Lesson 6

Introduction to Scientific Models: Day Two of Seth and the Yak Attack!

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SWBAT Develop and use a model to describe a phenomenon.

Big Idea

How do scientists use models to revise their thinking and understanding of phenomena? Students use their new knowledge about scientific models to make a claim and provide evidence to support it.

Setting Up the Investigation

This is Day Two of a Two Day Lesson.  Click here for Introduction to Scientific Models:  Day One of Seth and the Yak Attack.

On Day One of this investigation, students' initial concepts of scientific models began to evolve from simple literal representations of objects and events, to encompass the understanding that scientific modeling is a far more complex process and that they are in fact very necessary tools to support the acquisition and communication of scientific knowledge.  

On this second day, students are guided through a step by step process that has them first construct a literal model, move the model through space and time to revise their model and predict how it will change, model an event as it occurs, and then use a model to describe and explain phenomena that cannot be seen.

Connection to The Next Generation Science Standards

In this two part investigation, students use the Science Practices of developing a model to describe a phenomena (5-PS1-1), support an argument with evidence (a model)  (5-PS2-1); and they use the Crosscutting Concept of using a cause and effect relationship to explain change (5-PS1-4).

*  Although students are beginning to address the Disciplinary Core Idea that matter of any type can be subdivided into particles  that are too small to see, but even then the matter still exists and can be detected by other means. (5-PS1.A) - that is not the emphasis for this lesson and will be fully explored in later lessons in the unit.  This experience however, will become a "touchstone" for students in understanding this concept.

Please Note:  The Lexile Level for What's The Matter Plaid Pete? - Lab Scenario Sheet Lesson 5 is 990 (5th Grade Range is 740 - 1010).

The Preparation Time for This Investigation is approximately 40 minutes (15 to assemble materials and 25 minutes to construct the big book).

Materials Needed:

Meter Sticks - 1 per team

Balloons - 2 of the same size per team


String or Cord

Plastic Materials Tubs - 1 per team

Preparation -  I did the following to prepare for this investigation:

  • Print Plaid Pete's Big Book of Models on a color printer, enlarging it to 130% (ledger paper), mounted the pages on large black construction paper, laminated them, hole punched the top, bottom, and middle of each page in the same spot, and then bound the pages with loose leaf metal rings.  You can also use this as an e-book and save the printing.  This was used on Day One.
  • I printed and studied the following paper presented at the Learning Progressions in Science (LeaPS) Conference, that describes a student learning progression for upper elementary students' understanding of scientific modeling.  I used this to help me assess my own students' understandings:  Models: Defining A Learning Progression For Scientific Modeling.

Team Activity

35 minutes

Share Lesson Objective & Success Criteria

I explain to students that now that they have some information about scientific models, we are going to have the opportunity to use our understanding to develop a model to settle an argument between Plaid Pete and his friend, Seth.  I share with students the lesson objective and the success criteria:  

Note:  Consistent with the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, I am now including a language objective with each lesson.  These objectives were derived from the Washington State ELP Standards Frameworks that are correlated with the CCSS and the NGSS.

Learning Objective:  I can develop and use a model to describe a phenomena in science.

Language Objective:  I can identify key information in orderly notes.  [ELP.4-5.5]

Success Criteria:  I have completed the before, during and after models, including labels and descriptions of what happened during the investigation on the lab sheet that I will paste into my Science Notebook.

Reading and Making Sense of Predictions

I hand out the  What's The Matter Plaid Pete?- Lab Scenario Sheet Lesson 5.  I have students read the scenario in their teams.  Then, I call the class to attention.  I have students return to the scenario to look at the argument between Plaid Pete and Seth to help them understand the question being asked is, Does air have weight?

I also have to spend an extra few minutes explaining that a prediction is only a "best guess" based on the information we have.  It is absolutely critical that students understand that it is OK if their predictions are incorrect (I ban the word WRONG - there are no wrong predictions, only ones that are incorrect).  It is absolutely critical that students understand they can never change their predictions or claims, even if the data or investigation does not support their answer.

Modeling the Investigation Set-Up

I ask students to talk in their teams about what they think the set up for Plaid Pete's investigation (described in the Lab Scenario Sheet) will look like.  I then ask them to be prepared to demonstrate that as a team, if I call on them.  I randomly call on several teams to ensure they understand how to set up the investigation.

I then give students a few moments to discuss in their teams the answers to to the questions at the bottom of the sheet that asks them to make predictions, and then to answer them in complete sentences.  As students are working, I am walking around questioning them, and asking them to clarify answers that are unclear.

Constructing Models & Investigating

We read the What's The Matter Plaid Pete? - Lab Sheet Lesson 5 together, and I ensure that students understand exactly what model they will draw, and when they will draw it.  They understand that they must have labels (e.g balloon, meter stick, tape) As I hold up each material from a team's tub (a meter stick, masking tape, string, 2 balloons) , I have students name it and I write the name on the whiteboard.  

I refer to the poster we have created that gives the qualities of a good team and team member.  Students in each team are to make a plan to divide the work equitably in their teams, and share their plan with me before they are given the signal to begin.  Teams have been heterogeneously constructed so that there are a balance of reading, and mathematics skills at each team, as well as ensuring that students who are English Language Learners have appropriate academic language models, and students who need behavioral supports are also supported.  

Once teams have shared their plan, I give instructions for students to begin their setup assembly and then to draw the first two models on their lab sheet.  I remind them that in order for this to be a fair experiment - they will need to make sure they have the same amount of air in each balloon so that the meter stick will stay balanced.  The first model is a diagram of the balloons in balance, and the second model is their prediction of what the assembly will look like after one balloon is popped.

With this particular investigation, I will keep the straight pin that pops the balloon.  It is early in the year and I do not want to set them up for failure.  Some students do not yet have the scientific behaviors and habits of mind to be successful - but they will.  They signal me when they are ready, with their first two models completed, and on this occasion I pop the balloon, ensuring they have pencil and lab sheets ready to construct that third model - capturing what is happening to the assembly as the balloon is popped.

After students have completed the third model on their lab sheets, I instruct them to complete the fourth and final model with labels and a description of what happened after the balloon popped.

Students are at the beginning stages of constructing models.  Some are able to construct them fairly accurately, using lables, as in Example 1  Other students need additional feedback to refine their process, as in Example 2.


Reflection & Closure

30 minutes

Group Discussion

I had originally intended to have students complete their Claims and Evidence, and then move to the meeting area, where I would ask each team to report out their claim and supporting evidence as I listed it on a chart paper replica of their Claims and Evidence Table. 

However, I can see during the investigation, that my scientists are having considerable difficulty with this investigation.  I am not quite sure where the problem is, so I want to pull them together and have a discussion.  As they engage in an academic discussion, I suspect that some students may have not been closely watching what happened when the balloon popped.  It is early in the year, and their observation skills are not as practiced as I would like them to be.

I make a decision to have them discuss their ideas, and then tomorrow, I will use this experience as a teaching point.  

Conflicting Data

I begin by calling my class together and discuss the idea that sometimes scientists have conflicting data or information, as seen in this Video Clip I ask the question, "What could we do to be sure of our information?"  It takes a bit, but one student volunteers that we could do our experiment again, or retest.  

I set up the balloon assembly again, and have students watch carefully as I pop the balloon.  Then, I tell them that they will need to consider all of the information to make their Claims and Evidence.  I tell students to turn their Science Notebook to the next clean page and construct a T table with the heading Claim on the left side, and Evidence on the right side.

I then tell them that they need to make a claim regarding this phenomena.  I model the same sentence stem that I used in the previous investigation:

I claim that air ____ have weight.  (They will either write does, or does not)

I tell them that they need to list the evidence that supports their claim in the right column.  I model the following sentence stem on my copy:

I know this because _____

Now I know that the information that they list in their Claims and Evidence Chart will be based on accurate data.  When I receive conflicting information, some students claimed air does have weight and some students claimed air does not have weight, I know it is because their developmental process is not yet allowing them to incorporate this evidence into their understanding.  They will need further work with models to overcome their misconceptions.