My students are already familiar with magnets. I am sure that yours are too, but do they all understand what magnets attract and repel?
Today, I will begin our magnetism unit with a simple question, "What materials are attracted to a magnet, and what materials are repelled?"
I will ask the students to discuss with their shoulder partner, and then with the whole class, their ideas about the question.
Next, I will place our learning target on the board: I can determine what types of items attract or repel magnets.
In order to prepare my students to find answers to the questions, I will share an investigation organizer and a tray of objects, along with 4 magnets. I will show the students the organizer and ask them to begin filling out the column of what they think they know about magnets, what they wonder about, and how they will try to answer their own questions. There is also a column to report their findings.
I will not, at this point, show the students what to do. I want them to create their own investigations to answer their questions. This is critical, at this age and ability of students. Exploring objects or situations, wondering about causes, and creating an investigation in order to gain understanding is crucial to the development of a scientist.
Following the explanation of the organizer, and creating the investigation groups, I will send the students off to work.
As the students work with their groups, I will circulate in order to question, guide, and prompt thinking. I will also be listening for precise use of vocabulary terms and written results.
As these students worked, I was able to redirect them to consider questions that could be tested in our classroom with our tools. Notice, that I did not tell this student that her question was a silly one, or that she was not focused. I allowed her to speak with me scientifically and she actually talked about how it could be tested. We then were able to discuss questions that could be answered in our room.
These girls were finishing up when I arrived at their workstation. They were able to share with me the answer to their question, "How many objects can stick to one magnet?" and then had a question about why one magnet can't "float in the air" without a pencil between the two magnets. I was really pleased to see their desire to look beyond the obvious and test the magnets against each other.
As a closing, I will ask two teams to partner and share what they found out during their investigations. I will also continue to circulate and ask students to describe their tests and their results.
Simple closings like this can be a wonderful way to continue the student's excitement, yet gain information in order to plan future lessons and experiences. Being a good listener is all it takes!