This is not an inquiry lesson, but rather the introduction to a unit. It is content based.
This is the beginning lesson in a thematic unit on insects. Every unit begins with this same format. It is a format from the Understanding by Design backwards planning created by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe.
GRASPS is an acronym that is used to create a project based lesson. The concept is to create a real world problem that can be used as a teaching tool for the classroom. I have taken the acronym and adapted it a bit to fit as a lead in to a thematic unit. I like to use it as a way to show my students where we are going in the unit, why we are learning about the concept and how we will know we are successful.
The letters within the acronym stand for:
G - Goal - the reason for the unit
R - Role - putting ourselves into a real world job to accomplish the goal (In the 'role' section, I choose a scientist that would be the scientist responsible for investigating and researching the concept).
A - Audience - the audience that we will share all our learning with
S - Situation - why are we learning about this unit? (The 'situation' section gives the students the why. It includes the NGSS standards that will be the focus of the learning).
P - Product - what will we create to show we are learning?
S - Standard for Success - how will we know we are successful? (The "standard for success' section are the three behavior standards my building uses for students to self-evaluate their learning).
In order to adapt this to fit my unit, I have changed the meaning of the letters to accommodate the unit.
In my teaching sequence, I teach the unit on inquiry prior to teaching this unit on insects. I have spent several weeks carefully laying ground work to explicitly teach process skills.
"Well, scientists, we have learned so much about all those skills that scientists need to be great scientists. It is time for us to begin our very first unit. Before we begin the learning, I want to see what you know about this theme. I would like it if you would please get out our clickers and answer a few questions."
Table leaders (the student in charge of the table team for the day) get the containers housing our clickers and pass them out to their teammates. I have the receiver ready and the Smart Board questions ready to go.
Students are sitting at their desks in their table teams. When using our clickers, it is best if they are spread equally around the classroom. This makes it easier for the clicker receiver that is connected to my computer, to receive the answers the children key into the clickers.
The Pre-assessment Quiz is simple, it has only five questions.
Asking questions of the students in this way, is a quick and simple way for me to gather data prior to teaching the unit. I work hard to make sure the questions I have asked are related to the standards that I will be teaching. I want to know what the children know about the subject. The questions are multiple choice and based on training that I have received in the past about how to construct quality multiple choice questions.
One answer is the obvious choice, one is a distractor (could be the choice, but is tricky) and one is obviously not the option.
The children already know the routine for using the clickers and key in to the system so we can begin.
"Thank you for answering those questions. I don't think they were too complicated for you. Now, we are going to begin the unit. Each time we begin a new unit, it will always begin like this. I would like you to turn your body and your eyes and look at the screen again. I want to show you something that is brand new for us. It is called a 'GRASPS.' Each of the letters in the word GRASPS stand for a special something we are going to do. Let me show you what I mean."
I have the Insect GRASPS ready to go and slowly go through each slide.
Slide one: The title slide shows the title of the slide show and has clip art with insects. This is a clue.
"Boys and girls, look at this slide and make a prediction what you think this slide show may be about. You know how to make a prediction, because we have practiced making predictions. Turn to your shoulder buddy and share with them what you believe the topic may be about."
Just as in reading, science predictions are important for students to make. They help solidify prior knowledge and offer connections between what the scientist may already know about the content.
Slide two: This slide is the Goal, the 'G' in GRASPS. Our goal in this unit will be to learn all that we can about insects and how valuable they are to our environment. This is the what of the unit. They are particularly important to the region I live in. My community is a farming and orchard community that grows many varieties of fruit. Our harvests depend on insects to help pollinate and create natural pesticides for our sustainability. Which leads to and builds background knowledge for an upcoming unit that is a social studies standard in my state).
Slide three: This is the Role, the 'R' in GRASPS. I explain to the children that during this unit, we are going to become scientists who study insects. I pause for a moment to let that thought sink in. It directly relates to the prediction they made just minutes before.
"There are many different types of scientists who study insects, but we are going to become entomologists. They are scientists who specialize in butterflies and moths. We are not going to become specialists about moths, but we will learn so much about butterflies. We are also going to learn about ladybugs and bees. I will explain why ladybugs and bees will be very important in a little bit."
Slide four: This is the Audience, the 'A' in GRASPS. Within this slide, I pose this question; "If you are a scientist and make an amazing discovery, what do you do with this news? Do you enjoy the fact that you have done something incredible, or do you share that new information with the world? What is the best choice?"
The majority of children will respond with sharing the information with others. Which is correct. Because of that, I can share with the children that we will be working on a science standard that is about communication. That scientists do, in fact, share their learning with others. In our class, because we are all scientists, we will share our learning with each other.
Slide five: This is the Situation, the first 'S' in GRASPS. This is why we are learning about the entire unit. The background connections. The standards!!!!
Slide six: This is the Product, the 'P' in GRASPS. This tells the students how we will get to our destination. What activities or investigations will we complete to get there?
Slide seven: This is the Standard for Success the last 'S' in GRASPS. In my school building, we have three common behavior standards that all teachers focus upon. These standards for behavior guide our teaching everyday. They come from GLAD (Guided Language Acquisition Development) strategies. These are not rules, but standards; expectations that need to be adhered to. Again, I adapted these a bit to fit the needs of what I expected my students to accomplish with their learning, as well as, their behavior.
After I have completely explained the GRASPS to the students, I ask them to think for just a couple of minutes about all that we have just discussed. Reminding them about the four standards that were mentioned in the GRASPS. I explain that I would like for them to think about at least two things that they would like to learn more about in this unit.
I bring to each table team leader the Our Insect Wonderings page. The table team leaders pass the pages out to their teams. However, I ask them to not write anything until I have demonstrated for them what I would like for them to do.
I put both the pages onto one power point to download before the lesson. When I have printed it, I cut the boys and the girls out and distribute those to the correct children. These pages will be the covers to the beginning of this section of work in the children's cumulative science journal. The wonderings pages are all the same and can be dispersed to all students. When completed, this page will be glued behind the cover page that was just added.
I give the children at least three minutes of quiet time to think about their wonderings. When they have all had time to focus on their questions, I model on the document camera how I would like for them to write those wonderings.
After I have demonstrated the process and thinking involved in this stage, I allow the children to write for at least ten minutes. I explain that during this time, it must be quiet. That even when scientists are documenting their own wonderings, they need to have quiet time to think and ponder their ideas. Any distractions can make it difficult to focus.
Students will then glue their cover sheet in and the wonderings page behind it.
As the unit progresses, we will continually be checking our wonderings to see if we have answered any of those questions the children may have had. If a question is answered, I will have the child write in the answer beneath the question.
If the information does not arise to a question, I will explain to the students that sometimes, it takes longer than a specific time a scientist has determined to be reasonable to discover the information to a question. That is ok, if the informaiton is discovered during the course of the school year, we will add the information to the wondering page.