This is part of a mandatory assessment task that students in our district must complete. I would use this assessment, even if it wasn't required, because it can be used to assess both their understanding of the force and motion concepts presented during this unit as well as their understanding and ability to use the scientific method.
NOTE: Our district in transitioning to the NGSS. Although we are implementing some of the units this year, I am still required to teach units that have now been assigned to other grade levels. This unit is one of those units that has been affected by the shifts in grade levels. I continue to teach this unit because it focuses on the National Science Standard (K-4) B. "As students describe and manipulate objects by pushing or pulling, throwing, dropping, and rolling, they also begin to focus on the the position and movement of objects."
It is also important that students learn that pushes and pulls can have different strengths and directions, and can change the speed or direction of its motion to start or sot it. It is important that students understand that "the position and motion of an object can be changed by pushing or pulling. In this case gravity is the force that is pulling on the object. The size of the change is related to the strength of the push or pull." Establishing this knowledge base will prepare them for 3rd grade when the NGSS requires them to apply concepts of force and motion into their learning (3-PS2).
Assessment, 3 different sized balls to choose from (for each team of two), race car tracks and 2 blocks per team (for ramps), masking tape (to mark where ball landed), tape measure (to measure distance ball traveled in inches).
Today's class will start in with the students gathering in a circle.
I gather the students on the carpet and have them face me.
"Today is an important day in our science classroom. The time has come (cue song) for you to graduate as scientist in training, to official, independent scientists. You have all worked so hard to learn the scientific method and to explore the concepts of force and motion. It seems like just yesterday (wipe away imaginary tear), that you were just learning to make an observation and now you will be asked to conduct your own investigation. I am very proud of your growth and know that you are up for the challenge."
I am choosing this introduction to engage the students and to (in a humorous way) let them know that they are going to be independent scientists and plan an investigation.
"You will be working in teams of two today. I will create the teams for you. Your job will be to plan an investigation that answers the following question:
Using ramps and a ball, how can you make a ball go further than another ball or use one ball and show how can you make it go different distances?
I am going to hand each of you one of the investigation reports. You must each fill out your own report but you can work together. I have laid out all of the materials that you can choose from. You will be able to choose from 3 different sized balls for this investigation. You will build a ramp using one long piece of track and one short piece, and you can use two blocks.
Before you build your ramp, I want you to take the materials and find a spot where you and your partner can plan your investigation. Remember that your test must answer the question (from above) that you are investigating. Once you have a plan, I want you to write your plan in the Task #1 section of Investigation Report. You can use words and/or pictures to describe your plan."
I ask the teams to talk for ten minutes before they write. This ensures time to discuss and requires them to truly plan before they make a decision.
"Now that you have completed your plan, I want you to sit with your partner and complete Task #2. For this section, you will make a hypothesis of what will happen and explain why. Again, I want you to talk with your partner first and then come up with your prediction. You don;t have to have the same hypothesis as your partner. Once you have filled it out, I want you to bring me your Investigation Report."
I am encouraging students to talk to with their partner in order to hear ideas. However, I am okay with partners having different hypothesis. Either way the teams will have to test their hypothesis, record the results, and draw conclusions about their results (In day 2 of the task).
As students are working, I will circulate and check in on their plans. Although this is an assessment, if students can't create a feasible plan, I will guide them and note it on their assessment. This way I can still assess their ability to complete the other components of the task.