Reflection: Rigor Density Test Tube Challenge - Section 5: Density Test Tube Challenge


Writing scientific procedure  is not only a standard in the Common Core (WHST.6-8.2), but it is also a skill that is challenging for middle school students.  Students need multiple opportunities for practice and feedback.  The hard thing about procedures is that they take time.  Simply adding the procedure to this lesson adds an entire class period.  And in the time crunch of the school year, adding multiple days may seem to be too much to do.  I totally get it.  But, I will say that in order for students to truly engage in scientific practice, they need opportunities to develop solutions and technical procedures completely on their own.  Without that capacity, they are merely reading directions, they are not fully engaging in science.  

I find that varying the method of procedures from group procedures to individual procedures can help scaffold this process. However, if you are going to do group procedures as this lesson asks, accountability must be addressed.  Whenever I utilize a procedure written by a group, there are a couple accountability tips that I use.

1.  Make the procedure, "Sage and Scribe".  The "Sage" is the student who is providing an idea for what the next step of the procedure should be.  The "Scribe" is the student who will write down the step that the "Sage" says.  Groups have one piece of paper.  The person with the paper (the Scribe) writes for the person to the right of them (the Sage).  The "Sage" offers their idea for what the step of the procedure should say.  At this point, the "Sage" can ask the group for feedback before they have the "Scribe" write.  However, they have to offer an idea first prior to asking for feedback.  In other words, the "Sage" can't simply say "I don't know.  Can the group help me?".  The "Sage" has to provide the base idea and then the group can help from there.  Once feedback is given, the "Sage" is the one that has to verbally tell the "Scribe" what to write.  The paper is passed one student to the right around the group after each step of the procedure is written.

2.  Discuss procedures with every group member.  In this lesson, I inform students that when they bring me their procedures for approval, I will be asking them questions about their procedures.  I make sure that I ask every member of the group direct questions about the procedures to show that they have an awareness and ownership in the procedure.  If a student cannot answer the question I ask, I say, "It seems like you could use some input from your team.  As a team, return to your workspace and review the procedure and answer any questions that group members may have.  When you feel confident the group is ready to discuss, return to me and I would love to discuss your procedure with you."

Without these accountability pieces, group procedures end up being one or two group members doing the work and the rest of the students just tagging along without building understanding.

  Make Time For Procedures
  Rigor: Make Time For Procedures
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Density Test Tube Challenge

Unit 3: Physical Properties: Mass, Volume, and Density
Lesson 3 of 5

Objective: Students will be able write a clear scientific procedure and use their knowledge of density to create a density column.

Big Idea: Students are given salt, water, and food coloring and are asked to problem solve to create a density column!

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10 teachers like this lesson
Science, density, volume, procedure, middle school, mass
  115 minutes
test tube lesson
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