The diagram can be made simpler or more difficult according to the age and background understanding of the students. The topic of the cycle itself could be changed as long as the topic involves an illustrated cycle of some kind that the students are already familiar with and fully understand. For example, the life cycle of the frog or butterfly could be used. There is a selection of diagrams on the web to choose from.
  • The task could be adapted to be a cloze task if preferred.


Task implementation

Task implementation

STAGE ACTION STEPS
Pre-assessment activity
  • Teachers and students revise the water cycle and the vocabulary needed at each stage based on learning gained in lessons prior to the assessment.
  • Teacher distributes a diagram of the water cycle.
  • Using the diagram, students verbally explain the water cycle to each other.
Assessment activity
Post-assessment activity
  • In pairs or small groups students show each other their explanation of the water cycle and do self and peer feedback.
  • Give students time to improve and write a second draft.
  • Students illustrate their explanation.
  • Once the students’ work has been read, provide individual and whole class feedback on strengths and individual or global improvement steps.


Assessment criteria

TEAL Writing Task 21 – unmarked criteria [PDF]

TEAL Writing Task 21- unmarked criteria [Word]

An explanation of the purpose, nature and use of criteria sheets is available at 4. Using the assessment criteria.


Samples of student work


Biographical information:

Year: 5

Home language: Sudanese Arabic

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Biographical information:

Year: 5

Home language: Dinka

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Biographical information:

Year:  9

Home language: Chinese

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Biographical information:

Year: 10

Home language: Chinese

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Annotations and commentary

Purpose and nature of the task

The task involves the students in writing a paragraph describing the water cycle. They use a simple diagram to support them in their writing. This task assesses the students to write a basic information text, using structures such as present tense to explain a process, active voice and passive voices, time sequencers, such as then, next, after. The task also involves using the key vocabulary relevant to the water cycle, such as ground water, lakes, soil, the sea, water from ocean, to evaporate, to condense, precipitation, surface run off. This task is related to TEAL Oral Task 14: Describing a cycle.  

Commentary

Samples 1 and 2 were written by primary students, and Samples 3 and 4 were written by secondary school students. Their English language proficiency levels are different, but there writing also reflects differences in cognitive skills and understanding between primary and secondary students, and illustrate how texts reflect both language skills and the cognitive skills and understandings of the students who write them.


Biographical information:

Year: 5

Home language: Sudanese Arabic

Annotation Sample 1

Commentary 

This sample shows that the student understands the task.  The writer produces a text which tells the reader about the stages in the water cycle. By beginning and ending with the sea the structure of the text reflects the water cycle.

The first marked sentence is an attempted subheading.

The rest of the text is an extended run-on sentence. Verbs are consistently in the timeless present tense (turns, ranis, and gos) and subject-verb agreement is variable (the sun …make, it gose).

Although the pronoun ‘it’ is used to refer to rain, no pronoun is used for clouds, and first person ‘we’ is inappropriate. Some of the spelling errors are attempts at phonetic spelling (frash, gos, bake), while others show incorrect sound-letter sequence  (ranis, dose)

The  marked criteria sheet shows that the student meets most criteria at level 1 of performance.

The student’s language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level B2, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

Using this assessment to further learning

(Select the points you think are currently of most importance to the student.)

  1. Sentence structure

Ask the student to read the text aloud. When the student pauses, explain that this can indicate the end of the sentence. Add full stops and capital letters to show sentence punctuation. Alternatively, read the text to the student, pausing in appropriate places to emphasise the sentences.

2. Pronouns

Point out the correct use of it after when it rains. Explain how the pronoun it is used instead of the noun rain. Ask what pronoun could replace clouds at the beginning of the third line.

When the sun hits the sea, it causes evaporation.
Condensation makes clouds and then they turn grey and it rains.

3. Subject-verb-object (SVO) patterns

Show the SVO pattern using simple sentences. Explain the subject-verb agreement for singular and plural.

Subject

Verb

Object

The sun

hits

the sea.

Condensation

makes

cloud.

Clouds

make_

rain.

 

Give the student time and support to write up another draft to see if an improvement can be made on the selected issues above

Add the final draft to the students portfolio.


Biographical information:

Year:  5

Home language: DinkaAnnotation Sample 2

 

Commentary

This sample shows a basic understanding of the task and most processes involved in the water cycle.

The student has relied on teacher support (Thats called evaporation. …couses it To rain That’s called precipitation.).

Then and When are used to sequence events.

Simple factual statements (it gose Back into The oceane) are incorporated into the run on sentences.

Subject-verb agreement is accurate.

Punctuation is variable, with the letters t and b always written in the upper case at the beginning of words. Full stops are used intermittently, apostrophes of contraction are not used.

Some challenging words are spelt correctly (clouds, ground, precipitation), and others have been attempted (oceane, souced).

The marked criteria sheet shows that the student meets criteria at levels 2  of performance.

The student’s language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level B2, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

Using this assessment to further learning

(Select the points you think are currently of most importance to the student.)

  1. Sentence structure
  • Ask the student to read the text aloud. When she pauses, explain this indicates the end of the sentence. Add full stops and capital letters to show sentence punctuation.

2.  Sentence punctuation

  • Once sentences are indicated by full stops, circle upper case letters that have been used appropriately. Ask the student to correct other uses of upper case that are incorrect.

3. Apostrophes in contractions

  • Show the student how apostrophes are used to indicate a missing letter in contractions.

Two words

Contraction

That is.

That’s

That is called….

That’s called

It is raining.

It’s raining

He is swimming.

He’s swimming.

Give the student time and support to write up another draft to see if she can improve on the selected issues above

Add the final draft to her portfolio.


Biographical information:

Year:  9

Home language: Chinese

 

Annotation Sample 3

Commentary

The text clearly explains all the processes of the water cycle. Some elaboration is included (Water droplets precipitate rain and ice crystals precipitate as snow).

Timeless present tense is used almost exclusively (will is used once to explain cause and effect), although some subject-verb agreement is incorrect (Lakes and oceans has..). Third person pronouns are used appropriately, however, the explanation register would be improved without the use of we, and by avoiding colloquial language such as a lot of and can’t stay in the air.

The marked criteria sheet shows that the student meets most criteria at levels 2 and 3 of performance.

The student’s language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level C2, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

Using this assessment to further learning

(Select the points you think are currently of most importance to the student.)

  1. Colloquial to formal

Ask the student to read the text and identify expressions that sound too informal or like spoken language for an explanation text.

Use the table to suggest alternative expressions.

 

Spoken

Formal (written)

A lot of water

Stay in the air

We call this is evaporation.

When water vapour becomes cold

Much, a large quantity of water

Remain in the air

This is called evaporation./This is the process of evaporation.

When water vapour cools

 

2. Subject-verb agreement

To increase accuracy with subject-verb agreement complete a table to identify whether the subject is singular or plural, and circle the appropriate verb form.

Singular/plural

Subject

Verb

 

Lakes and oceans

has/have

 

Precipitation

go/goes

 

Water vapour

become/becomes

3. Complex sentences

Point out the correct sentence beginning with a dependent clause (When water vapour….). Ask the student to read the next two marked sentences aloud. Show how the ideas are connected. Discuss the sentence patterns in the first two rows, and ask the student to complete the remaining complex sentences, adding the main clause at either the beginning or the end of the sentence.

 

Main clause

Dependent clause

Main clause

 

If water droplets or ice crystals become too heavy,

they are precipitated.

Water droplets or ice crystals are precipitated,

if they become too heavy.

 
 

When water vapour becomes cold,

 
 

when water vapour becomes cold.

 

As the water vapour rises,

as the water vapour rises.

 

Give the student time and support to write up another draft to see if she can improve on the selected issues above

Add the final draft to their portfolio.


Biographical information:

Year: 10

Home language: Chinese

Annotatoin Sample 4

Commentary

Despite grammatical errors, the student communicates well and shows a good understanding of the task requirements.

Information is sequenced logically and temporal and causal indicators make the meaning consistently clear.

The concluding three sentences elaborate on his understanding of the ongoing and extended nature of the process.

Sentence types vary, including a complex sentence with a dependent clause embedded in the main clause, (Sometimes, if rain be frozen, its become hail.). SVO pattern is used inconsistently, and  subject-verb agreement is incorrect. Timeless present tense is mainly used and passive voice is attempted (they are cool off; if rain be frozen; any of it is frozen). All spelling is correct, including challenging words.

The student’s ability to construct the text is stronger than his control of grammatical sentences. Most criteria met at level 4 are related to the structure and nature of the text, while those at level 3 relate more sentence-level grammar.

The marked criteria sheet shows that the student meets criteria at level 3 of performance.

The student’s language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level C3, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

 

Using this assessment to further learning

(Select the points you think are currently of most importance to the student.)

  1. Subject verb agreement

Show the student the chart below and see if he can identify and circle which verb option is correct and ask him to explain why. Clarify any gaps he has about this.

Subject

Verb

The rest of the sentence

The liquid water

go / goes

into the air

The gas

become / becomes

water droplets

The clouds

go / goes

made…

The water droplets

become / becomes

released..

Water

melt / melts

frozen..

2. More technical expressions

Ask the student to look at the table below and to see if he can add the more technical expressions to his text.

In text

More technical vocabulary

To go into air

To turn into vapour

To go up into the atmosphere

To rise into the atmosphere

To go back to the river

To return to the river

To go back to liquid

To return to liquid

3. Passive voice

Remind the student that sentences can either be in the active or passive voice.

A useful rule of thumb is: When we use the active voice we want to focus on the DOER of the verb NOT on the ‘receiver’.

So, the DOER of the verb goes in front position:

DOER (front position)

VERB

RECEIVER (end position)

Paul

Water droplets

Water droplets

Ice crystals

drives

form

form

form

the car

clouds

rain

snow

 

A useful rule of thumb is: We use the passive voice when we want to focus on the RECEIVER of the action NOT on the ‘doer’. SO the RECEIVER of the verb goes in front position and we make the verb passive by adding a form of the verb ‘to be’ + ‘pp’

RECEIVER (front position)

VERB

DOER (end position)

The car

Clouds

Rain

Snow

is  driven

are formed

is formed

is formed

by Paul

by water droplets

by water droplets

by ice crystals

Also point out the following as ‘chunks’ of language rather than trying to explain it using the above tables. Explain that we use ‘This’ rather than ‘it’ to refer back to a process, for example:

This is called evaporation

This is called condensation

This is called precipitation

4. The use of some and any

The general rule of thumb is that we use some in statements and ‘any’ in questions and negatives. This might be a useful rule of thumb to point out here to see if the student can self correct the use of ‘any’ in her text: ‘Not all of the water returns to liquid. Any of it is frozen’.

Give the student time and support to write up another draft to see if he can improve on the subject verb agreement and/or technical expressions, and/or the use of the passive voice and/or the use of ‘this’ rather than ‘it’ to refer to a process and/or  the use of ‘some in statement forms.

Add the final draft to his portfolio.


 


 

 

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