This lesson is a content lesson and not in inquiry based lesson. Because systems are a grouping of standards on their on in Washington State, it is important to make sure that teachers explicitly teach the concept of what a system is. It is difficult for teachers to get materials to teach a complete system with parts missing, which is why this lesson works well.
This lesson is rooted in Washington State science standards, but also, in 2-PS1-3. Although, this standard does not go into the depth that the Washington State standards do, it still focuses on parts and wholes and the function of those parts. Moreover, a teacher can bring Disciplinary Core Ideas when focusing on PS1-A, bullet two and three. Both of these bullets describe properties of objects, their purposes, and the design of pieces creating a whole object.
I ask my students to join me at our meeting place in the classroom. When all the children are settled and sitting quietly and prepared to listen, I show them the cover of the book in my hands. It is a routine for the children to make predictions any time we read a new or unfamiliar book.
I ask the children to make a silent prediction in their minds about the content of the book. I remind the children that I am going to read the story and would appreciate their great listening skills throughout the entire story.
I explain that this story will be important for our lesson today.
I read the story completely through without stopping.
The main character in the story is a funny "uninventor" who removes important elements of objects other characters in the story are using. Each time an element is removed, the illustrations show what happens to the system that needs it with funny results.
I point to illustrations every time a new element in the story is removed. I don't say anything, just continue to read and point to illustrations, allowing the children to develop their own thoughts about the systems. This funny story is a great example of Crosscutting Concept, Energy and Matter.
When I am finished with the story, I ask the children, "Oh! my can you believe this? What would happen in our world if this happened? Imagine you were brushing your teeth getting ready for school and the Univentor shows up in your bathroom next to you. All of sudden, she uninvents the bristles on your toothbrush!!! How would you be able to brush your teeth?"
I make sure the children have at least two minutes to think this little puzzle through (Chunk and Chew stategy - Art Costa). Then I ask them to turn and talk to a shoulder buddy (someone sitting close to them) and have some discussion about what they would do without part of their toothbrush.
When the conversation dies down (about three to four minutes), I explain to the students that we are going to talk about something called systems and that I would like to them to return to their desks and face the screen.
My laptop is ready and prepared with the Systems Power Point ready to go. I created the power point so that I could demonstrate to my students, with visuals, what a system is. It really seems as though it would be easy to explain this, but thinking about the ELL students and their lack of language makes it more challenging. I want to make sure that all the students can visualize what a system would look like with or without elements to that system.
I begin with slide one, it shows a picture of a pencil. It is simple and clean.
"Boys and girls, I know that all of you know what this is. We are going to look at some pictures of this pencil, but is going to be a bit different on every slide. Let's look and see what we are going to learn from this."
"Ok, look at slide two...This slide shows us the first standard that we are going to learn about with this lesson. Remember the reason we are learning about all of our new ideas, is because they are connected to our standards. The language that is on this screen is pretty grown-up language. So let's spend a bit of time talking about what it means. I read the standard to the children and begin to break down the language."
"Remember when we read our story about Og the Dog, the Univentor kept taking parts away from different objects in the story. Well, a system has to be made up of all the parts. That is what this language means. If this pencil is missing any of it's parts, it can't be a complete system. Give me a thumbs up if that makes sense in your mind? If not, give me a thumbs down."
"Notice what the pencil looks like. Something really looks wrong with this picture. Does anyone else see it? Turn to your shoulder buddy and share with them what you notice." After a couple minutes of talk time, I ring the classroom bell and ask for team leaders to stand and share their teams ideas. Cooperative learning teams are a great way to quickly get a handle on the class understandings of what we are learning.
In slide three, we move to another standard. Each of these standards are carefully crafted to scaffold upon the previous standard. I really think it is brilliant the way they build upon one another.
"OK, look at this one, look very closely. Something is wrong with this slide. Can you tell what is wrong with it? Something is missing. If you think you know what it is, raise your hand?" I count to thirty in my head, this allows me to make sure the children have time to really observe the screen without me talking. "What do you think is missing?" "yes, you are right, the eraser is gone."
"Now if you look at the language in the standard it tells us what happens if a part of a system is missing. Read it with me...."A whole object, plant, or animals may not continue to function the same way if some of its parts are missing."
"Let's ponder this a bit, can a pencil still do what we want it to if it doesn't have an eraser?"
"That is what this standard means."
"Ok, we are cruising along. Here is another way to look at this. We have another standard. Look at the pencil this time. Wow!! It is really a mess. What happened to it?"
Students choral share different ideas...
Slide 4..."Wow! this one is really torn apart. Let's read the words in this standard." Class reads together with me. "Does anyone think they understand this one?" I wait for any suggestions and ideas that the students may have.
"Well, look at this picture...the standards says that none of these parts can do what the object can by itself. That seems pretty obvious to me. Give me a thumbs up or down if you understand this standard."
Slide 5..."Oh!! Boy! this pencil is really confused. It's parts are all out of order. Do you think it will be able to function if it is doesn't have it's pieces in the right places?"
Slide 6..."Last one, what do you notice about the pencil and the crayon? This standards says that objects that are similar can do the same job. I think most of us know that crayons and pencils can both do what?"
"Write or color." "Yes, that's right."
It seems like alot of my talking through this lesson. However, I try to build in lots of opportunities for the children to share ideas with each other and me. I am careful not to do the same type of conversation. This keeps it fresh and the children have to be ready for anything.
Slide 7, is my chance to see if the children are able to apply the standards we just discussed.
"Alright boys and girls, I am wondering if you can think of a system now that might fit all these new standards we have just talked about. I would really like it if you could put your heads together (Kagan Cooperative Learning) come up with one system that you could share with the class. Your table leaders will be able to share out in a few minutes after you have had a chance to have some dialogue."
By now the kids have learned the routine of table leaders and speaking. This is a practice that is used widely throughout my school district. And all students are very familiar with it, from grade 1 through middle school.
This part of the lesson is done the next day. I will do it at the beginning of my science time block.
I want to know if the children have internalized the discussion from the previous day with the conversations about systems. So I use this Is it a System science probe from Page Keeleys work. This probe is created for higher level students, so I have taken the page and adapted it down just a bit for my students.
I take home the pages with me and read them over later. When I read them, I will look for similarities in the children's ideas and answers. I make three piles of papers, based on the answers. I use those ideas and answers to help me know if the children really were able to understand the concept or not.
I won't go back and reteach this lesson, because the concept of systems will be continually brought up through the course of the school year. However, knowing who is on the right track and close will help me in teaching later on.