Sunday, January 5, 2014

Talking about science...what do you think?

We have been working on the FOSS unit Balls, Ramps and Energy from Motion, Force and Models. This is a great way to teach variables (independent, dependent and controlled) in the context of content (force and motion).  Balls and Ramps allow students to create a system in which they will investigate speed of motion as well as forces working against it (friction).  They will also explore and understand how energy is connected (potential and kinetic).

What I love the most about any FOSS unit, is that the children DO the activity FIRST and connect the VOCABULARY AFTER they explore.  They also come to understand that engineers work at solving problems that come up.  They use their knowledge of science to design and build useful things - in this case, designing a system to accurately measure the speed of a ball on a ramp.

This is something that makes PERFECT SENSE to me.  I have a classroom that includes ESL, Gifted Ed, LD, ED, Autistic and 504 (ADHD, Hearing Impaired)...yes, I am not kidding!  For these kids, plus those without a label (yes, there are some of those kids too!) I have learned that scientific vocabulary as well as process vocabulary "sticks" when you connect it to a real world experience. 

I wish I could post a video of the kids talking and discussing science.  We had an AMAZING discussion full of "I disagree" statements and "the evidence states..." statements. Unfortunately, that would be showing the kids too much and I don't feel comfortable posting their faces so openly.

However, children are able to use the scientific and engineering vocabulary as they work.  You can see them thinking and processing what they are doing as they create.  Is this mastery yet? Not yet, but they are on their way.  Talking is essential to understanding for many children....and adults. (Including me!)


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Word Lanyards for science

So once we determine the words that we want to focus on, what do we do to ensure the students learn them? I know we introduced the words and then had the kids write them in a vocabulary journal.  They even used research methods online to find the synonyms, antonyms and prefixes/suffixes on their own. That's very empowering and engaging...but it is not enough. What do we do next?

In the past, we may have scoured the internet (or even the teacher's store) searching for games, worksheets even crafts that may be "cute" and "fun" for the kids.  However, even with all that extra work and effort, the kids often didn't make the connections or remember the meanings.

Word Nerds  gives a lot of suggestions that we have tried and used in our classroom.  Our favorite is the Word Lanyards. 

With the lanyards, we type up the six key words along with synonyms, antonyms or words with prefixes or suffixes added to the base word.  Our team takes turns typing up the lists and we print copies for each classroom.  Then we cut out the words and put them in the lanyards.  (In my case, I have a few late bus kids cut and put them in the lanyards!)

Each day, students take one lanyard to wear throughout the day.  We use the words during transitions (if you have a synonym for ____, line up), brain breaks and morning meeting games.

Here are some ideas: 

Scramble - By the time I get to 5 find all the words that are related. They should get into six groups with the synonyms or antonyms together with the key word.  Check to make sure they are correct. Once finished, sit down!

Word Dude and Checking Dude – Split class into two groups – Word dudes on one side of the room and Checking dudes on the other.   Then say by the time I count to 5, get into a group of two.  Word dudes have to give a sentence with their word in it while checking dude checks to see if they are right.  If they use the words correctly, they should give a silent cheer, do a silent dance move and then go back to their side of the room.  Then student jobs switch and repeat the process. Should take 5 minutes.

Pictionary – choose one of the 22 words and draw a picture on the whiteboard.  Have students guess what it is.

Create a tableau using the words. A Tableau is a "freeze picture" that acts out the word. Google it for more information!

We have found that our fourth graders have done these activities without any problems - as long as it is quick, fun and move on!

Hope this helps your day...