What do you think? The practice of theories.

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SWBAT create and defend a theory about the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Big Idea

Using the conversation of the extinction of dinosaurs, students will actively engage in discussions with their own personal theories about extinction.

Setting the Stage

5 minutes

This lesson comes very close to the end of the school year. It falls in the unit of Earth's Past...How Did it Get Here?  Up to this point in all science lessons, students have shared their beliefs based on evidence from observations, activities or investigations.  This will be the first lesson that students will not have actual evidence to back up their belief statements due to the fact that no actual investigation has taken place. 

I have purposely not introduced the language of a "theory" to my students at all. In almost all previous lessons, students have had opportunities to practice formulating personal theories and communicating those theories with 'fellow scientists.' However, each time the dialogue in the classroom has arisen, it is has been table talk, or discourse among students.  Never has it been considered a scientific theory.  Earlier lessons have provided practice in sharing respectively and disagreeing respectively with each other.  Along the way, students have internalized these skills and most have become second nature in classroom discussions.  Even using conversation talking stems to help when necessary. 

Now, by attaching a name to a practice that has been used easily and without pressure, a scientific term can surround the skill and add more importance to the task.  

When the lesson begins, I carefully guide the students through the discussion of the question and lead them to see that the conversations they have been having all year have been very scientific and have a very scientific name.  Yet, they have discovered the language and the dance of how to do this on their own.  I simply walked them to the path to discover how to do it. 


5 minutes

I begin the lesson by asking the children to look at the screen and read the title slide...."Why Did They Disappear?" The children know that "they" is referring to dinosaurs because we have been reading about them in our reading curriculum. 

I do not linger long on slide one, but move quickly to slide two.  I read the question for the students and read the bottom question that states, "What do you believe happened to them?" I emphasis that I want the children to individually think about their own feelings and beliefs based on all that we have read and learned in other venues (reading lessons).  

I want the children to feel confident in their own minds about their beliefs before they share with their team. This time is just for them to cement those ideas. 


20 minutes

I move along quickly to slide four which suggests that it is time for the table teams to share their point of view and ideas. I ask the class if there are any tools they believe we have gained along the way during the school year that could help in this discussion. 

I anticipate that one student will remind us of the question stem cards that have been used often. They have been utilized in so many lessons beyond science curriculum, that the children have internalized many of the talk moves and instinctively use them without being aware they are even doing them. 

I give the groups about three minutes to discuss their own beliefs and to share those beliefs with each other.

I ring the bell and get the children's attention. I move the slide to five and ask the question: "Do we are all agree?" "Do we all disagree?"  I don't wait for any answers, I keep moving. I can see from the children's faces and the conversations I heard that there are many different ideas in the room. 

This body language lets me know it is perfect to move on to slide six; which asks....What do scientists do when there are multiple ideas to a question?  I ask the question and wait for a moment to see if the students have any ideas. Slide six suggests that scientists will survey other scientists (and I further explain, other research, not just another scientist) to gather more opinions.  

Slides seven and eight guide the children through the thinking process that scientists could organize that data in an organized and coherent manner.  Slide nine suggests that perhaps this could be done with our opinions from the dinosaur question. 

I ask these questions to encourage the children to share with me the important elements of gathering data...

  • What title should we use to encompass all our thoughts?
  • How many different opinions do we have to organize?
  • How will we measure the different opinions?      

In previous lessons, graphing and gathering data has been on the agenda. This will be the last time the students will do it during the year. I want to use this as a quick formative assessment to see if they remember all the essential elements to a graph.  

When our graph is complete, I move to slide ten and quickly review the elements of a good graph. If any of the elements have left out, we add them.  I pass out a small post it note to each child and ask them to write their first name on it.  When they have finished, they are welcome to place their post it on the chart next to their opinions choice of dinosaur extinction. I ask them not to discuss the results until the whole class has had an opportunity to complete their choices. 


10 minutes

This step is out of sequence from the 5E model. I do this because I want to guide the children through one more step and really build up the idea of how this will all lead to the concept of a theory.  

I move to slide eleven and ask the question, "What can we do with this data?"

I click and move on to slide twelve which shows sentence stems that incorporate the idea of comparing the data. (Not a new concept by any means, it has been practiced multiple times during the course of the school year). I begin with 'more' statements simply because they are much easier for children to see.  I demonstrate with the data on our graph how to do this.  

I allow the children a few minutes to practice with a partner themselves and then repeat the same process with slide thirteen. This process focuses on the least and fewer statements.  



5 minutes

When all the children have had a chance to practice both types of comparative statements, I gather their attention one more time and ask them to look at the screen.  

Slide fourteen poses one more question....Do scientists have proof of what happened to the dinosaurs? This concept is discussed and I expect there to still not be consensus within the classroom. Second Grade students tend to be very possessive of their ideas and don't let go easily, for this reason, I am sure that they will continue to not agree.  (Although they are disagreeing very politely and respectfully).

I move on to slide fifteen and read the statement to the children.  Explaining and reassuring them that scientists do not always agree. Further elaborating that scientists can use information that has been learned to determine and back up their claims, but this still may not change an opinion or belief. 

Lastly, I move to slide sixteen (slides 16-18 have been broken up into individual slides for teachers to click on and get the same effect). My slide is timed to come on in one slide when clicked. I read the first statement and explain or clarify any language that needs to be explained.

I read the second statement and follow the same procedure.  Lastly, when all this has been shared, I click one more time and the word 'theories' pops up!!! Shouts of, "OH!!!! I get it now!" are everywhere. 



10 minutes

When all this new information (and review information...graphing) has been disseminated, I pass out our sorting sticks.  These are sticks I have purchased many years ago. They are colored, have shapes on them and even numbers. Depending on which a teacher chooses, the students must find their partner to work with. 

After partners have been found, I explain that I would like the children to go back to their original concept and have a discussion with their partner explaining their thinking and include any evidence from observations, learning or research they can to support their opinion.  

As children are sharing with each other, I am circulating throughout the classroom and listening. I want to hear children sharing their reasons, including any information they have from outside sources, our reading curriculum or others opinions that have swayed them to change their minds. I am also listening for the respectful talk.