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Observations: Telephone Game

Image Source - Wikipedia Commons

Image Source – Wikipedia Commons

I used this activity with my 6th graders last fall to emphasize observations, communication skills, and team work. It is a variation on the classic Telephone Game that many students are familiar with. Depending on the number of students you have, I found that 7-8 per team worked really well. The more students on a team, the more difficult it is to relay the information to each student, and less than 7 was much easier. If your teams aren’t exactly even, that is ok. When grouping students, be sure to mix abilities and plan accordingly for teams that are larger/smaller.

How the game works is I have 10 color photos of damselflies, and each team will make & share observations for one of the photos. The only person who will see the photo, however, is person #1. The rest of the team will not see the photo, and they don’t know what the photos are of. The only information they will have are the 10 observations person #1 will give them. Once each group determines who #1 is, #1 will come up to make and record 10 observations about their photo for 3 minutes. The rest of the team will determine who will receive the information from #1 and the order they will go in. Some strategies will go into determining the order, for example, someone who has a really good memory may want to be person #2.

Students will spread out around the room and take a seat. When the 3 minutes are up, person #1 will go to person #2 and whisper the 10 observations to them for 1 minute. Person #1 will have their index card, but can not give the index card to person #2. Person #2 can ask questions and repeat the information until the 1 minute is up. #1 will take #2’s seat and #2 will go to #3 and share the 10 observations from memory. This will continue until all members have had a turn sharing the observations.

The last member of the team will share the observations with the class and then pick out the photograph from the 10 I have. We will then compare the last set of observations to the original 10 and find out if they were able to choose the correct photo.

This was a fun and challenging activity, and it lead to some really great discussions about making and sharing observations. Many groups had difficulty picking out the original photograph because the information changed or went missing somewhere along the line, just like when they play the game telephone.

Materials

  • Detailed lesson plan for teachers (pdf-Instructions)
  • Directions for students to introduce the activity and the 10 images to print out and laminate (pdf)

NGSS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING PRACTICES (SEP 1, SEP 4, SEP 8)

  • Asking Questions and Defining Problems
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

NGSS Graphics – great to place in your planbook for quick reference

NGSS-posters_gray

Image Source: Project Neuron @ Univeristy of Illinois 

Click on the image above to download the NGSS posters.

Reading a Triple Beam Balance

Image: Ohaus Scale Reading Exercise

Image: Ohaus Scale Reading Exercise

This is a great interactive tutorial from Ohaus (link). Using the tutorial prior to using the triple beam balance in class significantly improved the student’s understanding of how to find, read, and record the mass of an object to the nearest 1/10th of a gram. For the tutorial, each student works at their own pace and is given immediate feedback for each answer they submit. The problems are randomly generated and each student has a slightly different experience, as opposed to having each student answer the same set of problems. Students will also review place values for 100s, 10s, 1s, and 1/10ths. (Values for the 100ths place may appear in the answers, but students will only be assessed up to the 10ths place)

Here is nice video that gives a general overview on how to use the TBB:

Reading a Triple Beam Balance Worksheet (pdf) and Ohaus website (link)

Next Generation Science Standards, Science and Engineering Practices (SEP)

  • (SEP2) Practice 2 – Developing and Using Models
  • (SEP4) Practice 4 – Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • (SEP5) Practice 5 – Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

Boy in the Water: Observation vs Inference

goat_boy_water_observations

Image Source: Project Archaeology

Students often have difficulty distinguishing between observations and inferences, they often combine the two into one statement. For example, when asked to make an observation using the image above some students may say: “The boy fell into the water because the branch broke.” Another student may say: “The goat pushed the boy into the water when he was trying to pick up his sailboat.”

We then discuss the difference between the facts and the “story” that goes with it. The facts are our observations and the story is how we piece the facts together, or our inference.

Observations:

  • a boy is in the water
  • a goat standing next to the water
  • a broken tree branch
  • a sailboat is floating in the water

Inferences:

  • The branch broke when the boy was sitting on it, and he fell into the water.
  • The goat butted the boy into the water when he was picking up his sailboat.

After defining and discussing the differences between observations and inferences, students will have a chance to work with their partner to practice identifying and classifying the statements related to the image of the boy in the water. Once everyone is done, as a class, we then discuss each statement and confirm each as either an observation or inference.

The original worksheet for this activity is posted at the following link (pdf) from Project Archaeology (link)

Use the picture of the boy in the water to determine if the following statements are observations or if the statements are inferences. Place an “Inf” in the blank for inference and an “Obs” in the blank for observation.

_____________ 1. The boy is in the water

_____________ 2. The weather is cold

_____________ 3. The tree branch is broken

_____________ 4. If the boy crawled out of the water, the goat would push him

_____________ 5. The boy fell off the branch

_____________ 6. The goat is standing by the pond

_____________ 7. The branch will fall on the boy’s head

_____________ 8. The boy fell off the rocks

_____________ 9. There is a sailboat in the water

_____________ 10. The sailboat belongs to the boy

_____________ 11. The goat will soon leave the pond

_____________ 12. The tree by the pond has no leaves

_____________ 13. There are three rocks in the pond

_____________ 14. The tree by the pond is dead

_____________ 15. If it rains, leaves will grow on the tree

_____________ 16. The goat pushed the boy into the pond

Cup Stacking Collaboration Challenge

Cup Stacking Challenge

Goal

  • Students will collaborate, problem solve, and persevere to accomplish each challenge

Materials – per group of 3-4 students

  • 6 cups
  • 1 rubber band
  • 4-6 pieces of string of equal length
  • task cards – cut apart, laminate, and secure with a metal ring (pdf)

This is one of the team building exercises I plan to use with my 6th graders during the first week of school. Many variations of this lesson can be found online. For this version, I created 6 different challenges for the students to tackle – each one increasing in difficulty. Not every group will get to complete all 6 challenges, and that is OK. The objective is to learn to work together as a team and not give up.

Discussion & Reflection

  1. Which challenge was the easiest for you group to complete? The most difficult? Why?
  2. Did your techniques change as you advanced to each challenge? Explain why or why not.
  3. Describe a technique that worked best within your group.
  4. Compare using two hands vs. one hand when holding the string to guide the cups. List advantages and disadvantages for each.
  5. Compare using verbal and nonverbal communication, what were some of the challenges your group faced?
  6. If you were to complete this activity again, what would your group do differently? What would you do the same?
  7. Why are collaboration and communication skills important characteristics for scientists to have?
  8. Did you feel like giving up at any point? How did you and your group deal with frustration?

NGSS Middle School (6–8) Evidence Statements

NGSS has released the Evidence Statements for Middle School Science – (link)

In the table below, links for each standard will take you directly to their website and documents.

Physical Sciences                                                                   

   Life Sciences                                                               

    

    Earth and Space               Sciences                                           

 Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science
     Full PS PDF       Full LS PDF        Full ESS PDF        Full ETS1 PDF
     Full PS1 PDF      Full LS1 PDF       Full ESS1 PDF        MS-ETS1-1
       MS-PS1-1       MS-LS1-1        MS-ESS1-1       MS-ETS1-2
       MS-PS1-2       MS-LS1-2        MS-ESS1-2       MS-ETS1-3
       MS-PS1-3       MS-LS1-3        MS-ESS1-3       MS-ETS1-4
       MS-PS1-4       MS-LS1-4        MS-ESS1-4
       MS-PS1-5       MS-LS1-5      Full ESS2 PDF
       MS-PS1-6       MS-LS1-6        MS-ESS2-1
     Full PS2 PDF       MS-LS1-7        MS-ESS2-2
       MS-PS2-1       MS-LS1-8        MS-ESS2-3
       MS-PS2-2    Full LS2 PDF        MS-ESS2-4
       MS-PS2-3       MS-LS2-1        MS-ESS2-5
       MS-PS2-4       MS-LS2-2        MS-ESS2-6
       MS-PS2-5       MS-LS2-3      Full ESS3 PDF
     Full PS3 PDF       MS-LS2-4        MS-ESS3-1
       MS-PS3-1       MS-LS2-5        MS-ESS3-2
       MS-PS3-2    Full LS3 PDF        MS-ESS3-3
       MS-PS3-3       MS-LS3-1        MS-ESS3-4
       MS-PS3-4       MS-LS3-2        MS-ESS3-5
       MS-PS3-5    Full LS4 PDF
    Full PS4 PDF       MS-LS4-1
       MS-PS4-1       MS-LS4-2
       MS-PS4-2       MS-LS4-3
       MS-PS4-3       MS-LS4-4
      MS-LS4-5
      MS-LS4-6

Using Lego Bricks: Elements, Compounds, and Mixtures Activity

Exploring Elements, Compounds, and Mixtures using Legos

Exploring Elements, Compounds, and Mixtures using Legos

I use this activity to help students visualize how atoms are used as the building blocks of matter and how matter can be classified as elements, compounds, or mixtures.

Materials

  • 12 Legos – 3 different colors and sizes with 4 of each kind
    • Lego Bricks must be the same size for each color (see photo above)
    • stored in sandwich sized zip-top bags
    • 1 set per 2 students
  • colored pencils
  • handout (pdf)

Background Information

  • Each Lego Brick represents one atom
  • Each colored Lego Brick represents one atom for each element
    • example: 3 blues = one element, 4 oranges = second element, 4 greens represent a third element
  • When Lego Bricks are snapped together, that represents a chemical bond and one compound
  • Lego Bricks that are not snapped together are not chemically bonded to each other
  • For mixtures, you can have combinations of single bricks (elements) and bonded bricks (compounds)

Minerals in your house

Mineralogy 4 Kids - Minerals in your house

Mineralogy 4 Kids – Minerals in your house

Mineralogy4Kids (link) has a great website that provides students with a wealth of information on minerals. I like to use the Minerals in Your House page to introduce minerals to my students and have them explore the different ways we use minerals in our everyday life. In this post I am including an updated worksheet for students to take notes while they view the website. Minerals in your house (pdf)

Shoebox Planetarium or Constellation Viewer

2015-05-26 14.13.38

Inside the Shoebox – Viewing The Constellation Scorpius

Materials

  • Detailed Instructions (pdf)
  • Constellations (one set using the front pages only) (pdf)
    • these will be used for the viewer
  • Constellation cards (photocopied front to back) (pdf)
    • cut these apart as a reference to help you identify the constellations
    • paperclip and keep inside the shoebox for storage
  • Large Paper Clips
  • Index Cards
  • Glue Sticks
  • Scissors
  • Metal Math Compass
  • Foam or Cork Board
  • Shoebox
  • Black construction paper
  • Duct Tape
  • Stickers

Steps 1 & 2: Cut out constellations and glue each to an index card, and then to a piece of black construction paper. Triple layering will make the cards more sturdy and let less light through. Using a metal math compass, poke a hole for every star in the constellation, using the foam board or cork as your backing.

20150526_140837Steps 3 & 4: Make an opening on one end of the shoebox slightly smaller than an index card. Trim the cards to fit inside  of your shoebox and line up the stars to make sure none are blocked. Use 2 paper clips to keep in place.

2015-05-26 14.16.4220150526_141005Steps 5 & 6: Make an opening on the opposite side of the shoebox so you can see inside the box. Put the lid on and decorate with duct tape. Change the cards to practice identifying the constellations. How many can you find in the night sky?

20150526_1406492015-05-26 14.14.44

Adopt-a-City: Weather Report Summary

My 6th graders completed their Adopt-a-City unit and wrote their weather reports comparing the weather in Morristown, NJ to their adopted cities. Students transferred their data to the following Google Sheet Template and then analyzed their data to write their weather reports using Google Docs.

  • Google Sheets Template for Weather Report (link)
  • Google Doc Template for Weather Report (link)
  • Adopt-a-City Unit with resources (page)

Overall this was a successful unit. The students enjoyed having an independent study based classroom experience and working at their own pace. They worked cooperatively with their peers and were able to explore each topic in depth with the provided resources. They also learned so many valuable skills and had a real understanding of weather. Below are some sample graphs for different cities:

image (9)

Morristown, NJ and Butte, MT

Sunset Times

Morristown, NJ and Baton Rouge, LA

image (5)

Morristown, NJ and Miami, FL

image (3)

Morristown, NJ and Seattle, WA

humidity

Morristown, NJ and Las Vegas, NV

Moon Rise

Morristown, NJ and Baltimore, MD

Pacing for Adopt-a-City Unit – students collected data and created Mini-Maps at the start of each class, and they updated their weather data over the weekends. I checked mini-maps and gave a daily grade of 5 pts per map completed and graded completed tasks as they handed them in. I also graded weather data for completion to be sure their data was up to date. Having a shared spreadsheet, with tabs for each student in the class, made it easy to quickly check each student’s data. I also added quizzes to check for understanding along the way. Their weather report was weighted as a test grade.

  • Day 1: Tasks 1-2
  • Day 2:  Tasks 2-3, HW Task 2 completed
  • Day 3: Tasks 3-4-5, HW Tasks 3 & 4 to be completed
  • Day 4: Tasks 4-5-6, HW Task 5 to be completed
  • Day 5: Tasks 6-7, HW Task 6 to be completed
  • Day 6: Tasks 7-8
  • Day 7: Tasks 7-8, HW Task 7 part 1 to be completed
  • Day 8: Tasks 7-8, HW Task 7 – complete Part 2
  • Day 9: Tasks 7-8-9, HW Task 8 to be completed
  • Day 10: Tasks 8-9-10
  • Day 11: Tasks 9-10-11, HW complete Task 9
  • Day 12: Tasks 10-11
  • Day 13: Tasks 10-11-12, HW complete Task 10
  • Day 14: Tasks 11-12-13
  • Day 15: Tasks 11-12-13, HW complete Task 11
  • Day 16: Tasks 12-13
  • Day 17: Tasks 12-13-14, HW complete task 12
  • Day 18: Tasks 13-14
  • Day 19: Tasks 13-14-15, HW complete task 13
  • Day 20: Tasks 14-15 or begin Weather Report, HW complete task 14
  • Day 21: Task 15 or begin Weather Report, HW complete task 15
  • Weather Report due x/xx/xx
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