Next Generation Science Standard Connection
We are going to expand our understanding about a problem in our community that people want to change. The class actually generates some possibilities for the solution that could solve our problem. The class researches solutions on the internet, and then they evaluate some possible solutions. I also present some images of possible solutions, so the students can explore specific examples I provide.
This lesson allows students to learn many solutions while working with their partner, and then they can share their knowledge at their table. I am creating an opportunity for the students to acquire information about a solution to a problem they have identified. Then they share what they learn with classmates. In my experience I find learning to be more meaningful when students can discover or find the information themselves, and they can share what they learn with their peers. When I create these situations my students seem to retain more information regarding our topic.
This lesson could easily be broken up in to two days. I might do the engage, explore, and explain in one day. It could take about 45 minutes to thoroughly cover all three sections. It really just depends on the students and how familiar they are with searching the internet, creating lists, and working together. The second day could be the elaborate and evaluate section. In the elaborate section students decide which of the possibilities is best based on their research and situation.
Transitions and heterogeneous ability groups really seems to help my students persevere through complex tasks. Students need to move around frequently, and they enjoy working with their friends.
We begin the lesson in the lounge where I really activate my students knowledge. Then the students explore different solutions, explain what they learned, and we begin an application activity in the elaborate section of the lesson. The explore, explain, and elaborate sections are take place while the students are seated in the center of the room in groups of four. Last, we transition to the lounge for the evaluation and closing of our lesson.
The other strategy I use is heterogeneous ability groups, but I call them peanut butter jelly partners. The students work together to read, write, and support each other anyway necessary. This just creates a classroom atmosphere where we help each other.
This is the beginning of the lesson and I try to accomplish three things. First, move the class to the lounge and excite them about learning. Then I assess their prior knowledge regarding solutions to our class problem. Then I share the plan for the lesson.
I say, "Class please come join me on the lounge." Once everyone is seated I say, "Think about the problem we learned about yesterday. Remember how we decided students need a place to play outdoors close to their homes." We are connecting today's lesson to previous lessons. Then I say, "Remember a solution to the problem of too much snow in Boston might be to use the snow to make and sell snow cones. So, think of a way to fix our problem, and tell your partner." Then I listen to assess their knowledge. I say, "Tell your partner what are some solutions. How can we solve this problem." Then I listen (connecting to prior knowledge) to see if they remember what we determined in yesterday's lesson. Then I allow one student to share and remind the others what we leaned. This is a much more meaningful and natural way of activating students thinking.
Last, I share the plan, because it helps the students know what my expectations are for the lesson. I say, "We are going to use the internet to explore possible solutions to our problem. Then you will record them in your science journal. Last you are going to determine which of the possibilities is the best."
This is the time when we transition to the desks in the center of the room, and I allow the students to search the internet for solutions to the problem. This creates a situation where the students learn different things and we can share what they learn in the next section of the lesson.
First I show the class some equipment, surfaces, and locations on a few websites. I use this one to show the equipment. Then we go here to explore the surfaces. Then I read this article from community blog to help students decide whether there should be one large playground of several small ones. (Start reading in the third paragraph beginning with "Consultation" and read the first parent response.)
I first give each pair of students a Macintosh laptop. I go over the anchor chart. Then I say, "Today you will share your laptop and work with a partner. You are going to research playground equipment and create a list of possible equipment, surfaces, and locations. I have a model on the board for you to use to help create your lists. I wrote some words on the board: search words to help you spell your search terms. Remember I am here to help you read, so let me know if you need help. Be sure to write down the solutions you learn about."
Then I walk around and observe the student exploring. They are basically getting a lot of information about the possibilities. If this was my first time allowing students to do an internet search I would let them work in a small group. But, I have modeled searching the internet, practiced with students in small groups, and the students are capable of working in pairs to generate lists at this point in the year. Keep in mind it is April, so the students can read well. In August, the students could not read well enough to do this and they may have gotten frustrated. So, I did a lot of modeling earlier in the year. Anytime the students have a question I cannot answer or needs support we "Google it." I turn on the Smart Board and talk out my steps.
The class remains seated in the center of the room and they share their knew knowledge with the group across the table. Then the students engage in a classroom discussion and communicate the possible solutions.
First, the students talk across the table to share (sharing) the different solutions they learned. I say, " Go ahead and share the solutions with the group across the table. First read your list (student work) of equipment." Then I listen to assess what they say. Next, I say, "Share your list of surfaces." Then I listen. Last I say, "Share the possible locations." Then I say, "Go ahead and add any possibilities you did not have."
Last, I say, "Will somebody share their solutions." I list them on the board. The class keeps adding until we have several solutions. Then I say, "What does the rest of the class think? Do you agree? Why?" If you agree we can use this raise your hand.
Now, we decide what equipment to use, what the surface should be, and the location the students want for their playground. After creating a list of equipment, surfaces, and locations we are ready to look at which is best (student work) for out situation. The situation is we are in the inner city and need an outdoor playground, so students can play outside safely.
I say, "Use your computer and your knowledge to decide upon the equipment you are going to have. Then I walk around to make sure the students are looking for reasons and talking about what equipment they want. I ask questions like, "How many kids you you think will be at the playground at a time?" Their response will determine the amount of toys needed. Then I say things like, "Use your list to decide what you will use. You can highlight your selection, and then write a short sentence or two about why you chose the equipment."
As I notice they are finished I say, "Look at your list of the surface you think we could use. "What is best rocks, mulch, or dirt? Why?" Then I listen and add, "Once you have made your choice highlight the one you think is best and write a sentence explaining why it is best. Write a sentence telling why your choice is best."
Last, I say, "Think about where it should be. Do you want several small playgrounds or one large one?" Then I listen and add, "So, you must make sure you have enough room for the playground if it is big. Several small playgrounds might accommodate our location better. You decide." Then I listen to students talking to their partners about their choice. I also add, "You can search on the computer. Search are small or large playgrounds better in cities? I can help you read if you need me to. I will write the search words on the board."
In this section I am basically using questions to engage the students in evaluating their solution. My plan is to help them extend their solution to a more complex design. I want to deepen their understanding of the specific things involved in designing a playground. They might have not thought about the surface and location if I had not questioned them. The students are also discovering the information on their own using the computers, which makes learning more meaningful. In later lessons we will survey other classes, evaluate their data, and use the data to determine the final design. In addition we plan to make observations of our playground and create a scale model to help us layout the spacing.
Finally, we transition to the lounge. This is when each pair presents (sharing) their solution and explains how it will work. Then we vote on which solution is the best.
I begin by getting the class seated and listening. I ask my students to chant, "Criss cross apple sauce pockets on the floor, hands in our laps talking no more." Then I add, "We are seated listening, and we are ready to give our peers feedback."
A simple spreadsheet lets me know which group gets to present first. I check off who presented last, and we begin with the next person on the list. So, their group goes first.
Last, I say, "The next thing for us is the survey the other students to see what they think. Then we will make more observations, and we will design a scale model of the playground we want to create."