Communication Devices ~ Revising Plans

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SWBAT plan a tool to communicate over a distance utilizing light and/or sound.

Big Idea

The best laid plans... for finishing a great unit! Students improve their plans, and solve our problem.

Instructional Notes

This unit is broken down into two main parts: sound and light.  We have investigated, "How do we communicate with sound?" and "How do we communicate with light?"  Now, students will plan their culminating engineering design product. 

  • 1-PS4-4. Use tools and materials to design and build a device that uses light or sound to solve the problem of communicating over a distance.

I divide the culminating event over two days.  On Day 1, we define the problem, brainstorm, and make an initial plan.  On Day 2, we work in groups to pick the best idea and revise it further.  We will not be building the devices, rather, we will present our ideas on poster paper to one another.

It was important to me to choose a problem that students are familiar with; namely, a problem at school!  One problem at my school is lining up for recess.  We have multiple classes using the area at once, and teachers line up at different times.  Plus, sometimes I forget my whistle.  And, our whistles all sound alike!  This leads to students not lining up right away, which in turn causes us to lose time in our math block.  Can students design a better device for communicating to students in different classes that it is time to line up?


5 minutes

In today's warm-up, I begin by displaying and reviewing the Engineering Design Process Graphic.  

Friends, what parts of the engineering process did we go through yesterday?

Next, remind students that at the end of yesterday's lesson, they evaluated one another's designs.

Yesterday, we evaluated one another's plans.  Most of us now have a few ideas about how we can make our plans even better.  Today, we will begin with ten minutes for you to revise and add to your plan.  This way, you can make the best plan possible for your device.  Who can remind us of some of the most important ideas we had yesterday for improving our plans?

Students share some of the main suggestions from the previous day, like adding more labels and writing to tell how the device solves the problem.  

I distribute student plans and give them 10 minutes of individual work time.  During this time, I circulate to students whose plans require the most work.

Exploration ~ the wave crest

20 minutes

Next, I reference students to the subsequent step in the Engineering Design Process.  

Engineers, the next step says to pick the best idea.  Please bring your plan to the rug.  If your device uses sound, sit on the left side of the rug.  If your design uses sound, sit on the right side of the rug.  And if your device uses both light and sound, sit in the middle of the rug.

Engineers often collaborate, and I divide students into groups of 3-4 students based on the focus of the device.  I explain their job in the group.

In groups today, you will sit knees-to-knees and elbows-to-elbows.  Each person will take a turn telling about their plan.  Then, your group will decide whose plan is the best.  Maybe you will need to take some ideas from one plan, and some ideas from another plan.  Once your group picks the best plan, you will write to tell why you chose that device.  How does that device best solve the problem?  You'll also draw a final plan on the poster paper.

It's possible that some groups will disagree, so try to be preventative here.  

What can you say if you and a friend both want to use your own idea?  

After children suggest ideas, I give them conversation starters as well, "I like ____ about your idea, and I like ____ about my idea.  How can we use some of both?"

While students work, I circulate among groups and make sure they are working well together and making progress towards their goal.


5 minutes

As I play a transition song, all groups bring their final plans to the front of the room.  I tape them onto my whiteboard.  Each group has a chance to tell about which design they picked and why.

Part of the Common Core standards include speaking and listening.  The principles of speaking are also incorporated within the NGSS Science and Engineering Practice #8, which includes orally presenting scientific information and design ideas.

In this lesson, which I revised to allow students to work independently, the presentations actually came as the warm-up.  In this video, I walk you through some of their plans and discuss whetehr or not the student has attained the standard.