Using Theatrics and Songwriting to Bring Molecular Models to Life (2 of 2)

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SWBAT write a theatrical musical performance that depicts how molecules move in one of the station activities done in a prior lesson.

Big Idea

Drawing models is a great way for students to explain what they think is happening in science, but acting like molecules is so much more fun! Additionally, teachers can assess student understanding of how molecules act.

Lesson Overview

This lesson covers NGSS MS-PS-1, CCC-Cause and Effect, and Practices 2 (Develop And Use Models) and 7 (Engage In Argument From Evidence).The knowledge gained from this activity and the previous lesson will deepen students conceptual understanding of how gases respond to stimuli (forces).

This lesson was inspired by an article titled "Students Modeling Molecule Movement Through Science Theater" by David Stroupe and Anna Kramer in the October 2014, Vol. 38, Number 2 of Science Scope.

Using formative assessment to gauge student understanding doesn't have to be limited to exit tickets or other quick "dip-sticking" techniques.  In fact, theatrical events can be used to assess students' ability to model complex scientific phenomena.  Plus, it's fun!  I had many students exclaim that, "We should do this all the time. It was so much fun!"  I agree. Science can be fun and meaningful at the same time, and this activity is a prime example of that.  

This lesson gives me the opportunity to assess my students' abilities to explain how air molecules are responding during 1 of the 3 demonstrations from yesterday's lesson.  

To get students started, I have them refer to their Homework  assignment from yesterday, which  was to model one of the demonstrations using circles to represent molecules.  I state that they will use the homework to get them started, but since the pictures don't move, they will have the opportunity to act like molecules.  

Formative assessment: My plan is to critique their performances and lead a class discussion about what molecules should be doing and how we know that.  In a way, the class discussion of each performance will turn into a Claim-Evidence-Reasoning conversation, allowing me to address students' alternative conceptions.  I can then go back to a particular part of a performance and asking probing questions, such as: 

How do you know that this is occurring?

What should the molecules be doing if they are in the gas phase? (Moving)

If the attraction between molecules in gas form isn't as significant, should they be this close together?

What would happen to the molecules in a bottle when the balloon is filling up?

Can a balloon inflate without molecules in it? (Wait) put some in there.

Giving Each Student A Voice (Brainstorming)

5 minutes

First, I explain to students that they will be creating a theatrical event, such as a play, short musical, infomercial, etc., that explains the cause and effect relationship of exhaling during the demonstration that they have chosen (cans, paper tent falling or balloon in bottle activity).  Each group picks only one of the three activities to explain.  Each group will also write a song that explains the demonstration at the molecular level.

Despite our best efforts to coordinate groups that are homogeneous and practice benevolence, there is always the chance that a student will take over the situation by dictating the group's every move.  To assuage this situation, I allot time for students to brainstorm on their own and then share their ideas with the group.  Although this strategy isn't 100% effective, it does help promote a positive and equitable group interaction.  

Once students share their ideas with their group, they can then begin creating their performance and song.

Group Creation Time

40 minutes

Students will have questions about what they can do and I address that by simply telling them that they can do whatever they want as long as they are not violating any school rules.  The sky is the limit!  I stress that while creativity is important, we must be scientific and accurate with explanations.  

I circulate around the room assisting students and asking clarifying questions if I notice a glaring alternative conception that needs to be addressed.  Remember, this assignment is to formatively assess student understanding of gases and how they act.  Use the time to check in with all students and help deepen their understanding.

Explaining The Structure Of Tomorrow's Performances and Clean-up

5 minutes

Before the end of class I explain to students that tomorrow they will be performing their creations for the first half of class.  Students will perform in the middle of the room and any students that need to be recruited to help in their performances will be assigned prior to each group presenting.  Groups will have a minute of two to inform the helpers about their roles.  

Examples of performances: