Making observations is a foundational practice for scientists. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) focus on using observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals need live. The patterns of humans are also addressed in this standard. Finding patterns is a practice that most kindergarteners become skilled experts at doing. What they need assistance with is identifying why they can find patterns and learning how observations work. I tell students that you may have heard the word observation but what does it mean? Yes you look at objects, you see objects but how do you observe beyond seeing?
I allow the students to ponder these questions or use wait time. I employee a no hands questioning technique to allow all students to participate while I am eliciting prior knowledge. Reviewing Page Keeley's book Science Formative Assessment will give you an in-depth look at "75 practical strategies for linking assessment, instruction, and learning."
My ENO Board's student selector spinner is an excellent way to randomly call on students to answer the questions. By this time in the school year, students know that everyone will not be called on to answer a question but partnering sharing is a great way to make sure everyone's voice is heard.
As the students are gathered on the carpet, I share that we are going to watch a video of other students observing. I also allow the the students hold on to their own understanding of observation just a little while longer. If students have misconceptions about science concepts, it takes a "fun" experience to root that misunderstanding out.
I ask them to listen carefully and watch Sid the Science Kid: The Magnification Investigation video closely because I will have questions to ask them later. I also remind students that it is important to hold in their brains what I teach them and what they learn to use for later.
I believe that the students' confidence is boosted when they do experiments/investigations or any positive activity that the have seen others do. Kindergarteners have a great desire to connect with others and for this reason only, we are going to do the exact investigation that the characters conducted on the video.
The students return to their seats. There is a magnifying glass for each student and a Pill Bug. I do this because I want each student to be empowered as an individual scientist. I know that students will be empowered to plan their own unique investigation once this one is completed.
I am going to allow the characters from the video to model for the students the practice of observing. This is a powerful teaching tool because children gleam from others the social skills and skills necessary to become great scholars and scientists.
Because the video has explained the process of observing, I will allow the students to share their thinking and understanding with a shoulder partner. They conducted the investigation at the tables and this is where they will record their observations in their science notebooks.
It is my job to listen carefully to my students' conversations. I also remind them that they are engaging in accountable talk and to stay on the topic at hand. I am actively listening for students whose thinking is on-level, those who need strategic intervention, and advanced thinkers. Actually, I am seeking only three students to use them as examples for the class during the elaboration section of the lesson.
I am doing double duty because I am not only seeking data related to the Next Generation Science Standards but I am also taking anicdotal notes about who is mastering the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts. I monitoring for the Speaking and Listening Strand, the Language Strand and the Writing Strand. So, I am evaluating while the students are explaining their understanding of what it means to observe and sharing what they have observed. I am also calm in this process because I am requiring the students to be calm in the process as well. I am controlling the tempo of the classroom. It is a lot going on but time is of the essence.
The lesson will resume on the carpet where I will clarify any misconceptions that I have heard while students were sharing with their partners.
I will also present the thinking of the three students. The student who is on-level, the student in need of strategic intervention, and the advance thinker. I am careful not to put down the student in need of intervention in any manner. I will praise their efforts while helping him/her improve their thinking. The goal is not to point out what they did wrong or misunderstood.
In fact, the advance thinker and the on-level thinkers will be the model used to help all the students improve their ability to observe and think scientifically. Additionally, because I know kindergarteners love "specific praise," they all will improve during the next investigation because they want to be selected to receive "specific praise" from their teacher. I am using "specific praise" because general acknowledgment will not help the students improve. They need to know specifically what they did or said that was precise. The Common Core wants teachers and students to attend to precision.
Because this is a long lesson, I want the students to just think about how they can extend their thinking about observing and how they can challenge themselves during the next investigation. I also want them to reflect upon how they can transfer their learning about observation to other content areas or during our next investigation. Think time is important. Reflection is important. Students and teachers need time to reflection upon the lesson.