//final publish time at 7:30 pm Weds//

Please see my Saturday post for additional learning from this week!

Doug responded to the Saturday post, feel free to add more here if you want!

The “Big Idea Kit” from the Tools for Teaching Science website involves the following four steps:

  1. Identifying Inquiry-Worthy Ideas
  2. Attending to Students’ Initial and Unfolding Ideas
  3. Making Meaning of Science Phenomena
  4. Reasoning with Explanatory Models through Conversation

This is similar to the Understanding by Design idea formulated by Wiggins and McTighe. A model for UbD planning is available in PDF form from Wiggins at http://www.grantwiggins.org/documents/UbDQuikvue1005.pdf

The “Big Idea” according to the Washington State Standards (2009) is:

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.

I put in bold the parts that I think are the most important to focus on. In earlier grades, students should have engaged in some of the idea about what constitutes force, but a review of this may be necessary for students who missed it or who have forgotten.

According to the webpage on children’s misconceptions, some of the limiting factors children might have for this unit could include:

  • measurement is dependent on a pre-determined physical object
  • measurement is linear only
  • objects are in motion only when something is acting on them
  • mass is the same thing as size or weight
  • acceleration = speed
  • force is a property of an object (#13 in the first list for the link) — inherent in the object
  • force is related to size

I think that since 4th and 5th graders are so much in Piaget’s “Concrete Operational” stage (generally – for now I’ll focus on average for planning and differentiate later), that considering measurement and seriation is appropriate for this unit, as is asking them the age-old “why” and “how” questions; but asking students to engage in the same level of abstraction to derive actual formulas might be too difficult. However, I think many will be able to make the connection that if mass is held constant then force changes with acceleration/velocity, and that if acceleration/velocity is constant then force changes in proportion to the mass of an object. Would they also then make the connection to how changing both mass and acceleration affects outcome?

So I think the thing to do is to set up experiments for exploring how “measurement” works, what the variables in “force” are, and ways to represent our work graphically. All of these things will lend themselves to groupwork, all will be tasks that are worthy of discussion, and all will be adaptable for multiple entry points and ways of making meaning.

At least, that’s where it stands right now. Always open to feedback, extension, and new information!


2 Interactions on “Wednesday Wonderings: Old Fashioned Thinking

  1. You covered the “Why” part very well! Now the rest of the age old question, “How are you going to do it?”

    Figuring out students prior knowledge is a good place to start. Since students are in the concrete phase, what concrete examples will you use?
    How are you going to explore measurement?
    Why are the tasks worthy of discussion?
    What entry points will you make for the students?

    The student misconception site is a great resource! I’ll have to add it to my box of goodies.

  2. Kathleen — It’s great to hear you weaving together W&T, the standards and this valuable tool. Jana

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