For my posts, I am tagging the Science and Engineering Practices (SEP) that I think best fit the lessons on my blog. To find lessons related to each practice, you can use the search box to find them or click on the tags on each post to find similar lessons:
SCIENTIFIC AND ENGINEERING PRACTICES (SEP) (Details from NSTA)
- SEP1 – Asking Questions and Defining Problems
- SEP2 – Developing and Using Models
- SEP3 – Planning and Carrying out Investigations
- SEP4 – Analyzing and Interpreting Data
- SEP5 – Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
- SEP6 – Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
- SEP7 – Engaging in Argument from Evidence
- SEP8 – Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
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.
- 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
Click on the image above to download the NGSS posters.
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:
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
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.
- a boy is in the water
- a goat standing next to the water
- a broken tree branch
- a sailboat is floating in the water
- 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.
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
- 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
- Which challenge was the easiest for you group to complete? The most difficult? Why?
- Did your techniques change as you advanced to each challenge? Explain why or why not.
- Describe a technique that worked best within your group.
- Compare using two hands vs. one hand when holding the string to guide the cups. List advantages and disadvantages for each.
- Compare using verbal and nonverbal communication, what were some of the challenges your group faced?
- If you were to complete this activity again, what would your group do differently? What would you do the same?
- Why are collaboration and communication skills important characteristics for scientists to have?
- Did you feel like giving up at any point? How did you and your group deal with frustration?
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.
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-PS1-5||MS-LS1-5||Full ESS2 PDF|
|Full PS2 PDF||MS-LS1-7||MS-ESS2-2|
|MS-PS2-2||Full LS2 PDF||MS-ESS2-4|
|MS-PS2-5||MS-LS2-3||Full ESS3 PDF|
|Full PS3 PDF||MS-LS2-4||MS-ESS3-1|
|MS-PS3-2||Full LS3 PDF||MS-ESS3-3|
|MS-PS3-5||Full LS4 PDF|
|Full PS4 PDF||MS-LS4-1|
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.
- 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)
- 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)
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)
- 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
- Metal Math Compass
- Foam or Cork Board
- Black construction paper
- Duct Tape
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.
Steps 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.
Steps 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?