Quality or Quantity? Scientific Descriptions....

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SWBAT determine the difference between qualitative and quantitative language in science descriptions.

Big Idea

Learning to communicate effectively like a scientist can be so much easier when you have the right language tools in your toolbox. This lesson allows students to explore and play around with words that describe quality versus quantity.

Setting the Stage

5 minutes

This lesson falls during a unit on the Rain Forest, not because it has any specific correlation to this biome, but more because I can use the unit itself to teach a science concept. 

Scientists need to be able to describe their work and findings in specific ways in order for other scientists to understand and perhaps replicate their findings. Not all data can be shared the same way. Knowing when to use numerical descriptions versus adjective descriptions is important and both have different purposes.  

I created this lesson to demonstrate for my students the differences between quantitative and qualitative language and to practice using that language. 

**In planning my school year, I design my units around the Washington State science standards in themes.  I have taken those standards, along with the NGSS and woven them into the larger units. I believe it is important to carefully bring higher level science concepts in slowly and with purpose or connection.  Meaning, I use the science content to teach not only information, but process skills as well.  


10 minutes

Earlier in the day, I read the children the story Diary of a Worm.  A fun engaging story about about a worm and it's daily routines.  When I begin the lesson, I remind the children about the book we read and I ask the children to describe the worm in the story to me.  They share all kinds of observations from the book.  

I ask further questions to draw out of the children as many descriptive words as I can.  I ask them to look at the screen and I show them slide one of the Scientific Descriptions Power Point.  I explain to them that the words they used to describe the worm in the story are interesting words, but as a scientist, they may not be the best way to describe a worm.  I continue to explain that I think we should make some scientific observations of worms.  The anticipation rises in the classroom and the children begin to wiggle.

I anticipate one child will ask me if I have live worms for us to observe.....I am prepared for this and explain that "No, we are not going to use live worms. I couldn't get that many worms for us to observe. So I had to find the next best thing."  I hold up a gummy worm.....when the excitement dies down, I bring a bowl to each team with one worm for each student.  Slide two shows the same worm on the screen with the instructions to find as many words as possible to describe the worm.  I allow the children about five minutes to explore this phase.  When it appears that they have exhausted their ideas, I move to slide three and show them another type of candy worm.  It is a sugary covered gummy worm.  

I purposely want to have two distinctly different types of worms for the children to observe to encourage more language and dialogue between the children.  

I allow the children about three minutes to describe the sugary covered worm.  I explain to them that I want them to share their ideas and words with each other in their teams. 


15 minutes

When the children have discussed in their groups all of the descriptive words they can to explain their observations of the two worms, I get their attention and ask them to look at the screen one more time. I move to slide four and ask them if we can gather any more data? I have the timing of the objects on the screen to only become visible when I click.  The question is posed and afterwards, the caption, "use scientific tools" appears on the screen. I further ask if the children can tell me what tools would be best to use....I am using this as a quick formative assessment for myself to see if they remember the best ways to gather measurement data. 

I distribute the tools to each team and allow them time to work and gather all their data. By this time of the school year, they are quite good at weighing and measuring objects. They can do this easily and quickly.

I expect the children to ask me where we will record the data, because every lesson up to this point has always had a documenting sheet.  I wait for a few moments before I pass out the recording sheet. Slide five shows a group of empty boxes and the words "sort and classify your words" do not come ont the screen until I click them on.  

I demonstrate how I would like the students to write a description inside each box.  I explain to them that they may use any of the descriptors they discussed in their groups, as well as, any of the measurements they took with the tools. It is up to the children to determine what words to choose. I really want to encourage more freedom in their discretion and decision making.  

When all the writing is complete, I click on the "sort and classify your words" click. The children will ask how to do this if the words are on the paper. I explain that their next step is to cut out each square. I remind them the fastest way to cut and they are done in about three minutes.  (The fastest way to cut these is cut either the columns or the rows and layer them one on top of the other.  Then cut quickly each stack). 


10 minutes

After the children have written all their descriptive words, I ask them to again look at the screen. Slide six  shows that they are going to sort and classify their words into two specific groups.  I explain to the children that they must determine which groups and how they group their words. It is completely up to them.  Especially, because they all chose to use different words. 

I allow them about three to four minutes to sort their words. I ask them to turn to their shoulder buddy and share with them the groups they created.  I direct them to look for any similarities and differences in their sorting.  

I ask them to look at slide seven. It is timed out to only deliver information as I explain it.  I explain the characteristics of the qualitative words. I ask them to look and see if they have a group that is similar to these attributes.  I then click on the three purple words.  Each one comes on as I click and adds more detailed information to explain the word.  

I move to slide eight and go through the same process.  

After explaining to the children the differences between their two groups, I ask them to glue them into their journals.  

Elaborate and Evaluate

25 minutes

I use both of these stages together as a way to extend the lesson and evaluate whether the children were able to assimilate the language and learning from the lesson the previous day. 

The following morning, during my reading block I have my students read a Scholastic News Reader about frogs. I have them read it through a couple of times independently to begin with.

I ask them to mark up any important information they believe is relevant to describe frogs.  I remind the of the lesson from the day before about quality and quantity.  I explain that I as they are going through their reading to keep in mind any words that would help to describe the frogs.  

I allow them about ten minutes to read the news magazine.  I draw a frog on the empty anchor chart while the children are finishing their reading.  

When all the reading is complete, I ask the children to share with me any quantitative language they read in the passage about the frogs.  I begin with quantitative language because the numbers are much easier to pick out easily. 

I write all the words the children share with me on the anchor chart to use later in other lessons. 

We follow the same process with the qualitative language.