In this strategy that is specifically for science texts, students and teachers follow a five-step process for engaging with science texts and topics. Teachers begin by engaging students with the topic by watching a relevant video or viewing images about a topic. Then, students research the topic using a Newsela article or Text Set. After reading, students explain what they've learned and then explore the topic by engaging in an experiment. Finally, they evaluate their results and extend the activity by determining how this topic is relevant to their community and/or the world.
Teacher Preparation and Planning:
Familiarize yourself with the 5E instructional model by reviewing the resource included in the resource section below.
Create or select a Newsela Text Set related to the content or topic you want to cover.
Determine an essential question or questions for the topic and task.
Find an engaging video or preview such as the "Can Potatoes Grow on Mars?" video located in the resources section below.
Design an experiment or reference the potato-growing experiment below.
If you are conducting the potato plant experiment, you may want to start the potatoes growing in a cup a few weeks before this lesson so they'll be ready to plant in a variety of soil types (directions in the resources section below).
Gather all materials needed.
Research a relevant news article related to the topic to use as an extension or preview the "How super-spuds could save the planet" Newsela article in the after reading resources section.
Photocopy student materials as needed.
Introduce the essential questions. Potato example essential questions could include:
What challenges will scientists need to overcome to grow potatoes on Mars?
Why is learning how to grow potatoes on Mars important?
Allow students to brainstorm ideas under the "What I THINK at the beginning of the unit" section of the Pre/Post Essential Question Student Response Sheet located in the resources section below.
ENGAGE: Watch a video related to the topic you are discussing. One example is the video "Can potatoes really grow on Mars?" See the link for this video in the resources section below.
Students begin filling in the "What I LEARNED" section of the Pre/Post Essential Question Student Response Sheet based on what they learn.
Assign the Newsela article or Text Set with the following directions: Highlight information that answers the first essential question in YELLOW. Highlight information that answers the second essential question in PURPLE.
Have students read articles in the Text Set highlighting information based on the instructions given.
EXPLAIN: Have students use their highlighted information to complete the "What I LEARNED" section of the Pre/Post Essential Questions Student Response Sheet located in the resources section below.
Once students have completed the Pre/Post Essential Questions Student Response Sheet, divide students into pairs and have them explain their ideas to their partners. Allow students to add more information to the "What I LEARNED during the unit" section based on their conversations.
EXPLORE: Have students explore the topic further by completing a hands-on activity. For example, one example related to the "Can Potatoes Grow on Mars?" Text Set is for students to grow their own potatoes. During that activity, students can:
follow the directions on the "How to Grow a Potato in a Cup" instruction sheet located in the resources section below. Starting the potato plants in a cup will help to make sure you have three healthy plants started before attempting to grow them in different types of soil. (You could start this process a few weeks in advance if you want the plants ready to plant in soil right away).
brainstorm what variables they could add to the soil to try to affect each plant's growth. To connect to the Mars experiment, teachers could "cook" some of the soil mixture at a high temperature and then allow students to create soil mixtures for each plant that vary in the proportion of regular and "baked" soil.
Students can then record their observations using the "Growing a Potato Plant Data Collection Sheet" in the resources section below.
EVALUATE: Have students use the data they have collected to evaluate their findings. Students who have grown potatoes can complete the "Experiment Evaluation Sheet" in the resources section below.
ELABORATE: Ask Students: Why is this topic/experiment important in our world today? How can the information scientists discover help to improve our planet?
Teachers using the Growing Potatoes on Mars Text Set can read the "How super-spuds could save the planet" article aloud to students. See a copy of this article in the resources section below.
Ask students: How can the current scientific studies taking place in Peru help to end world hunger? What else will scientists need to study to help to solve this problem?
Can Potatoes Grow on Mars?
What causes rust?
What causes thunderstorms and lightning?
If you search "Experiment Central" in Newsela, you'll find some other great articles with experiments explained within the article. These are great!
If you use the "Can Potatoes Grow on Mars" Text Set, you'll want to keep the following in mind:
It is likely to take months to grow actual potatoes. If your students have the patience for it and you have a green thumb, by all means give it a try. That being said, simply measuring the height of the green plant growing from the potato will do fine for this unit.
If your budget allows, you may want to consider purchasing some Mars simulant. The Martian Garden is a website that supplies Mars simulant and offers educator discounts. See the website link in the resources section below.
In developing this strategy, the resources linked below were consulted.