Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Scientific Explanations: The NEW Lab Report!

Are you still using the scientific method? Do your students create daunting lab reports that are carbon copies of each other? Sure some of those skills are important, but with times changing, technology taking over the world, and students being forced to think harder and deeper, we need to prepare them for more. You are probably wondering, how is this possible? Well, let me tell how science has changed this year for me. If you missed my past few post, go check them out in order here:

Force & Motion: Using Gradual Release to Foster Independence: Analyzing Data/Evidence - See more at: http://pinkadotselementary.blogspot.com/2015/11/using-gradual-release-to-foster.html#sthash.XJpPcHYh.dpuf

 I've learned a few things over the past month of school
  • Students love to be challenged, no matter their level
  • All students love Science class
  • The more time and work you put into a lesson or concept, the better the outcome
  • If you have high expectations for your students, they will reach them 
  • Collaboration and discussion are powerful tools for all students
  • You can combine math, reading, and writing into Science without even trying
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Science-Force-Motion-How-Does-Force-Affect-Motion-Scientific-Explanations-2234133My students and I have grown so much in the past month by using the claim, evidence, and reasoning writing. They love doing scientific investigations as it is, but now it makes sense to them how they can explain their thinking. They are also excited to step away from the "lab report" technique and have a chance create graphs and collaborate with peers while showing their thinking.  Our district is using this response format throughout high school, so students will have a solid start on the process after fourth grade. I'm exciting to watch them grow in their writing and science throughout the year.

Does this sound like something you'd like to try? Check out my new product! This version focuses on Force and Motion, but others will be available shortly. In this product you will find everything you need to get your students completing scientific investigations collaboratively in groups, thinking of scientific principles, and explaining their thoughts like true scientists.
Force & Motion: Using Gradual Release to Foster Independence: Analyzing Data/Evidence - See more at: http://pinkadotselementary.blogspot.com/2015/11/using-gradual-release-to-foster.html#sthash.XJpPcHYh.dpuf

Force & Motion: Using Gradual Release to Foster Independence: Analyzing Data/Evidence - See more at: http://pinkadotselementary.blogspot.com/2015/11/using-gradual-release-to-foster.html#sthash.XJpPcHYh.dpuf

Monday, November 23, 2015

Force & Motion: Using Gradual Release to Foster Independence: Choosingand Understanding Scientific Principles

If you have been keeping up with our blog you've seen my progress in writing scientific explanations. This is post #3, be sure to check out post 1 and post 2, before reading below.

The reasoning section on the scientific explanation is my favorite section. It allows me to see if the students can make sense of the information presented or not.

One way that we have had success discussing principles is by working together in collaborative groups to illustrate the principles. One of my PLC members actually came up with this idea on a whim and it was brilliant! We gave each group a small white board and a dry erase marker. As we referred to our “Scientific Principles” anchor chart, I challenged each group to come up with an illustration displaying the principle. The creativity and collaboration was amazing! I set the timer for three minutes and was completely impressed with the results. (I wish I took pictures, but I was living in the moment and completely forgot!) After the timer went off, each group showed off their illustration and a member presented and explained to the class. There were definitely some “ah hah” moments created during this quick lesson.

Another activity that we completed that worked out great was using The Owl Teacher’s Causation Cards for Force and Motion. These fit into my scientific principle section perfectly and the students had a blast while working. These task cards are almost like playing an “I have, who has” activity, but combined with a drama, humor, and learning. They discuss scientific ideas, definitions, give examples, and are full of fun. My fourth graders enjoyed this activity so much, we ended up switching cards and repeating the activity at least three times per class!

When having the students choose a principle that relates to their claim and investigation, the students have been able to pick one out pretty independently. I think they developed a deeper understanding of principles because we took time to read them, discuss them and even illustrate them. This
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Science-Force-Motion-How-Does-Force-Affect-Motion-Scientific-Explanations-2234133section in the scientific explanation can be pretty “gray” because sometimes students tend to add fluff or overlap the information they already stated in the evidence section. Sometimes my students feel so relieved that they are making sense of the investigation, they tend to write and write. I keep the space small on our worksheet to keep their answers concise. If you look at the picture of student work, you will see the student referred to our anchor chart and copied a principle down. I have the students start with a sentence starter: “This happened because in science, _______” and then state the principle. Sometimes students go a step further and explain more information or make a connection to the experiment. For example, on the reasoning section for the Box Push investigation, a student wrote, “This happened because in science, the greater the force, the greater the change in motion. The more hands that created force during the investigation, the father the box went in the given amount of time." I thought that was a great response and really showed student understanding by actually connecting the principle chosen to the investigation.  Sound interesting? Check out all of this and MORE in my new product!

Thanks for stopping by! Come back tomorrow to see how all three pieces piece together into a complete scientific explanation!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Force & Motion: Using Gradual Release to Foster Independence: Analyzing Data/Evidence

So in my last post, I talked about scientific explanation writing and the importance of teaching using the gradual release model. I talked about the first step, claim writing. You can reread or read that post <here>. Today I am moving on to the next step, evidence.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Science-Force-Motion-How-Does-Force-Affect-Motion-Scientific-Explanations-2234133When teaching the format for writing Scientific Explanations, we complete one together for reference. We start with the claim and thinking about what we want to prove. Most of the time, the claim is directly related to the standard. Next, we complete a quick scientific investigation. I have the class do a lot of thinking on their own, partner talk, and whole group discussion. Most of the time we build on each others statements and try to put our words into “kid friendly/scientific” language. In the beginning, students copy down the information from the chart paper, each time I gradually take sections away leading students to complete independence in writing their explanations following this scaffolded frame. If you want to test this out in your classroom, check out my new product up on TPT. I've been working on it for weeks and wanted to test out everything in my classroom before putting it up for sale. It will have specific instructions for writing scientific explanations as well as four different labs that are easy, engaging, meaningful, and fun! It has been a life saver for my team and I and I am finally feeling confident, planned, and knowledgeable while teaching Science.

When looking at evidence I always try to have my students look at data, discuss it into groups, and put their thoughts into words. If a student does not understand what the data means, they will not be able to explain it in writing causing a larger road block in this scientific explanation process. This year I am trying to incorporate mathematical computation and data analysis into my Science class as much as possible, so we are using, creating, and analyzing graphs whenever we can.

When students record their data on a chart, I like to give them the opportunity to create a graph. It is a huge help for some students, especially my visual learners! Sometimes we even graph whole class data. Students love this opportunity because they can see how they compare to other students who preformed the investigation. Of course we then discuss that Science is not a competition and go back to the actually meaning of the investigation.

When students take their time to explain evidence, I want them to look at their data, make sense of it, and explain it…clearly. Taking the fluff out of scientific writing is a struggle with not only my students, but also myself, but we’ve been getting better. This is a sample of a student’s evidence section from the “Box Push.”

“Every time the investigation was tested, the data showed the more force, the greater the distance. I know this because both groups showed the distance increasing because there were more people pushing the box, which equaled more force.”

I was thrilled with response. The only thing that would have made this better was putting actual numbers in the answer from the data chart. Even so, this was a huge step for this group of fourth graders. #soproud

Come back tomorrow to read about using scientific principles in an explanation and also to see how to get students familiar and testing the principles. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Force & Motion: Using Gradual Release to Foster Independence: WritingScientific Claims

So as you know, if you've checked out my blog this year, I am teaching Science and Social Studies this year, while Robyn is teaching ELA. At first I was in shock and I think I actually cried about it, now I am SO thankful for the change. It is a whole different way of thinking and teaching and I love learning right along with the students. This subject area switch was a huge change for me since  I had to replan lessons, units, and my year. We teach Science everyday for a unit and then move on to Social Studies for a unit. This allows us to get the most 'bang for our buck'. ;)

So anyways...this year we started a book study reading the book, What's Your Evidence? Engaging K-5 Students in Constructing Explanations in Science and it has been super helpful. We are trying to get our students to write independent scientific explanations using data from investigations. We are focusing on writing using a claim, evidence, reasoning frame. My favorite part is writing about and understanding a scientific principle because it really shows student understanding. We started testing out some techniques in class last week and my students have taken off with the idea and are doing amazing. They are so engaged and it is showing in their awesome explanations.

Today I am going to quickly talk to you about claim writing. Now obviously I am no expert since this is my first year teaching this way, but after teaching my three fourth grade classes while using this method, I feel like I know a thing or two. So here is how my experience has been going. 

I am a firm believer in that the more effort you put into explaining a new concept, format, or expectation, the better your students will preform when completing a task independently. Basically, the more time you put into your teaching, the better quality work you will see. Therefore, I started teaching the scientific explanation over a number of days. I want to make sure my students actually take the time to understand what a claim is. I want them to be able to put Science into their own “kid terms” and use evidence and scientific principles to back up their investigations.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Science-Force-Motion-How-Does-Force-Affect-Motion-Scientific-Explanations-2234133We did an investigation call the Box Push, which an be found in my new product. It includes three different scientific investigations on Force and Motion, lab write ups, explanation answer frames, scientific principle lists, and example anchor charts! I am super excited about this product because it has changed my life as a science teacher making me feel more confident and successful while teaching.

For the Box Push Scientific Explanation, we started with groups of students developing claims. We discussed the word claim and came up with a definition of- “Your own words of what the investigation was trying to prove.” I created a list of all the claims the groups reported. After listing each group’s claim on the board, we talked about them. Were they in kid friendly terms? Were they directly related to the investigation? Were they too similar to a scientific principle (scientific principles are on a bulletin board in my classroom, they change depending on the standard we are working on)?
Each group then had a chance to vote on a claim to use and explain why they would use it. I was happy to see that most groups even changed their answers after they listened to the others. In the example above, the most popular claim was: The more people applying force, through a push on an object, the father is should travel, in a given amount of time. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Once students felt comfortable with a claim, they wrote it down on their answer sheet. They then started to analyze the evidence. Although we completed this investigation a few weeks ago, I gave them fake evidence, so we would all have the same data.

I hope this helped you think about Science in a different way. I always tell my class, "Great scientists need to write down their data and information clearly and specifically so other scientists can repeat and learn from their investigations." My students LOVE Science class and come in ready to explore, investigate, collaborate, and learn.

Come back tomorrow to learn how we use data, inferences, and collaboration to write about our evidence!