“In the last lesson, we learned about isopods. The next lesson, we’re going to show how they are alike and different. Any idea why this would matter?” “So they can live in different places?” “Exxxx-actly. Now let’s learn more about this…” Sometimes, my hooks are as simple as referring to a previous lesson. In this case, that’s all it took.
I begin by showing them the simple chart we made in the last lesson, “Isopod is the type of bug we are studying. One type was a… “Pilly Bug” “Pill Bug, right. The second type was a..”Sawbug?” “Sow bug, perfect. We’re going to use a Venn diagram to illustrate what is the same in them and things that are different.”. Since many students are visual learners at this age, I chose a Venn for this activity. I add a color coded feature as well, black for pill bugs because they're black, brown for sow bugs to reflect their general coloring. I wrote the common features in green to further differentiate them. Color is an important way that students can organize information and I wanted to highlight it with this activity.
“Can someone tell me something about a pill bug?” “They roll up.” “Right, let me ask you something. Does a sowbug roll up too?” “No” “So we’re going to put ‘roll up’ in the pill bug section because it’s something that is unique to it.” I want to make this part as step by step as possible, break down everything so the process becomes very apparent. It's important to scaffold questions so the students have a jumping off place to apply material they just learned. “OK, who can tell me something about a sowbug?” “It’s kind of flat.” “Is a pill bug kind of flat?” “No no” “So we will put flat on the side marked ‘Sowbug’. What else do we know about these two bugs?” “They have legs that are all the same.” Do they both have legs like that?” “Yes” “So we’ll put same legs in the middle because it’s a feature they share.” I end it here to leave some features for the students to brainstorm at the table.
Once we finish listing all the contributions on the Venn diagram, I tell them to go back to their tables. They need to brainstorm with each other to see if anyone remembers additional information about a pill bug and record anything new on a chart. This activity encourages collaboration and acts as a formative assessment. And yes, I do often say "We are going to do a formative assessment so we can see if we can show what we learned." I feel it's helpful to highlight the times when we assess our instruction so they can see that everyone has areas to grow.
To start the process, I give a suggestion, "Think about things that you noticed in the isopods you drew earlier this week. Look at the pictures again. You might remember something new!" As I circulate, I help the students define "The sowbug looked fatter. The pill bug were more sizes." and explain their reasoning. After five minutes, I give them a one-minute warning with the chime. Once they record all ideas on their chart, they have another minute for a brief discussion at their table to complete their ideas. As that wound down, I again ring the chime. I ask the students to bring their charts when they return to their carpet squares to talk about our lesson, share their observations, and add new observations to our Venn diagram.
Once we were back on the carpet squares, we take a minute to review the things that are similar and different about the two isopods. The simple purpose of the review is to understand how the differences could possibly affect the function of the two bugs. As each additional idea is shared, I add it to the Venn diagram. When all ideas are recorded, we review the contributions before it is posted near the Science area so the students can refer to it during future Science lessons or drawing/writing activities.