What Else Do Scientists Notice

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SWBAT identify cause and effect in a simple experiment.

Big Idea

Scientists often rely on cause and effect to figure out how something works. Students will attempt to analyze and explain the concepts of cause and effect.

The I Can Statement

3 minutes

In order to help students to understand what is expected of them in this lesson and to help them assess their own understanding, I use an I Can statement. 

I post the I can statement on the board. I ask students to read it with me. It says, "I can analyze which is the cause and which is the effect in an experiment and explain my thinking."

I help students to understand that analyze means to study the materials and then decide which is the cause and which is the effect. 

Background Information

A cause is the reason that something happens. An effect is what happens because of the cause. A cause might be an alarm clock ringing and the effect would be waking someone up. Students are familiar with the results or effects of different actions such as you go out in the sun without sunblock, you get a sunburn. They may be less familiar with the terms cause and effect. 

Students need to know that one cause may have multiple effects. If I am a mother and I forget to set the alarm clock there are several effects, I get up late, I don't have time to make breakfast for everyone, my children may miss the bus, and I may be late to work. 

Clue words such as because, as a result, if..then help to identify cause and effect.

Brainpop Jr. at www.brainpopjr.com has a movie on cause and effect for young students. There are also many literature connections to cause and effect. Students may benefit from reading or listening to stories where something happens and there is an effect. 

Introducing Cause and Effect

10 minutes

I ring the bell to signal the beginning of the science block. I ask students to put away all pencils, crayons and other things that may be on their desks. 

I ask, "What happens when I ring the bell in the room?" (we are quiet, we need to listen, etc.). "Right, so my ringing the bell reminds you to be quiet. What happens when I blow my whistle on the playground?" (we all come, we line up, etc.). "You are right again. So when I ring the bell or blow my whistle, you all stop what you are doing and come or quiet down or both. Can you think of something you do that causes someone to change what they are doing?" I take some suggestions here. Students may suggest that when they turn of the tv a brother gets mad. When they tag a friend, the friend chases them.

"Today we are going to look at some things we can do and see if anything changes. Do you remember the I can statement said (and I point to it) I can decide which is the cause and which is the effect, well today that is what we are going to do, but first we need to make sure we know what cause and effect mean. Can anyone tell me what  the word cause means?" (I am looking for the idea that a cause makes something happen. If no one can give me a definition I will ask some probing questions going back to my examples of the bell and the whistle and asking what do you think the cause was.)

Next I ask, "can anyone tell me what effect means?" (Again I will take suggestions but getting at the idea that an effect is what happens after you do something. I can go back to my examples as needed.) I praise students for trying to answer the question, because I want them to know that I respect their bravery in taking a risk and I don't expect there to be just 1 right answer. I honor the parts of their answers that are correct and I thank them for trying by saying, "yes, you have a good idea about what an effect is. Thank you so much for sharing that with us." In this very early lesson of the year students are beginning to learn how to construct explanations of their thinking (SP6) by answering the questions. 

"Ok so now we have a good idea about what cause and effect mean, so we are going to try some experiments to see if we can figure out the cause and the effect in each case. Sometimes scientists find the cause and effect really easy, but sometimes it is more complicated. This year we will look at lots of things and we might find patterns like we did last time, and we might also find causes and effects. Scientists really have a lot to figure out in their jobs." 

"I would like you to stand up and stretch while you count backwards from 25 to 1 and then sit down and be ready to listen to what each center will have."

Experiment Centers

30 minutes

Today there are 3 centers. Students rotate through the 3 centers. I divide the students up so that there are 6 in each group. I ring the bell after approximately 10 minutes at each center. Students will be carrying out investigations today that I have designed (SP3). They will design their own investigations in a future lesson. 

"Ok, is everyone ready to listen? Good, I am going to explain the 3 centers. At each one you will need to record what you think the cause is and what you think the effect is on your science notebook page." (I have a 3 hole notebook for each student so I can give them a science notebook page for different experiments. I am hoping that students will be able to give explanations for what they record when we gather at the end of the period. SP6) I want students to analyze simple experiments today to determine what was the cause of an effect, so in center 1 the cause of rolling the ball should cause 1 or more of the bottles to fall over, in center 2 the cause of touching the milk mixture with the liquid dish soap should cause the food coloring to spread and mix, and in center 3 the cause of bumping the table should cause the blocks to fall. I am asking students to analyze the data they see and to construct an explanation of what they see happening cause and effect recording page.

Center 1: Here you will  work in partners of two. One of you will set up 3 empty water bottles on one of  the masking tape Xs. The other person will roll the small ball towards the bottles. In your journal, record what happens and label which was the cause and which was the effect. You can switch jobs as many times as you want until I ring the bell. 

Center 2: Again you will work in partners. You are going to work together to pour a little milk onto a plate. Next I want you to add 2 drops of food coloring (1 each). Finally I want you to dip a cotton swab into the liquid dish soap and touch the food coloring. Record what happens and what is the cause and what is the effect. Chemical Reaction Quality Journal PageIncomplete Page

Center 3: Each set of partners will work at a different desk. To begin with the first partner will build with the base ten blocks on the desk while your partner counts to 40. When your partner gets to 40 you must stop building. After counting to 10, your partner will lightly (and I mean lightly or gently) bump the desk. Record what happens and then switch jobs. Be sure to tell what is the cause and what is the effect at this center. Identifying Cause and EffectAcceptable Journal Page

Does anyone have any questions? (I wait for students to have time to think of their questions).  The directions are posted at each center. You can also ask me if you are not sure what to do. I will be rotating around the room to answer questions and to see what you are noticing about cause and effect.

Discussion and Reflection

25 minutes

After the last center is complete, I ask students to clean up the center they are at, take their journals and return to their seats. I tell them they will have 2 minutes to do this. At the end of 2 minutes I call their attention by saying "Class" 3 times in funny voices. They have been taught to respond with "Yes" in the same funny voices. Now everyone is ready to listen.

"You have all worked hard today at the 3 centers. I noticed that everyone was remembering to record their observations and the cause and effect on their journal pages. Now we are going to share that information. I have put a chart up on the easel. It lists the 3 experiments. As soon as I give directions I would like you to go back to your partner. You will find 6 pieces of paper at one of your seats. On three of the papers would one of you write or draw the causes for the 3 experiments and on the other 3 papers would the other partner draw or write the effects. I will give you 5 minutes to do this. You do not need fancy pictures, sketches are appropriate here." While they are working I put 6 pieces of tape beside each partner group.

After 5 minutes I clap my hands in a pattern and students repeat the pattern. "Ok, now when I call your group I would like you to come up and put your causes and effects in the right column for each experiment." I demonstrate what I mean then call up 4 people at a time to tape their pictures/words under the cause and effect headings for each experiment.

When everyone has finished this, I ask students to look at the chart we just made. I read any labels or if there are pictures that are unclear, I ask for someone to help me share causes and effects. It is my hope that there will be consistency across their decisions, but I do not expect 100% agreement here. Disagreement will give students a chance to defend their decisions when I ask students what they notice and then ask students to clarify their thinking for us. I remind students that there are no right and wrong answers here, because we do see things differently as all scientists do so we need to be respectful listeners as people share their thoughts. (SP6). 

The class discussion may involve patterns depending on student explanations and choices of cause and effect. I watch for this because it gives me a way to tie to previous learning.  One of the cross cutting concepts involved in this lesson is that events have causes the generate observable patterns. 

I allow time for all students to share their thinking and I thank each one for sharing with us. I also note any misconceptions about cause and effect on my clipboard because I will want to address these in future lessons. I remember that my goal is for students to identify cause and effect, and if this is difficult for some students, as I observe and listen to their thinking I want to assess that and note what direction my next lesson may need to go in.



5 minutes

I ask students to reread the I Can statement with me. It says, " I can decide which is the cause and which is the effect in an experiment." I ask students for a thumbs up if they feel that they met this goal. I also ask for a thumbs up if students feel they are still confused about cause and effect. I reassure students that it is ok to still be confused because we will do more in a future  lesson. These questions also add to my formative assessment of the concept of cause and effect.