February 24, late at night: I got all the way into being very methodical about writing up the unit plan, and realized I had been looking at middle-school ideas all along. SO… Those ideas are at the bottom of the page. Here is the Unit Plan for 4-5th graders, a little rough around the edges and with time I will tighten it up. You will probably notice a few similarities… (final update on March 4).

This unit is for 4th grade and would be taught when students are doing measurement studies. It might be a good unit to do in the winter: students could use the gym or hallways for some of the experiments if available, and it would get them out of their desks on dreary winter afternoons.

The EALRs are very clear and are reproduced here for reference – I felt they articulated what I need to focus on pretty well. I have put my focus in bold face. These are the basic sets of knowledge that are attached to this unit.

EALR 4: Physical Science

Big Idea: Force and Motion (PS1)
Core Content: Measurement of Force and Motion
In prior grades students learned that forces work not only to push and pull objects, but also to affect objects when they are dropped or thrown. In grades 4-5 students learn how to use basic tools to measure the fundamental quantities of force, time, and distance. Force can be measured with a spring scale. Distance and time can be measured by a variety of methods, and the results can be used to compare the motion of two objects. Focusing on accuracy of measurement, recording of data and logical conclusions from the data provide the foundation for future years when students will undertake more complex investigations.

Students know that:

[Prompts from UbD: What key knowledge and skills will students acquire as a result of this unit? What should they eventually be able to do as a result of such knowledge and skill?]

  • 4-5 PS1A The weight of an object is a measure of how strongly it is pulled down toward the ground by gravity. A spring scale can measure the pulling force.
  • 4-5 PS1B The relative speed of two objects can be determined in two ways: (1) If two objects travel for the same amount of time, the object that has traveled the greatest distance is the fastest. (2) If two objects travel the same distance, the object that takes the least time to travel the distance is the fastest.

Students are expected to:

  • 4-5 PS1A Use a spring scale to measure the weights of several objects accurately.
  • 4-5 PS1B Explain that the weight of an object is a measure of the force of gravity on the object. Record the measurements in a table.*a
    Measure the distance that an object travels in a given interval of time and compare it with the distance that another object moved in the same interval of time to determine which is fastest.*b
    Measure the time it takes two objects to travel the same distance and determine which is fastest.*c

Mathematics Connections:

  • *a 3.5.C Estimate, measure, and compare weight and mass, using appropriate-size U.S. customary and metric units.
  • *b 2.3.C Measure length to the nearest whole unit in both metric and U.S. customary units.
  • *c 4.4.C Estimate and determine elapsed time, using a calendar, a digital clock, and an analog clock.

Other Science: This unit also ties strongly into the Inquiry strand of the EALRs: 4-5 Plan different kinds of investigations, including field studies, systematic observations, models, and controlled experiments.. Science fields that use the PS concepts are earth and space science, and life science (how big, how fast); the concept of things being measurable and to a certain extent predictable is a fundamental marker of the way we “work with” science in modern times.

Inter-disciplinary design elements:

Mathematics, art, writing
I would tie this unit in with mathematics — focusing on measurement and understanding that different systems can still measure the same things and be converted back and forth.

In art, I would use the concepts of motion in designing mobiles — how things balance against each other is a good example of a balance which can be used to indicate weight/mass.

I would have the students do their reflections using writing — simple labels for those students who struggle to write full sentences, short reflections on what they think and why they think it. If I had time, I would ask students to write poems that reflect the concepts that are being studied.

Multi-cultural design elements:

Students will be asked to talk about how they speak about these ideas in their own lives [note: I am aware of the many children in blended families, foster care and homeless living situations, therefore I am trying to pay attention to my use of the words home, family, and parents] and to do some research by interviewing an older child and an adult they know to find out how those individuals would describe a common scenario. I would like to design examples using artifacts from the cultures and origins of the students.

  • transformative — examples of measurement, weight, and moving objects from cultures of the children (brought in by the children); ask students to consider how weight and speed are experienced and described in their own lives
  • additive — using indigenous scenarios to illustrate concepts.

Gender-Affirming Measures

I would point out that everyone, from farmers to bakers to race car drivers to sailors to walkers to babies learning to walk, uses these concepts. I would be clear that scientists like George Washington Carver (one of my heros when I was a child), Elizabeth Blackwell (first modern woman physician), Nalini Nadkarni (a way-cool scientist as Bill Nye says), Archimedes and Galileo dealt with concepts of force, motion, measurement. We all have reason to know how long it will take us to get somewhere, or how heavy something is. Whether we are male or female, we have ways to work with these concepts.

Essential Question(s)
Why does the spring scale work when the object is hanging below it and not when the scale is hanging below the object?
What would I need to know in order to compare the speeds of two different canoes on the inlet?
How can I compare the weights of different objects?
How do people in different places think about weight and speed?

Tasks and ASSESSMENTS:

Pre (what do they already know?): Have the students watch a demonstration of something being weighed and write an explanation (or do a think-pair-share), then whole-class discussion. Do the same for a “race” situation. This will check for misconceptions, which might include that the object generates the force that pulls it toward the earth (which is partly true, but not measurable at this level). I would expect to see some of the following as well (borrowed from the misconceptions website):

# Measurement is only linear.
# Any quantity can be measured as accurately as you want.
# Children who have used measuring devices at home already know how to measure.
# The metric system is more accurate than other measurement systems (such as the English system).
# The English system is easier to use than the metric system.
# You can only measure to the smallest unit shown on the measuring device.
# Some objects cannot be measured because of their size or inaccessibility.
# The five senses are infallible.
# An object must be “touched” to be measured.
# A measuring device must be a physical object.

Formative (how are they actively constructing knowledge?): Students will generate KWL charts at the beginning of the unit during an independent brainstorming before a whole-class KW-L discussion. The observations I make while they are working on setting up their experiments, including side conversations and their responses to my questions about their work. Their notes, pictures, graphs, charts and summaries.

Post (what do they know at the end of the unit — how will they demonstrate this?): Have the students watch similar demonstrations and write explanations. Check for changes in concepts and use of vocabulary in the written explanations. Their notes, pictures, graphs, charts and summaries along with presentations to the class. I will be checking for accuracy, vocabulary and clarity of explanation, as well as their ability to generate and respond to questions.

Transfer (do students demonstrate any evidence that they are carrying this big idea into other areas?): I would like to hear students talking in the art lesson about how the weight of objects compares, and how they can adjust the mobiles. I would like to hear the same vocabulary used in the math lessons being applied to this unit. I would hope that the students will surprise me with transfer to unexpected areas — talking about an historical event or the way the boat they were in moved relative to the shoreline or another boat, or the difference in weight they noticed when caring for one baby compared to another.

Student Metacognition: Students will reflect in science notebooks before they start work each day on their definition of the “concept(s) of the day.” At the end of each section, students will have a graph/chart or piece of writing that illustrates what they discovered and what they think it means. We will periodically have small-group and whole-group discussions where students can share and test their ideas with others. For the tasks, I will post samples of what they should be aiming for as well as work that does not meet standard, so students can compare their work with models. I will also make a simple rubric available in student language. Ultimately, students will have a chance to fill in the L part of a KWL chart. These will be ways for them to track their own learning.

Differentiation

I would want to be aware of the significant difficulty this unit might cause for children who deal with dyscalculia — the very idea of measurement, charting and reading numbers is off-putting to some. I would want to pair students in groups where they could be supported by having their peers explain and help them explain the “math” parts.

I could see ELL students struggling with complex instructions and unfamiliar vocabulary (as will some native English speakers). I want to demonstrate, model, have vocabulary and concepts illustrated on the walls, support student-created glossaries/dictionaries, and be ready with bilingual science materials to supplement easy-reading foto-novela style texts (which would help all students struggling to read).

For students who experience difficulty reading, I would want to have some texts written at a simpler level, and I would want to have the groups composed in a way that students who need more support have peers who can do that. I would think that the graphing/charting might be complicated as well.

For the writing components for dysgraphia, I would allow children to use computers for some of the work, one-word answers and templates for some of the work, scribes for the group, and verbal responses at times.

This unit is designed to be very hands-on which should appeal to students with ADHD or attention/impulsivity issues. However, I would want to pay attention to transitions and cueing systems for those students so they can share the materials and time with others in their groups. I might (just had this idea) give some of the students who need more movement “teacher helper” tasks in distributing and collecting materials.

For Autism-spectrum or socialization issues, I would want to scaffold the experiences so that students who find the movement anxiety-producing have some way “out” — through putting on headphones to listen to music or a quiet corner where they can observe or read. I would also want to be sure to give them opportunities to do what they can in groups, and provide additional guidance to groups with those students so that everyone can feel supported and successful. (Note: one of my children was in a science class once where a student with socialization problems and low productive abilities got an A for every assignment, while the other group members did the work — I want to be very certain to not set up a situation like that, it soured that child on science for well over a year).

For the student who is brand-new to the school and still unsure of routines and expectations, I would try to find a confident peer to be a “tour guide” to help the student remember where things are in the classroom, and to model the classroom behaviors.

For the student who is “age and stage appropriate” but behind the rest of the class (a late birthday in a class of early birthdays, for example), I want to take some time to check in and be sure that they are working with the concepts and pushing their own zone of proximal development even if they aren’t quite at the same level as the more mature students.

For the student who is actually “shy” – or who has a speech impediment, perhaps – I would want to set up the lessons in a way that expects “some” speaking, but not so much that fear of having to speak will get in the way of being able to focus on the learning at hand.

For the student who is ready for more advanced, deeper-level thinking, I want to prepare some “why” essential questions that push the thinking into the hidden processes (refer to the tools4teachers website for the what-how-why idea for questions). For example, finding three different ways to express different speeds – and graph or illustrate those ways, so that a person who has not done these calculations before can see the relationship between time and distance. Possibly ask the student to start working with the idea of velocity (direction combined with speed). Might want to ask the student to start comparing common units like inches to UI and hypothesize why UI is preferred.

The abandoned Unit

First draft on Saturday, Feb 12. Additions and Revisions, Feb 24.

Measurement, Force and Motion in MIDDLE SCHOOL.

Part 1: THE BIG IDEA

What: Things move in proportion to their mass and the force(s) that went into moving them. Vocabulary associated with this item includes inertia, mass/weight, momentum, force, velocity/speed. There are underlying concepts of cause and effect and an idea of variables as well as the more physics-specific idea of movement and the mathematics related idea of measurement.
How: Students will measure the mass/weight of objects that can roll (to take friction partly out of the way), and objects that are stationary; then cause the two items to collide. They will consider ways to propel and measure the speed of the rolling object (choice, experimentation, inquiry), measure the direction and distance of motion of the two objects after collision, and create a graphic representation of the results. They will conduct several variations of the task in order to help them check for understanding. They will formulate explanations that fit their results.
Why: All people experience the effects of force and motion, whether it is a car accident, pushing a wheelbarrow, or moving furniture. We have an intuitive understanding of force and motion, the way that variables can change an experience, and the idea that one thing leads to another. This unit will help students engage in “how the world works” thinking.

I want students to be able to: Articulate the idea that the more massive an item is the more force it takes to move that item. I want them to begin to work toward an articulation of why that occurs, but since at this level their understanding of algebraic equations is still fairly basic, they need only to give broad descriptions that include speed and weight of the objects involved in the collisions (size will not count as a large object can have less mass than a small object).

They will demonstrate their learning by: working in teams of three or four to design experiments, recording and analyzing data, writing a summary of their process and findings, and presenting their results to the class through graphs, pictures and speech.

Inter-disciplinary design elements:

Mathematics, art, writing

Multi-cultural design elements:

Students will be asked to talk about how they speak about these ideas in their own lives [note: I am aware of the many children in blended families, foster care and homeless living situations, therefore I am trying to pay attention to my use of the words home, family, and parents] and to do some research by interviewing an older child and an adult they know to find out how those individuals would describe a common scenario. I would like to design examples using artifacts from the cultures and origins of the students.

  • transformative — examples of measurement, force and motion from cultures of the children (brought in by the children); ask students to consider how force and motion are seen in their own lives
  • additive — using indigenous scenarios to illustrate concepts.

ASSESSMENTS:

Pre (what do they already know?): Have the students watch a demonstration and write an explanation (or do a think-pair-share), then whole-class discussion.

Formative (how are they actively constructing knowledge?): The observations I make while they are working on setting up their experiments, including side conversations and their responses to my questions about their work. Their notes, pictures, graphs, charts and summaries.

Post (what do they know at the end of the unit — how will they demonstrate this?): Have the students watch a similar demonstration and write an explanation. Check for changes in concepts and use of vocabulary. Their notes, pictures, graphs, charts and summaries. Also, presentations to the class.

Transfer (do students demonstrate any evidence that they are carrying this big idea into other areas?)