Scientists Classify Things

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SWBAT classify pictures and objects while working cooperatively.

Big Idea

Classification is one way that scientists make sense of the things in our world.

Warm Up Games and I Can Statement

20 minutes

I begin today's lesson by holding up 3 objects (an apple, a red ball, and a red pepper).  I show them to the class and say, " I am thinking about one of these objects. I am going to give you some clues and see if you can guess which one I am thinking about. Here is my first clue. You can eat me. Does anyone have a guess about which one I might NOT be thinking about?" (the ball) "How did you know?" (Because you can't eat the ball.) "Good, ok so you have eliminated or taken away one of the objects because you can't eat it. Now we have 2 left and here is my clue. It is red. Does that help you any?" (no) "why?" (because they are both red) "Here is another clue because we still have 2 objects left. The thing I am thinking of grows on a tree. Does that help anyone figure out which one I am thinking of?" (the apple) "How do you know?" (apples grow on trees and peppers don't).

I start with this guessing activity to get students thinking about how things may or may not be related. I want to expand their ability to classify objets in more than one way.

"You have done a great job figuring out what I was thinking. What kinds of things helped you figure out what I was thinking?" (I am hoping that children will talk about how they eliminated the one that didn't belong and each time they heard a clue. If they do not, I will help them work closer to that conclusion by asking questions such as  how did you  know which ones were not the right answer? What clues did you use to help you?)

"Let's play a little game with eliminating the ones that don't belong. I am going to invite 5 of you to come up and I will give clues for you to figure out who I am thinking of. Do you think you can do that?" I choose 5 students to line up at the front of the room. I try to pick students that have some similarities such as all wearing a striped shirt, or all wearing jeans. Using the things that are the same or different I give clues and ask the audience to tell who should sit down and how they know. I might say, this person has blue on their shirt. The class would then eliminate anyone without a blue shirt. Again, I am trying to extend the students' understanding of the ways to classify objects by finding things that are the same or different. 

If students understand how to use the clues as evidenced by knowing who to eliminate and by most students volunteering to say who should sit down, I move on. If students are still having trouble, I repeat the student elimination game. (I may also repeat it in order to give everyone a turn. I might do groups of 6 rather than 5 so that in 3 rounds my whole class has had a turn.) Giving everyone a turn helps to support a classroom climate that is supportive of student interests and needs. I want everyone to feel that they are a valued member of the class. 

I post the I Can statement for this lesson for students to read together so they know what they are trying to accomplish in this lesson. It says, "I can work with my partners and by myself to sort objects into groups." It is important for students to know where they are trying to get to in a lesson so they can assess if they were successful or not. 

A Classification Mystery

20 minutes

I begin this section of the lesson by asking students to tell me some of the things that are important about working together. I write their ideas on the board. I am looking for things such as listen to my partner, make sure everyone has a turn, be respectful of everyone's ideas, make sure everyone knows what the group is doing. I refer to the list and tell students, "this is a very good list and one that I would like you to pay special attention to as you are working in your work groups today. I am going to add 1 new item to the list today. It is, everyone must read his/her own clue and tell what they think fits their clue." I write this on the board.

"Ok, now I want to explain what you will be doing in your work groups." Today's lesson will help students to obtain, evaluate and communicate information as they work together to classify objects by a series of clues. Students must analyze the clues, relate it to the pictures and figure out which picture I was describing with the clues.  I want students to learn that they can classify matter by a variety of different properties.

(I have formed work groups in the class by getting to know my students and trying to form homogenous groupings including strong students, leaders, followers, shy students, etc. I keep these groups together for at least a month to help students become comfortable with working as a group.)

"I will be handing you 4 clue cards and one picture."

 (Teachers will need to cut the cards apart before handing them out to students).

"Each one of you should read your own clue but not show it to anyone until you read it aloud to the group. After you read your clue, see if there are any animals in the picture that you can cross out. If you aren't sure, ask the group to help you. After everyone has read their own clue see if you have figured out who I was thinking of when I wrote the clues. If not, go back and reread the clues and see if you can figure it out as a group.  Are there any questions about what you will be doing?"

(I pause and wait for questions. I want students to try to solve the mystery by eliminating the pictures that don't belong. I hope that they will improve their observation skills and their awareness of patterns as they solve the mysteries.)

"After you have figured out the mystery, raise your hand and I will come and give you another set to try."

I circulate around the room and listen to the groups work to solve the mysteries. I am mostly an observer in this lesson. I want to assess student participation and their ability to use their own clue to remove one picture from the set. I record any notes about student understanding and participation to help me assess students. 

When the groups have finished I ring the bell and ask them to think for a minute about how their group did working together. I ask them to look in their science journals at the page titled: I Can Classify Things. At the top is a place for them to add a Smiley Face to show how well they think their group did in working together.

I say, "At the top of your paper you are going to show how well you think your group did in working together. Remember that scientists may not always solve the mystery, or answer their question but they do try to work together so would you please draw a happy face (I demonstrate each one as I say it), a straight face, or a sad face to show how well you think your group did in working together, even if you didn't solve the mystery."

(I pause to let students fill in the smiley face.) 

Reflecting on how the students did as a group is a step in building strong cooperative learning skills, and one that is important to students doing science together. I am trying to develop an awareness in students of their own ability to work with a group. 

"Ok, I would like you to draw one more smiley face, happy, straight or sad, to tell how well you worked with the group. Remember that this time you are thinking only about how much you helped your group, not about the how the group did altogether." 

Classifying On Our Own

20 minutes

For this part of the lesson I place a collection of old magazines on the tables. I ask students to find 4 - 6 smaller pictures that they can put in 2 groups. There is a place on their journal page to glue the pictures and a line for writing a title. The pictures on each side of the line should have something in common. The students will need to analyze the pictures to find commonalities. 

I demonstrate by drawing the line down the center of the board. Modeling the lesson objective can help visual learners understand what is expected of them.  I say, "I have picked pictures of an ocean, a river, a plate of food and a glass of milk. Can anyone think of how I might group my pictures?" (water and food). "Ok so I might put my ocean, and river on one side, and my food and milk on the other. I would label this side water and this side food. I might also have put the milk with the ocean and river and left the food alone. Can anyone guess why I might group them this way?" (liquids and solids which are probably terms students are not as familiar with and these might need an explanation). "You see, there is more than one way to group the objects. For now do not put your labels at the top because after you glue your pictures you are going to have a friend try to guess what your labels might be. So for now just find 4 to 6 pictures and glue them on one side or the other to make your groupings or to classify them."

I give students about 10 minutes to find, cut and glue the pictures. I circulate around and have students whisper their categories to me so that other classmates do not know the categories yet. 

Sharing Our Categories

10 minutes

While students are cutting out their pictures and gluing them, I place a card on their desk face down. I have used the numbers 1 - 9 with 2 of each card. This will give me 9 pairs of students. I ask students to silently take their card, hold it up and find the person with the same number.

After they have found each other, they should look at each other's papers and try to figure out how the pictures go together. I remind them of what I did at the beginning of the independent part of this lesson and how they would look at my pictures and try to give the heading. "The heading may be different from the one you are thinking of, but see if it also matches the pictures. Remember that scientists may see things differently when they classify objects. If the heading is different than yours, ask your partner to tell you how he/she came up with that idea."

I give students about 10 minutes to find their partner, and try to figure out the other person's categories. I circulate around observing, listening and assessing student understanding of classification by listening to the logic of their headings and whether they can explain their thinning to their partners. 

Students must communicate their analysis of the pictures and the commonalities they found. The ability to communicate about science is an important skill for students to learn.

When everyone appears to be done I ring the bell and ask students to return to their own seats. I ask them to take a minute to write their headings on their papers. I tell them they may also add their partner's headings if they want to.

Final Reflections

10 minutes

It is important to give students a chance to reflect on what they have just learned. Because it is the beginning of the year, we are still doing this whole group. I eventually will have students do some written reflection, but for now we reflect as a group.

I invite all students to come to the rug. I ask them what they found out today about grouping objects. I give time for students to think and share their ideas. Next I point out the I Can statement. It reads, "I can work with my partners and by myself to sort objects into groups." I ask for a thumbs up, thumbs, straight or thumbs down to show how they feel about whether they can group objects.

I finish with the question, "In your opinion why do you think scientists might want to classify or group things they see." I use the terms "in your opinion," because I don't want students to think that they have to know the "right" answer that I am thinking of. I give students a chance to talk about their thoughts and the comments of others. I listen to their understanding and take notes in my ongoing assessment notes.