In part 1, students created and recorded step-by-step instructions to find the density of irregular objects.
This lesson coaches students through the process of creating a formal write-up of the prior activity in their science journal. Writing and reflecting on our practices as scientists helps develop long-term retention of information.
Investigation Summary and Standards
This investigation was completed in Density of Irregular Objects Day 1. In today's lesson, students will demonstrate their understanding of the previous day's activities by communicating their procedures to other scientists.
Students demonstrate in their written report how math was used in a real world setting (MP4) to find the volume of an irregular object, a task that could not be completed without the proper tools and attention to precision (MP6).
We are writing across the curriculum. Students will be applying their ELA writing skills in the science classroom. Communicating as scientist is an important theme students will experience throughout the year in my classroom. Research shows that writing helps students focus and retain new information.
Students in Action
First I share a video about Archimedes. The students solved a problem, finding the density of an irregular object, just like the famed scientist Archimedes is credited, in popular accounts, to have done.
We briefly discuss how their challenge was like the challenge of Archimedes. Archimedes used what he had observed in the bath tub to find the solution to a new problem. We, in turn, also solved a new problem using information we had gained from the previous lessons.
Today, the expectation is that students use scientific language to communicate as one scientist to another. In the prior lesson, as students developed their procedures to determine the density of irregular objects using a step-by-step graphic organizer, they used a list of vocabulary (top of graphic organizer) - density, mass, volume, irregular shape, balance, graduated cylinder and displacement. I remind students today that they are working as scientists and their audience is other scientists so they must use the language of their audience.
I use a power point to drive this instruction. There is a slide for each of the boxes on their graphic organizer. On the first click of the mouse, an empty box will appear. I ask students to share out their answers.
I start with a hook. What can we say at the beginning of our summary that will make out write-up a must read for other scientists? What were you thinking when I shared with you that you would need to find the density of an object such as a crown?
As students are sharing, I remind those who may not have an answer to listen for ideas that they can use to develop their own hook. After several students have shared, a click of the mouse reveals a suggested answer. I do this because I have students who are English Language Learners and very low readers in my classroom. These students need a visual as well as an auditory example to help them complete the prompt.
We continue through each of the boxes. As students share out, I "notice", for discussion, that there are several ways to state a correct answer. The order of their steps may be in different. It is OK as long as another scientist can use our instructions to follow the procedures.
Proper use of domain specific vocabulary is very important in science. To help students see in a very concrete way how the use of vocabulary is important for accurate communication with other scientists I have highlighted these words in the power point.
Writing in the science classroom is a new experience for many of my students. At first they are a bit reluctant but I explain that we are scientists in this class and scientists share their work with colleagues in writing.
This video explains how I use the power point in my classroom.
Our final product will be a paragraph with a hook, topic sentence, steps organized with transitions (first, second, then, last for example) and a conclusion. A student learning outcome for our school is writing complete paragraphs. Some of our science write-ups will be done using the paragraph format and some will be procedures written in number or bullet form like a science step-by-step lab. (SP8 Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information - Communicate scientific and/or technical information (e.g. about a proposed object, tool, process, system) in writing and/or through oral presentations.)
After updating their organizer, students write their findings as a polished piece of work in their science journal.
Sample Student Graphic Organizer and Polished Piece
In this lesson we review the procedures written in the previous lesson, update our graphic organizer as well listen to the ideas of other scientists and create a polished piece. These iterations allow students to fully process the new learning in multiple ways, so they are better able to remember what they learned.
Students are encouraged to double check their work to make certain that they have completed all the requirements. In the sample shown above, the student took an extra step to underline the vocabulary used to make it easier to check their work. I like this because the grading is much easier! An easy to read copy of the student work is attached to this section as a resource.
When we connect the learning in this lesson, we again discuss how the previous lessons helped us build the necessary knowledge to tackle a new problem.
This review's purpose is to emphasize for students how each step we take in science helps us develop a better understanding of the big ideas such as density. We are not learning only for the test, we are learning to build a foundation for understanding of more complex topics.
As a group, we have developed an operational definition of density we can refer to later. The concept of density is a reoccurring idea in science. We will use our understanding of density in Earth Science to help us understand tectonic plate movement and weather, and later in physics and chemistry.