What is Science? - Flipped

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SWBAT define terms related to experimental design.

Big Idea

This lesson is the second in a set of flipped notes and it requires students to review information about experimental design as well as vocabulary practice.


The students complete and turn in their flipped notes and notes review prior to this class.  I grade the assignments the day before we review them.  This gives me a good idea of what the students do and do not understand about the content and allows me to better tailor the instruction to my students' needs.

This is the second set of flipped notes that the students watch.


5 minutes

Each student receives a note card with a word written on it.  The students need to find other students in the class with the same word written on their note card.  Once they have formed a group of three, the students need to list the ways in which that word relates to science and/or the scientific ideas related to that word. 

After the students have had time to write a few sentences, I have them share their ideas with the class and their classmates are welcome to add to the ideas that have been mentioned.  In this student example, it is clear that the students remember some of what they learned during the sixth grade plant unit.

Using the note card strategy to access prior knowledge is an effective learning strategy for a number of reasons.  It gets students up and moving, it has accountability (because they know they are part of a group), and it provides three opportunities to activate and expand knowledge. And, as I mentioned above, I get an idea of what students already know. In my reflection, I expand on an additional strategy that connects this activity to relevance.


15 minutes

Because the flipped note concept is still new to my students, I spend more time going through the notes with them.  As I go through the PowerPoint presentation of the notes, I stop to ask students questions along the way.  For instance, the presentation has questions built in, so I ask the students to share the answers they had written down in their notes.  This gives them the opportunity to share their thoughts with the class and provides them with an opportunity to ask follow up questions. This is a critical step. The success of the flipped note method relies on students appreciating that this is their responsibility.

Additionally, I ask the students follow-up questions regarding their answers, such as , "Can you give me an example?", or, "How do you know?".  

When reviewing this set of flipped notes, I spend a considerable amount of time reviewing the idea of an operational definition.  When we begin working on our science fair projects, the students will need to have a solid understanding of the concept.  By introducing the phrase now, I am able to use it in various lessons that help to build the students' familiarity with its meaning.  From time-to-time, when I have asked them to get quiet and some students are still chatty, I ask the class to provide the operational definition for the term quiet.  I have found this to be a meaningful way to remind students about the meaning of operational definition while maintaing classroom discipline.  

I also spend time reviewing controls and variables with the students.  Once the notes have been reviewed, I hand out SpongeBob Controls and Variables (created by Tracy Trimpe on ScienceSpot) and we begin reviewing the information together as a class.  The students have learned about independent and dependent variables before, but I have found that it takes a bit of practice for them to get back into the swing of things. I begin by reviewing the definitions of independent and dependent variables.  I ask for student volunteers to provide the definitions for the class.  As we review the definitions, I have the students write them on the top of their paper, as a reminder.  For independent, we discuss that this is what the scientist manipulates while the dependent variable depends upon or changes as a result of the independent variable.  I also review the terms manipulated and responding, which helps some of the students remember the definitions more clearly.  As a district, we use the terms independent and dependent, so I have to transition the students away from manipulated and responding by the end of the year.

This lesson's emphasis on building a foundation of the terminology required during experiments meets NGSS - SP3 - Planning and Carrying Out Investigations - specifically:  Identify independent and dependent variables and controls, what tools are needed to do the gathering, how measurements will be recorded, and how many data points are needed to support a claim and NGSS - SP1 - Asking Questions and Defining Problems - specifically: Ask questions that can be investigated within the scope of the classroom, outdoor environment, and museums and other public facilities with available resources and, when appropriate, frame a hypothesis based on observations and scientific principles.


10 minutes

The students spend time working on the SpongeBob worksheet while I circulate through the room checking for student understanding.  This is my opportunity to speak individually with students and to probe their understanding of the topic.  This is also an excellent opportunity to help students on an individual basis and bring them up to speed, if necessary, on the topic.  If a student is having trouble, I first refer them back to the definitions we wrote down at the beginning of the lesson.  I then walk them through steps to guide their thinking about the problem.  I ask them to describe what the character in the problem is doing.  I then ask the students what depends on what the character is doing.  For instance, in the first question I ask the students what Mr. Krabs is doing/has done; what he is investigating.  The students respond that he has made a new sauce.  I ask the students to describe what will depend on the type of sauce used.  They are able to identify that the production of gas depends on the type of sauce.

One of the benefits of the SpongeBob worksheet is that it provides concise examples of experiments that are engaging for students while providing consistent repetition.  For instance, the students are required to begin with an initial observation or examining the controlled portions of the experiment.  From there they identify the independent and dependent variables before drawing a conclusion using the experiment data.


Wrap up

5 minutes

Near the end of the class period, we review the answers to the questions the students have answered.  I cold call on students to have them answer individual questions and then ask them to explain the reasoning behind their answers.  

Cold calling on the students helps to hold all of the students accountable for the information and because I circulated through the classroom while they worked, I know which students will be successful when answering.  I can then refer the students to their classmates for help if necessary, when answering a question or providing evidence.  

Cold calling is also good for my teaching. Although I circulated while students were working (explore section), now I'm going to have more of an opportunity to dig into their thinking. And despite how "scary" it might initially seem to students, they often find that they know more than they thought - they just needed a push to voice their thinking. Cold calling also speeds up the pace of my lesson, as well as giving me more time for instruction.

There are a few important additions to cold calling. Asking students rigorous questions is a good start, but it is also important to ask rigorous follow up questions. I tend to stick with the same student until he or she is able to answer the question.  Sometimes this means breaking the question down into smaller details and having the student build up to being able to answer the question.  This helps to build their confidence and it shows them that I expect them to process their thoughts and come up with the correct answer.  It also shows them that I am willing to help them work through the process. Keeping the climate positive might require that you encourage students to help one another, or build on each other's responses. If a student gets a helping hand, it is important to return to that student, and ask them a similar question so that this time they can respond successfully.  At this point a follow up question about how they arrived at the answer will reveal their level of understanding of the concept.