I find that an easy way to connect with my students is by starting a lesson with a personal story. This gives me a chance to informally check out their schema, and at the same time, build enthusiasm for the topic. The Next Generation Science Standards is all about building on science experiences. I try to weave this concept into the fabric of my lessons as a way of connecting science in their lives while getting them to think about science at different levels. In this first classifying lesson my students observed, labeled and classified seashells.
Today I brought a seashell collection that I share with the students.The students are always excited to learn about my life and here is something that we can all relate to. I have always collected things. When I was a kid I started by collecting pencils then moved on to collect Barbie clothes and stickers. However, my favorite things to collect were things that were free! Who doesn't like that?
Now, I'm sure I have everyone's undivided attention! Soon everyone is offering their suggestions and this gives me the opportunity to do some academic language "weaving"! I introduce using a web graphic organizer, to help organize how we " classify" things, and what we can "observe". I'm big fan of graphic organizers. It helps my students organize their thoughts, and for that reason I use them in almost every lesson. It's amazing but after much modeling, the students just do it on their own in most subjects making their work more focused.
Academic vocabulary is a tough sell to a nine year old, but making it fun helps them "own it". I've tried many different methods and frankly, the best way I've found is with using a modified version of the Frayer Model Vocabulary. I use a variation of the Frayer model in their notebooks for all academic vocabulary, which I have reduced to 80% when copying to fit neatly in their interactive notebooks.
Science is all about inquiry, and most often this is accomplished in a collaborative setting. My students usually work in groups or in pairs. For this lesson, they are in groups and I have them do a turn and talk with their team members to discuss the "why" of the lesson as we go through each section. Ever since the implementation of the Common Core Standards I emphasize that students need to know the "why" of everything we do. It's amazing, because by November, you will hear them asking each other "Yeah, but what's the why?"
I use a Powerpoint to help keep my students stay focused as well as to help with time management. I also use graphic organizer in this case the T Chart for the initial sorting, I've included a picture of the students initial sorting.
Having students understand that each team member has a role, is essential to classroom management. One way I find that helps me,help them,while in groups, is by using nonverbal cues. I've included a picture of the "Team Answer sticks". The recorder of the group raises the yellow side if they need help and the green side if the whole group has completed the task.
Using the powerpoint throughout the whole lesson really helps the investigations go smoothly. It helps define the roles of the students on the team and gets them accustomed to collaborating.
The students also have to learn how to express themselves using academic language. In order to help them learn to speak like scientists, I provide Sentence Frames to help guide the discussion. I will keep doing this until they are able to respond using the language. It is a way to differentiate within the groups without any stigma, since they all start off using them and then I scaffold the use as needed in future lessons.
The use of the sentence frames leads us to one of the cross cutting concepts of the NGSS, "A discussion of similarities and differences in patterns can be used to sort and classify natural phenomena."
Kids love to share, and in my class, I use this as an opportunity to let the students be the "experts" after a lesson. The recorder for this activity stays at the table with the shells while his/her team visit the next group. The recorders then explain the "why".
Now remember, they completed the sentence frames as a group. There is no pressure because they have it written down if they need to refer to notes for help. Then the roles are reversed and the recorders visit the next team to see their results. The best part, they are using academic vocabulary in their explanations.
As a whole group discussion, or share, I ask where we could get more information about seashells.
As an extension, during the read aloud I read "What Lives in a Shell?" by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld. I love to use picture books in the content areas. I use them to show the content, as a springboard or a review. I will either use the book at the beginning of the lesson as the warm up or at the end to help wrap up the lesson.