Reflection: Staircase of Complexity Using LEGOs and PhET Simulation to Teach Conservation of Matter - Section 1: Overview


Choosing a concrete anchor activity can mean the difference between understanding more abstract concepts or utter confusion. If I'd only included the PhET simulation and not utilized the LEGO blocks to introduce the concept of matter conservation, students wouldn't have had a tangible experience to reference. Science is abstract enough, so teachers must scaffold lessons in a way that provides an opportunity to experience a model of a phenomenon, in this case, and build understanding from that activity.

As we progress through our lessons, we can refer to the anchor activity to elicit student thoughts. For example, as students were studying physical and chemical changes, some students thought that matter was being destroyed.  I asked the students, "What did we learn from the LEGO activity that can be applied to chemical changes?"  Students thought about the main point of the activity and how it supports the conservation of matter. This led to students realizing that a chemical change equates to a chemical reaction, so matter is just being rearranged into different combinations of matter.

I encourage you to utilize anchor activities to help build student understanding and drive inquiry in your classes. 

  Using anchor activities to deepen student conceptual understanding
  Staircase of Complexity: Using anchor activities to deepen student conceptual understanding
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Using LEGOs and PhET Simulation to Teach Conservation of Matter

Unit 7: Molecules
Lesson 7 of 9

Objective: SWBAT: Explain matter conservation using various modeling techniques, including physical and digital methods.

Big Idea: Talking about matter conservation and experiencing various models of the Law are two very different things. Our job is to get our kids to experience phenomena and then build off of them in later lessons. This lesson sets the stage for future inquiry.

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Science, KLEWS
  50 minutes
lego pic
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