Students don’t know what they wonder about. We sometimes convince ourselves that they are just dying for us to turn them loose to pursue their own learning in what they really want to study and for a few students, that is true, but for many students, that type of open-topic learning activity puts them into a panic. Please, just tell me what you want me to know, some actually beg.
Last year was my first year teaching 5th grade. The school I moved from, Lincoln School in Kathmandu, had been successfully involved in the Nesa Virtual Science Fair so when I moved to ACST, I asked to participate in that project with our fifth graders. It was eye-opening to me to realize that my students didn’t know how to go about observing and wondering about things in their natural world. I tried to immerse them in reading about many science topics through nonfiction reading, but the subjects were too vast and they didn’t have the skills to skim and then zero in on what was important and significant to them. Even once they chose a workable science question, I still felt that most of them lacked contextual understanding about the science involved in their study and had done almost no research to learn about the scientific body of knowledge on the subject.
My teaching partner and I chose to withdraw from that project this year because we felt we needed to teach our students more science and spend more time leading them through a process of inquiry than the project timeline allowed.
Our students have done a lot of informational reading and writing this year so to begin with, they have much stronger abilities than last year’s students to read with focus and write with organization and persuasion. We have also intentionally introduced them to multiple fields of study in science and an entire unit on setting up a scientific research model. They are now ready to review what is current in science publications to try and formulate a question they can study.
Setting up an RSS Reader for Course 1 in CoETaIL has served to quickly broaden my awareness of issues in information technology and social networking so I hope that technology will serve as an effective tool for introducing fifth graders to current ideas and information in science that will hopefully strike a match to their natural curiosities.
Introducing Science Readers
Topic: Developing Scientific Questions
Designer: Julie Bredy
Stage 1: Desired results
|Standards/Goals:ISTE.NETS.T 1.BEngage students in exploring real-world issues and solving authentic problems using digital tools and resources
Scientific Inquiry 1A
Generate focused questions and informed predictions about the natural world.
Common Core Language Arts Standards
Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which ideas are logically grouped to support the writer’s purpose.
Provide logically ordered reasons that are supported by facts and details.
Introduce a topic clearly, provide a general observation and focus, and group related information logically; include formatting (e.g., headings), illustrations, and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
Conduct short research projects that use several sources to build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.
|Understandings :Students will understand that… Learning begins with observation and questioning.Information is changing and being updated at a constant rate. Information is shared through digital publications and social networks.||Essential Questions:What learning comes and has come from observation?What do I wonder about?How is ongoing scientific learning and thinking communicated with others?|
|Students will know… Current topics of interest in science. How to access current scientific research information. How to write a reading response.
How to post to a blog.
How to use Powerpoint or Prezzi to create a presentation.
How to save and retrieve electronic documents.
|Students will be able to…Read current scientific articles using a digital reader application. Read, note-take, and word-process a reflection of learning about current science articles. Post a reflection about their learning and thinking to a social networking site.
Access the posts of other students and leave a responding comment, reflecting their own thinking.
Stage 2: Assessment/Evidence
|Performance Tasks:Students will read 20 articles or blog posts, sourced from a digital reader application as well as print publications.Students will write reflections about their reading, summarizing key content and identifying what they notice and what they wonder.Students will post 3 of their reflections to a blog on the class website
Students will comment on the posting of 1 other student, giving feedback about the completeness of the post and what they notice and wonder.
Students will present their learning from the one reading topic they are most interested in, through a Powerpoint or Prezzi presentation, summarizing key content and sharing what they noticed and what they wonder.
Scientific Reader Rubric
|Other Evidence:Contribution to verbal sharing with classmates.|
Stage 3: Learning Plan
Learning Plan (Activities and Resources):
1. Teacher will vet web feeds appropriate for fifth grade and ranging through many areas of scientific study. Multiple feeds can be found at Smithsonian, National Geographic, Time for Kids, and other sites.
2. Teacher will create a public tab in NetVibes, adding the feed for the sites, then linking it to the class website.
3. Teacher will engage students’ thinking regarding the role of observation in scientific discovery through the presentation of a Prezi, making connections to the shared prior-learning of the class.
4. Students will read at least 20 science articles through the Netvibes reader, Foss reader, National Geographic Explorer, or Weekly Reader.
5. Students will keep a Reading Log of their article reading on a Word document table kept in their documents. Log will include title of article, source, and date read.
6. Students will word-process 5 responses to reading, summarizing the content and then stating what they notice and what they wonder.
7. Students will post 3 responses to reading on the class website blog.
8. Students will create a Powerpoint or Prezzi presentation, including a summary of the content of 1 article and reflections of what the student noticed and what she wondered.
9. Students will read the posts of other students and make 1 comment, giving feedback on the completeness of the reflection and stating what the student noticed and what she wonders.
Following this exploration of topics, students will have an opportunity to indicate three topics they are most interested in from the presentations. This will be the basis of formation of science teams and their first task will be to formulate a research question and hypothesis.
Using some existing technology tools (i.e. the blog feature on our class website and presentation applications), we can maximize the sharing of our learning and thinking, modeling for students who aren’t certain how to think in this way and sparking areas of common interest. Introducing the RSS Reader underscores the message that scientific knowledge is ever changing and growing, opening the door for students to add to the body of thinking, observation, and experimentation.