The Dark Room

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SWBAT explain that objects can only be seen when illuminated.

Big Idea

Allow the class to explore complete darkness to discover that objects need illumination to be seen.

Lesson Overview

Next Generation Science Standard Connection

This is the first lesson in a unit on light, and I am teaching the students that objects can only be seen when illuminated. The standard for the is 1-PS4-2, and I am going to allow students to make predictions, plan an investigation, and carry out their experiment in our classroom today. First, I activate their prior knowledge using a KWL chart. In the KWL chart I also see what things they want to learn about. It is important to find out what students want to know in the first lesson, so have time to plan lessons in the unit to teach them exactly what they are curious about.

By limiting our investigation to the classroom and using leading questions I get the students to discover how light can only be seen in our school bathroom when the lights are turned on. Basically, the room has to be illuminated for us to see. Then the students record their observations in their science journal.

Lesson Overview

I keep a few things consistent in all of my lessons and it helps them flowing smoothly. Using frequent transitions and collaborative partners helps students persevere throughout the lesson. Transitions allow the students to move often, and partners allow them to help each other. 

As far as transitions go we begin every lesson in the lounge or carpet to activate their thinking and excite the class. Then we move to the desks in the middle of the room for the explore, explain, and elaborate sections of the lesson. Last, we close the lesson back in the lounge where the students present the information they discovered in the lesson.

Collaborative partners are heterogeneous ability group partners, and the students do have assigned seats by their partner. Partners help each other during the lesson, and share their understanding during partner talk time. They are also allowed to help each other at any other time in the lesson. Sometimes students lose their place reading or need help spelling, and their partner is there to help them. This creates an environment in the classroom where students help each other, and I am more of a facilitator.


10 minutes

Now the class is seated in the lounge and I attempt to excite them by projecting the lesson image on the Smart Board and saying, "Take a look at the Smart Board." Then I tell what we are going to learn about in the lesson, and I assess their prior knowledge. When I find out what the students know and want to know I can begin planning the rest of the unit around their interests. This makes learning more meaningful, and I can recognize students who already have a lot of prior knowledge about light.

To assess the students knowledge, I use a KWL chart. You may like to watch my video on why and when to use the KWL Chart. I say, "Talk to your partner about why we see light and sometimes everything is dark." I anticipate the students to say, "You have to turn on lights." While they are talking I am adding this to the K part of the KWL chart. Then I say, "Tell you partner anything else you know about light." Then I listen and add what they know to the chart. Next, I say, "Now, tell your partner what you want to know about light." I listen and add what they say to the chart. Then I read over the chart and say, "We are going to learn why we see things sometimes and sometimes it is dark. Then we will learn about your questions in later lessons. I have to get time to plan those lessons."

So, I have engaged every student in talking about their prior knowledge, assessed their prior knowledge, and recorded what they want to know. Teaching the lessons about my students interests is one of the most engaging things I can do as a teacher. It makes learning relevant which allows me to increase the rigor or complexity since the students are excited about learning.

Last, I like to tell my students what we are going to do in the lesson, so they can more easily meet my expectations. I say, "Today we are going to plan and carry out an experiment to determine when we see light."


15 minutes

The students are going to transition to their desks for this section. I am going to allow the students to make a prediction about the question, "Will I be able to see anything in a completely dark room?" 

First, they need to label their journal with the topic, dark room. The students also need to record the date of this lesson. I put a model of the science journal on the board, so everyone can participate. The science journal is usually a valuable part of our culminating activities. I like to allow the students to reread through their journal, and use that data to help them in their activity.

Then I say, "I want you to make a prediction about whether we will see anything in a completely dark room. I project the sentence starter on the board, so all of my students can make a prediction. Think about what you have seen in the dark. Have you ever really been in a room with no light?" Then I walk around and give the students time to finish their sentence. This is a very engaging time, and I do not offer any ideas. It is really about letting them analyze their experiences in the dark.

Now, I say, "I want you to plan a way you might do an experiment to see if you can see anything in a completely dark room. Try to create your plan, so we can do it in this room. You can make a list of your steps, or just make notes in your science journal. If you need help spelling raise your hand, and I will add words to a word wall." Then I walk around and monitor students thinking and writing. There is no way we could have done this in the fall semester. We are now in February, and my students are trained to sit quietly and think about their plan. I have planned many, and we have planned many investigations together. This sets students up for success when asked to work independently. Now, I do not let anyone get frustrated, so I offer as much support as needed to the students. Although, the class is very comfortable working with their partner, and they usually go to their partner for help first.


10 minutes

Now the students remain seated in the center of the room in groups of four. They talk to their partner about their plan, and then the partners tell the group across the table their plan. Last, we have a whole group discussion based on a volunteers plan they share.

(You can see the door that the child is talking about in the images.)

During each discussion the listening group or person is responsible for tell the speakers what they may do to improve their work. Basically, I am teaching the students to bounce ideas off each other and to build upon the ideas of their peers. 

First, I say, "Turn and tell your partner your plan." I listen to hear the plans, but also to make sure each child is participating. I do find that my shy students are more likely to participate with their partner and in a small group. Then I say, "Be sure and give your partner an idea of a way they might improve their plan." Again, I listen to see if I need to help a group by encouraging them to talk or just to hear their ideas. If I do need to encourage a group to talk I say, "I can't wait to hear about your plan. What are you going to do? What did your partner say you might do to improve it?" I just say one question at a time, since two questions may overwhelm a student who already feels stuck or is struggling.

Second, I say, "Now share your plan with the group across the table." I listen. Then I say, "Now, tell them one thing they might do to improve their plan."  Then I listen, and add, "We are learning from each other, so make any changes you want to your plan now." This promotes collaboration and learning from your peers.

Last, we engage in a whole group discussion. I say, "Will a volunteer share their plan?" Then we all listen. Next, I ask, "Will somebody give them an idea they may do to improve the plan."

This may seem like a lot of unnecessary repetition, but it is necessary. If the entire class does not talk their plan out then we end up with plans that do not work. The students really need this repetition to make sure they have a complete plan. Plus, if they do not talk about things in this section I find they are unable to explain their reasoning in the evaluation section as well. 


15 minutes

Now is the time I allow the students to carry out their investigation. I walk around and support them any way I can. Most of the time I just need to assist students in getting any materials they need. This is when everyone is doing their own thing, and recording their evidence. 

So, I say, "Now, you are going to carry out your experiment. Let me know if you need anything. Be sure to record what you find in your science journal. I will put a sentence started on the board." I write: When I am in complete darkness I see__________. Here is the student work. I find first graders need a sentence starter at times to help them understand what to record.


10 minutes

At this point we transition back to the lounge and I assess the students, let them share their sentence, and allow them to evaluate their peers work. To make sure everyone gets to participate the same number of time I use a spreadsheet that has the students names down the side, and I just put a check by their name when they present. Now, if everyone is wanting to present I let them do so during snack or recess. I really can never predict when they are all going to want to participate, so I try to support their motivation.

To ensure everyone is listening and capable of giving peer feedback we do a fun chant when they get to the lounge. We chant, "Criss cross apple sauce, pockets on the floor, hands in our laps, talking not more."Then I add, "Your eyes are on the speaker. You are listening and preparing to give your peer some feedback. Today it is_____'s turn. Now, I want you to explain your experiment and read us your sentence from your science journal." After they present I say, "Will anyone tell them what they agree with or disagree with." Then I listen and ask, "Will anyone add to that?" Then I explain the rubric and allow the students to trade their paper with a partner and score their partner's work. 

Last, I try to assess my students understanding that objects can only be seen when illuminated. So, I use a spreadsheet that has three four columns. The students names go down the left, and the first column I put 1-PS4-2. The second column is for speaking and listening, and I am looking to see that the students are clearly communicating with their peers. The last column is for pee feedback, and I expect each child to give one person relevant feedback. I use this data to design small group lessons to meet my students needs.