Mrs. Glaze Gets Grumpy!

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SWBAT use collaborative skills to plan and conduct an investigation.

Big Idea

What cooperative skills are necessary for design engineering teams to work effectively together? What do they look like and sound like? Students "delimit" 5 important skills, and practice and evaluate their use in a new design challenge.

Setting Up the Investigation

Connection to The Next Generation Science Standards

In this investigation, students begin the work that will lead them to explore the Disciplinary Core Idea of Engineering Design - that possible solutions to a problem are limited by available materials and resources (constraints).  The success of a designed solution is determined by considering the desired features of a solution (criteria). Different proposals for a solution can be compared on the basis of how each one meets the specified criteria for success or how well each takes the constraints into account.  (3-5 ETS1-1); Research on a problem should be carried out before beginning to design a solution.  Testing a solution involves investigating how well it performs under a range of likely conditions.  (3-5 ETS1-2).  At whatever stage, communicating with peers about proposed solutions is an important part of the design process, and shared ideas can lead to improved designs. (3-5 ETS1-2); Tests are often designed to identify failure points or difficulties, which suggest the elements of the design that need to be improved.  (3-5 ETS1-3); Different solutions need to be tested in order to determine which of them best solves the problem, given the criteria and constraints.  (3-5 ETS1-3)

Please Note:  The Lexile Level for Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution - Lab Scenario Sheet Lesson 5 is 680 (5th Grade Range is 740 - 1010).  I have purposefully written this one below grade level to ensure that all students understand this very important content!

The Preparation Time for This Investigation is approximately 10 minutes.

Materials Needed:

One copy for each student of

Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution - Lab Scenario Sheet - Lesson 5

One copy for each student of Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution Lab Sheet - Lesson 5

One copy for each student of Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution - Design Brief 2

One copy for each student of Design Engineering - Sentence Stems

One copy for each student of the Science Research Team Evaluation

One ruler or measuring tape for each team

One heavy book for each team

One 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of cardboard for each team

8 sheets of newspaper for each team

Masking tape


Focus & Motivation

15 minutes

Introduce the Scenario

I tell my students, "In our previous lesson, we learned the steps of the design engineering process.  While these steps are central to every engineering team's operation - they aren't the most important factor in a team's success.  In today's scenario, Plaid Pete and his classmates learn about the most important factor in the success of any engineering design team.  Today, we will read this scenario as a whole class, and I want you to pay careful attention and see if you can determine what that most important factor is!"

I pass out the Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution - Lab Scenario Sheet - Lesson 5 and my students get out their highlighters.  I tell them there are 7 reader's theater parts, Mrs. Glaze, Plaid Pete, Seth, Navjot, Joey, Logan, and a narrator.  We determine who will read the parts and begin.

Class Discussion

After we have finished reading the scenario.  I ask my students to take a moment of quiet think time and answer the question at the bottom of the sheet:  What is the most important factor in the success of any engineering design team?  

When my students have had a moment to think, I ask them to write their answer in the space below the question at the bottom of the sheet.  Then, I ask them to draw a line underneath their answer (line of learning).  When all students have finished, I ask them to turn and talk in their teams.  After a few moments, I ask them to go back to their sheets and revise their answers - adding any new information below the "line of learning."  

I call on student who I have noticed has made a significant revision asking, "How did your answer change after you had the opportunity to discuss the question with your teammates?"  I point out that as the student noticed, working with others helps make our learning better - and yes, the success of any engineering design team depends on their ability to work cooperatively.

I share today's learning objectives and success criteria. 

Learning Objective & Success Criteria

Note:  Consistent with the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, I am now including a language objective with each lesson.  These objectives were derived from the Washington State ELP Standards Frameworks that are correlated with the CCSS and the NGSS.

I share the learning objective and success criteria:  

Learning Objective:  I can use collaborative skills to plan and conduct an investigation.

Language Objective:  I can engage effectively in collaborative discussions, building on other's ideas and expressing my own clearly.  [ELP.4-5.2]

Success Criteria:  I can achieve a "meets standard" score as measured by my peers.

After I have shared the learning objectives and success criteria I tell my students, "Let's get ready to work on this objective.  Please get out your pencils and your Science Notebooks and get ready to learn!"


20 minutes

Introduce the Task

I display a copy of the Science Research Team Evaluation on my document camera.  My students are familiar with the sheet, and have used it for investigations in the past.  However, engineering design tasks put additional stressors on cooperative skills.  Students are under pressure to create a given task with requirements and constraints, the cognitive demands are higher than with previous investigations, and the structure tends to be lower because of the increased need for student choice.  These factors make it more likely that students will have an increased need to demonstrate a higher level of cooperative skills.  This is a good time to provide instruction in those.  I explain this information to them.

I tell my students, "The Science Team Evaluation Sheet lists 5 specific cooperative behaviors that you need to be successful:  Cooperating; On Task; Appropriate Use of Materials; Sharing Materials; Agreeing Upon and Completing Tasks.  In our Science investigations, we have been mostly successful with these.  However, in an engineering design situation, demonstrating these skills is more difficult.  You will be in a situation where tasks will not be as clear-cut.  You will have to use thinking skills and work together in ways that require you to problem solve.  Sometimes that can get frustrating.  You will have to decide who has particular strengths that can contribute to a team's success.  This means that someone may perform a task that you wanted to do, and you will have to accept that because that is what is best for the team.  Let's look closely at these five skills and determine exactly what they do and do not look like and sound like.  This will help ensure that we are using them effectively."

I pass out Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution Lab Sheet - Lesson 5 to each of my students.  It is a table that has each of the 5 skills listed above in a Matrix with two columns:  Does Not Look Like/Sound Like and Looks Like/Sounds Like.  

I have constructed a classroom chart using the same graphic organizer and it looks like this:

Delimit Behaviors

I begin with the first behavior listed on the chart, Cooperative.  I tell my students, Let's look at the first column.  I ask my students to turn and talk in their teams and give examples of what not being cooperative looks like (non-example).  I call on teams and ask them to give specific examples that pass "the alien test" - examples that are so specific that even an alien could identify them.  I note them on the chart, while students copy them onto their graphic organizers.  These student copies will become important because as students experience difficulties (As they surely will!), I will ask them to turn to this graphic organizer as a touchstone and identify which area they are experiencing difficulty with, and look at the correct column to determine what they need to do to fix it.

I then ask them to turn and talk in their teams to identify examples of what being cooperative looks like.  I again use the same procedure to identify specific examples, and note them on the chart.

We continue through the chart in this way until we have delimited each of the 5 behaviors.  I tell my students, "Now that we have a clear idea of how engineers work together to successfully complete tasks, I am going to give you one more resource that might help."  

I pass out a copy of the Design Engineering - Sentence Stems to each student.  We read through them, and discuss when they might be used.  I know that just discussing them will not be sufficient for their implementation!  I require my students leave them on their desks - and move on to an opportunity that will provide practice in their use.  I tell my engineers, "You are going to have an opportunity to use these sentence stems and your cooperative skills in a new design challenge.  I will be looking and listening for good examples of both.  Remember, you will be evaluated by your team at the completion of this challenge."

Team Activity

30 minutes

Introduce Team Design Challenge 

I tell my students that they will have an opportunity to practice these skills in a design challenge that is a bit more difficult than the one that they worked on yesterday.  I am using another activity from PBS - Design Squad Nation:  Paper Table.  I pass out the Plaid Pete Engineers A Solution - Design Brief 2

I ensure my students understand this design challenge and can delimit the problem by having them complete the first step in their teams.  We share out answers, ensuring that each team can specify exactly what the design task entails.   One student records their ideas on this example of a student lab sheet

I provide the following video for my students to use as research (I do not use the video on the PBS site, as I do not want them to copy the design given).  I tell my students, "Observe this video carefully.  You will use it to take notes in the rest of the first section for your research notes.  Engineers do their research and make good observations!"  I am well aware that my students are not making great use of the opportunity to take notes at this point - they don't really understand why these would be important.  That knowledge is a critical part of building their capacity for true design engineering.  I am just introducing the idea of research - the necessity of research will come with experience.

As with the previous design challenge, I do not allow my students to retrieve their materials until they have completed the model of their prototype in Step 3.  Once they have done this, I allow the team leader to go to the back table to collect their materials.  I am purposefully not asking for a job list today.  This is one of the skills that will be evaluated and I want to see how teams handle this.  They will need to get this ironed out before the culminating activity for this unit.

Teams Test and Evaluate Solutions

As teams work together, I am moving between them, noting successes and failures with regard to the cooperative skills they are demonstrating.  That is the focus of the lesson today.  I have a clipboard on which I am writing specific examples.  I am on the lookout for opportunities to assist teams in practice in using the sentence stems, and if I can't find any - I create them.  

Several times during this part of the lesson, I am able to do a quick Fishbowl Conversation as in this Video Clip.  This is a strategy I use to assist students in incorporating academic and social language and procedures into academic routines.  This is the way I am ensuring that the sentence stems become more than just a piece of paper that gets tucked into their desks, forgotten between the candy wrappers and daily flyers they forgot to take home.

I have to give my students a five minute warning so that they can wrap up this section of the lesson.  That is what I love about design engineering - no problems with student engagement here!  

I also love the fact that it builds perseverance - my students are learning not to give up at the first sign that a design might fail.  They keep working at it, as seen in this Video Clip  You have to love the sweet sighs of success!

Reflection & Closure

5 minutes

Science Team Evaluations

I pass out the Science Research Team Evaluation forms and ask my students to get out their "office folders,"  These are constructed from two manila folders that have been stapled together.  Students decorated these at the beginning of the year to personalize them.  These are used for Spelling Tests, Writing Workshop, or anytime students need a private workspace. 

I refer to the poster we created earlier and quickly review the 5 teaming skills we identified in the "Looks Like/Sounds Like' column.  I ask my students to complete a self evaluation in the first box, and then to evaluate their teammates in the remaining boxes.  I remind them that if they give a teammate a score of 1 or 2, they need to indicate why by checking the correct problem area.  

Assessment of Evaluations

I will look carefully at the student(s) who received a score of 1 or 2, and the students who gave them that score.  Usually, my students are fairly on target.  Sometimes I have to pull a student aside who is being a bit harsh with a peer and have that discussion.  Usually though, if a student receives that score from one peer, they will receive it from most of the students on the team.  I will then either work with that student individually through a conference to assist them.  Depending on the situation however; I might enlist the team's support.  It is always a delicate balance.  I follow the creed - do no harm.  I am very careful to separate the behavior from the student such that they know we are working on this as a skill, much like any other academic skill.  The bottom line is that if I don't work at helping my students develop the cooperative skills to work in group skills in the classroom, they won't be successful in the world of work when they eventually exit the classroom.