Reflection: Staircase of Complexity Measurement: Volume - Section 1: Engage


Scientific instruction is challenging! One of the challenges that complicates student understanding is the problem of "close confusers". Typically, close confusers are words that look or sound similar. "Mass" and "matter" is an example I run across often. While these words look and sound similar, the challenge in science is not only that the words themselves are similar, but that the concepts are so closely related that it is difficult to differentiate between the two. There are tons of examples of discrete concepts that have overlapping edges. In fact, in my state, one of our standards is that students will be able to: compare and contrast mass, weight, volume and density! Yikes! Here are a few ideas to help solve the conundrum of the close confuser:

1) Word study: Have students conduct word studies of close confusers. A strategy for word study is to complete Frayer Models for the confused concepts. For more about Frayer models, visit: Classroom Strategy Frayer Model. Frayer models are an excellent tool for organizing conceptual information.

2) Concrete examples and multiple representations: Find ways for students to observe concrete examples of close confusers. Paired with discussion, students can start to tease out the subtle differences. These examples should be represented multiple ways (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) and multiple times.

3) Repetitive practice: Students need to practice with concepts more than once and different ways. For example, when students complete the investigations of volume in this lesson, they roll right into density investigations where they will need to apply their knowledge. Interestingly, students who seemed proficient during the volume investigations often have difficulty using their skills and understanding in applied situations. By offering additional practice, they are working towards flexibility and depth in their understanding.

4) Knowledge of misconceptions/alternate conceptions: knowing which concepts might be confused prior to instruction can lead to more efficient instructional choices. Prior knowledge of these concepts comes from experience and research. There are many resources to help identify these concepts: Operation Physics.

  What to Do About Close Confusers?
  Staircase of Complexity: What to Do About Close Confusers?
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Measurement: Volume

Unit 4: Measuring Matter
Lesson 4 of 7

Objective: SWBAT quantify matter by measuring the volume of objects using metric units and three different methods.

Big Idea: The concept of volume is fundamental to identifying and describing matter. Students building a beginning understanding of mass by exploring the concept through words, diagrams and measurements.

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