A great deal of the focus on my Common Core Curriculum this year is based on volume and students' ability to measure it. Volume is one of the three critical areas for fifth grade students.
Making sure my students recognize volume as an attribute of three-dimensional space, and understand how and what units to measure volume must come before teaching the algorithm for computing volume.
This lesson focuses students' thinking of volume as something that can have substance or be filled. I want the students to have this context later, when we are sitting in the classroom using the algorithm.
Students begin by finding and illustrating real life items in two categories - 2-dimensional and dimensional (5.G.3 and building toward 5.MD.3). Students will go outside for this lesson. As this is an active class, I know I need to work with appropriate behavior as well as the academics.
I set expectations for both in the inclusion section. What better than to go outside to find geometric shapes on a wonderful day! And you might notice the black and orange clothes in the pictures - today is Halloween and students are full of energy!
My students are really excited today because they love scavenger hunts, especially ones that are outside. My goal is to set them up for successful learning and behavior. I start with an inclusion question. "What do you know about lines and shapes? Discuss in your groups."
While the discussion goes on, I move around the room, listening but not participating. My goal is for students to do their own thinking, to help one another, and to resolve conflicts or disagreements on their own. I can use nonverbal cues to support individuals who may look to me. I will intervene if absolutely needed. Today, I over hear one student (a fifth grader) pointing out the vocabulary words I have on the board.
Inclusion in my classroom is more than including my special needs students. It is a step in a process where I help students connect to their prior knowledge (geometric properties today) and give them the opportunity to share with each other - using clear and precise language in their discussions with others and in their own reasoning (MP6). Discussions can start when and where students have concrete referents to explain their thinking of "how" and "why". In explaining their thinking and responding to others' thinking (MP3), students grow their knowledge and skills.
Inclusion also connects my lessons with the first of the 5 E's - the Engage phase. During inclusion, students:
1. Make connections between past and present learning experiences
2. Anticipate activities and focus students' thinking on the learning outcomes of current activities. Students should become mentally engaged in the concept, process, or skill to be learned.
Exploration is one of the 5 E's, which is a constructivist approach to learning wherein learners build or construct new ideas on the foundation of prior knowledge.
Exploration is the phase where students share in experience(s). They identify and develop concepts and actively explore their environment. Because volume is one of the 5th grades 3 Critical Areas, I am starting with the basics to clear up any confusion between 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional shapes. I do this by having the students find, and sketch, objects outdoors.
As soon as the students filter outside I hear talk of "I've found a rectangle in the library window!" "I found one in the classroom windows!" A great deal is about 2-dimensional figures so I guide the students by asking, "Do you see a shape that is like a rectangle but could hold water or even something big enough for my morning cup of coffee? It will need to be really big!"
A student notices the small rectangular prism shaped columns in the middle of the grass amphitheater. This question starts many discussions between the students where they have to support why they think this shape does or does not fit the attributes of the different shapes. I hear no confusion on what has volume and what does not. (MP6)
My classroom is a multiage setting, with 4th and 5th graders. I know my current 4th graders have been taught about 3D shapes and the sides, edges and faces. I also know my 5th graders learned about this last year because they have cycled with me - but it doesn't mean students have held this knowledge in their long term memory. I start to hear talk (MP6) faces in 3D shapes. I encourage the students who start the talk to count the faces, edges and vertices on the rectangular prisms and cubes they have found to label heir illustrations.
I've walk around and check in with every student, seeing that every student has drawn pictures of the shapes. We couldn't find a cone or a pyramid, but the students who could draw them without a model added them to their papers. These shapes are also on this week's homework and I remind students to make sure they look extra hard for them at home. On Friday, we will share these during our homework check. Be sure to check out the student homework examples to see what they found!
Processing or reflecting on experiences is a valuable tool to increase retention but it is not the only tool we have to make lessons "sticky". Working collaboratively also increases retention of information and when combined with reflection produces 87% higher achievement with no loss of the retained knowledge after three weeks. This wonderful fact is from a study by Stuart Yeager, Roger Johnson, David Johnson, and Bill Snider in The Impact of Group Processing on Achievement in Cooperative Learning Groups.
Today student behavior is so successful, I want to celebrate it. When we return to the classroom, we share our reflections. Reflection questions include a quick check to see if students know the difference between 2D and 3D objects.
Reflection 1, 2, 3
1. Personal: How did you help our class work so well outside today?
Responses: I worked hard to not get distracted and when my friend was distracted I asked them a question like did you find a cone? (MP6)
This was fun and I like working outside so I know if we are good we can do it more.
2. Social: How did this activity help the class work together?
We were able to get up and walk around and share. We were quiet because we want to do this again. I had to remind my friend we needed to be respectful to the other classrooms.
3. Content/Thinking: What is the main single difference between the two types of shapes?
One group is flat and the other can hold a lot of coffee for you! 3D shapes have volume and 2D shapes do not. (5.MD.3)