Labs in elementary science classroom (Teacher)


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Ideas from an experienced elementary/middle school teacher on effectively using the lab for instruction.

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Labs in elementary science classroom (Teacher)

  1. 1. Must be downloaded in order to see the animation effects. Doing Labs inElementary School By Moira Whitehouse PhD
  2. 2. Why is so important for students to take partin science labs and hands-on activities?
  3. 3. Because that’sthe way they learn.
  4. 4. • Elementary school students are concretethinkers. Hands-on activities helps themmake the leap to a more abstractunderstanding of a scientific processand/or concept.• Students are much more engaged inthe learning process.• Labs and activities are fun and develop a positive attitudetowards learning science.• Labs teach inferential reasoning skills.
  5. 5. Important questions to ask yourself when doing ? ? labs or activities… ? ?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
  6. 6. 1. Is this a lab or activity I should be doing?2. How can I best manage my students?3. How can I best manage the materials?4. What kind of signal can I use to get the students’ attention during the lab or activity?5. How should I reinforce the concept(s) presented in the lab or activity? 6. What do I need to do to make this lab or activity safe for the students?
  7. 7. We’ve all found that “fun” lab oractivity that is just right for the time ofyear. Maybe is it was making pipecleaner stars at Christmas by dipping thepipe cleaners in a supersaturated boraxsolution. When the waterevaporates, shimmering crystals cling tothe pipe cleaners making a beautifulstar. Sounds perfect—kids would love it.
  8. 8. We’ve all found that “fun” lab oractivity that is just right for the time ofyear. Maybe is it was making pipecleaner stars at Christmas by dipping thepipe cleaners in a supersaturated boraxsolution. When the waterevaporates, shimmering crystals cling tothe pipe cleaners making a beautifulstar. Sounds perfect—kids would love it.
  9. 9. 1. In selecting the lab ask yourself:•What is the point of doing this lab or activity?•What concept is the lab or activity supposed to teach the students?•And most importantis this lab or activity tied to developing an understanding of one of the science objectives for my grade level?
  10. 10. If the answer to the last question isNOthis lab or activity does NOTbelongin your science curriculum. The student expectations (SE’s) forthis grade level should help youdecide. Does the focus of the labaddress a concept that your studentsshould have mastered.
  11. 11. 2. The Second big question is :•How am I going to manage studentsto maximize learning?
  12. 12. •Tough question, because whenever possible every student should be part of the action.-Only actively engaged students learn. BUT!
  13. 13. “Actively engaged” must becarefully guided.
  14. 14. •What can the teacher do to involve allstudents in the lab or activity and stillmaintain a somewhat controlledenvironment for learning?•Cooperative grouping of some sortis the solution.
  15. 15. Cooperative grouping:The best kind cooperative groupingdepends on whether the students aredoing a lab or an activity.
  16. 16. First, cooperative grouping forlabs, should involve rotatingstandard job assignments. For this Isuggest: your students into groups of • Divide three or four. • Assign each student a particular job. • Rotate the jobs either by the day or week. •Each job must have specific duties.
  17. 17. Four jobs I recommend:1. Principal Investigator or CEO2. Time Manager3. Reporter4. Materials Gatherer
  18. 18. Principal Investigator or CEO:1. Reads instruction for doing the labaloud to the group.2. Assigns each member at least oneof the tasks needed to complete thelab procedure.3. Assigns tasks fairly by moving frommember to member in a circle.
  19. 19. The person in charge is not a dictatorAnd everybody gets a turn at being the “boss”.
  20. 20. Time Manager1. Watches the clock to make surethe group is completing the lab ontime.2. Reminds people to keep on track todo the task assigned to them.
  21. 21. Reporter1. Reports the findings of the group.
  22. 22. Materials Gatherer1. Picks up the materials needed for the lab.2. Takes the materials out of the lab tray when needed.Important.3. Returns the material to the designated area.4. Is the only team member allowed to be away from team table.
  23. 23. •Some people suggest that theTime Keeper position should bereplaced by a position called theRecorder.•In my experience in order tokeep all the students involvedeveryone needs to be recordingobservations and/or data beingcollected.
  24. 24. •Assigning grades for job performanceduring labs could be a somewhat of aconundrum. •One solution might be to prepare a Rubric showing check off squares for job description performance factors for each student. •You would check appropriate blocks while making your rounds during the lab.
  25. 25. • Permanently post the job titles with adescription of duties in the classroom.• To introduce students to thesejobs, your first lab should be onespecifically designed to allow studentsto practice doing the jobs. I have afavorite lab for this purpose that wewill talk about later in this slide show.
  26. 26. •Next, we will think about assigningjobs or cooperative groups foractivities (vs. labs). This is lessstraightforward.•For each activity you will have to lookat the requirements and see whatworks.•Don’t be afraid to change yourprocedures in midstream.
  27. 27. •My general recommendation is to giveas many students as you can an activerole or task.•Let’s look at an activity where taskassignments could vary depending onwhat you want to emphasize. -Using balls to visualize the relative size of planets.
  28. 28. Have one group of students line up in the correctorder of the planets holding the planet cards.Give each student in the second group a ball whosesize represents one of the planets.Students in the second group are to find the planetcard that best matches the ball he or she is carrying.
  29. 29. 3. The third important question is: How should I manage the materials. • I like to use tubs—one tub per group which contains all the materials needed for the lab or activity. • Others place all the materials needed for the lab in the middle each group’s table. Important—make sure before the day starts you have laid out all the materials each group needs for that lab.
  30. 30. 4. The fourth question is : What auditory signal shall I use to tell the students that I need their attention? • Hand clapping signals • A bell • Students hands over head •There are other schemes for this job, select what works for your class.
  31. 31. 5. The fifth question is : What to do if the students don’t master a concept after the lab or activity? •Some of the ideas you will be presenting are difficult for young minds, don’t expect that your students will always master a concept after doing a lab or activity. •Follow up activities will usually be needed to solidify and reinforce the concepts your are teaching.
  32. 32. •Sponges and paper and pencil exerciseswill be needed to transfer concepts topictures, and then to words.•After the ball activity on planet size, afollow up exercise might have studentsredraw each of the planets in a morecorrect relative size.
  33. 33. • It is important to transfer conceptsto pictures (drawn by the studentswhere ever possible) and then to words.•First, because students need to be ableto tie what they saw or did in a lab tosome connection in their heads.•Second, their understanding ofthese concepts must be demonstratedon tests using pictures and words.
  34. 34. 6. The sixth question is :What do I need to do to make thislab or activity safe for the students? • materials • movement and behavior of students
  35. 35. Before the lab starts and before thestudents have access to the materials: 1. Discuss purpose of lab. 2. Model important parts of the procedure. 3. Have the Principal Investigator read aloud to the members of his group Lab Sheet outlining the procedures to be followed. 4. Have the Principal Investigator assign tasks in the procedure to the members of the group.
  36. 36. To teach students about team memberjobs, I use this “magic formula lab” asthe first lab done by each class. It is alab where students try to mix coloredwater to match a color made by theteacher. They must keep data of theirattempts (number of drops of eachcolor), and when they do get it right, theteacher dumps their product and asksthe team to reproduce that color usingtheir data.
  37. 37. (This lab sheet would be provided for each group or team).Purpose: To learn lab jobs for team members.Materials: test tube rack, 6 test tubes: one withthe “mystery solution” provided by theteacher, one with a solution of red foodcoloring, one with a solution of blue foodcoloring, one with a solution of green foodcoloring, one with a solution of yellow foodcoloring and one empty test tube, one 100mLbeaker of water, a container to dump out mixturemade on each trial, one eye dropper, goggles.
  38. 38. Procedure:1. As a group, closely observe the mystery solution.2. As a group, decide how many drops of each color you think it will be needed to create the mystery mixture.3. Each member should record under Trial 1, on the data chart, the number of drops of each color that the group predicted it would take to create the mystery solution.4. Pick up your empty test tube and put the decided number of drops of each color in that test tube.
  39. 39. 5. Swirl the test tube gently to mix the drops.6. As a group, observe the mixture you have created, hold it up beside the mystery solution and compare colors.7. The members of the group should discuss how the solution made on that trial does or does not match the color of the mystery solution, example, just right, too red, too light, too purple. Record that conclusion on your data table.
  40. 40. 8. As a group, decide how many drops of each of the colored solutions, you should use for Trial 2. Record that information in your data chart.9. Pour out the mixture your group made on Trial 1 into the waste container.10.Repeat steps 4-7 for Trial 2.11.Then repeat all steps for Trial 3, Trial 4, etc. until you match the magic formula or your teacher tells you time is up.12.At the end of the lab, the Reporter in your group will have an opportunity to tell the whole group what you discovered.
  41. 41. Data Chart for predicted number of drops Numbe Number Number Number Our solution on this trial r of red of blue of green of yellow was: (too dark, too light, drops drops drops drops just right)Trial 1Trial 2Trial 3Trial 4Trial 5
  42. 42. After that lab both teacher and studentswill have a better feel for doing labs.And it may be time for a little philosophy . • Don’t give up! • Some groups are more difficult than others. •Have a backup lesson (perhaps a reading assignment) ready so that you can abandon or make changes to the lab or activity if you must.
  43. 43. •After you have selected the right labor activity to support one of yourlearning objectives, be aware thatthe students aren’t necessarily readyto do it.•This is the time for some heavy dutythinking about the lab and aboutyour students.
  44. 44. •Let’s walk through an example ofhow to analyze a lab or an activity toensure that when students do the labthey will develop an understanding ofthe concept(s) being taught. •Learning without a solidfoundation, like a house built onsand, will eventually collapse.
  45. 45. Your students need to be taught all oftheir learning objectives, but let’s sayfor this time block you decide to focuson the following requirement:“The student will be able to identifychanges that can occur in the physicalproperties of ingredients such asdissolving sugar in water.”
  46. 46. You select a lab that touches on theseideas:•The lab: Have the studentsinvestigate which substances dissolvein water and which ones do not andobserve which physical properties ofthese substances are maintained andwhich change.
  47. 47. Now that you have selected the right labto support the learning objective(s), askyourself: What specific backgroundknowledge do the students need for thislab?
  48. 48. Knowing your students, you decide thatthere are concepts (shown in red) thatmay not be understood by everyone.•The lab: Have the studentsinvestigate which substances dissolvein water and which ones do not andobserve which physical properties ofthese substances are maintained andwhich change.
  49. 49. So, before charging into this lab, askyourself “what concepts do I need toreview (or teach) to make surestudents are ready for this lab?” •Let’s take our red letter words for openers: “substances” •In our world we have objects and we have substances.
  50. 50. •objects are made of substances. objects erasers are made of rubbererasers rubber foil is made of aluminum credit cards are made of plastic •substances have physical properties.
  51. 51. •physical properties are characteristicsof a substance that can be observedwith our five senses and measured oreven changed (bent, cut, etc.) withoutchanging the substance itself.
  52. 52. •Let’s take the substance sugar for example? •Here the substance sugar is formed into five objects the shape of cubes. -White•It has all of sugar’s -dissolves in waterphysical properties -tastes sweetincluding these:
  53. 53. And here, we have sugar in granular form. -White -dissolves in water -tastes sweet•It still has all of sugar’sphysical properties whichinclude these:
  54. 54. •As can be seen here, shape and sizeare not physical properties ofsubstances.
  55. 55. And here, we could have sugar in wateror we could have just water. What physical property of sugar could we use to find out? Color? Dissolves in water? Taste?
  56. 56. •Our next red letter word wasdissolving, what does that mean? •Dissolving means that molecules of one substance (a solute) mix evenly with the molecules of a liquid substance (solvent) such as water.
  57. 57. •Here we see that sugar, salt and sandhave each been stirred into water.The molecules of sugar and salt mixedevenly but the sand did not.Dissolved Dissolved Not dissolved
  58. 58. •Uh-oh, another word pops up that willbe needed to understand thelab, molecule, better deal with that onetoo.•A molecule is the smallest piece of acompound.•The substances we talk about(sugar, salt) are compounds, so roughlyspeaking molecules are the smallestpieces of our substances.
  59. 59. •Molecules are way too small to beseen. But if they were as big as BB’s,molecules in the three states of mattermight appear something like this. Solid Liquid Gas
  60. 60. •If one could cut a sugar cube in half,then cut the half in half, and kept ondoing that until arriving at the smallestpiece that has the properties of sugar,that would be a molecule.•Of course, one could not keep cuttinga sugar cube that far, the last fewthousand cuts would be of somethingmuch too small to see.
  61. 61. •But if we could, we would reachthe point where one more cutand it would no longer be amolecule of sugar, but the atomsthat, put together in a specialway, make up sugar molecules.
  62. 62. •When we stir a spoon of sugar into a beaker of water, the molecules of sugar (let’s pretend that they are purple) mix evenly with the molecules of water (let’s color them blue).•When dissolved, the sugarmolecules are not visible andthe solution is clear.• Sugar dissolves in water.
  63. 63. •When we stir a spoon of sand into abeaker of water, the grains of sand (let’spretend that they are red) do not mixevenly with the molecules of water (stillblue), instead they fall to the bottom.•When settled, the grainsof sand are still visible in thebottom of the beaker.• Sand does not dissolve inwater.
  64. 64. • Now, with some understanding of thevocabulary needed for our experimentwe are ready to teach our learningobjective: • “What are some changes that can occur in the physical properties of ingredients such as dissolving sugar in water?”
  65. 65. • We know that substances havephysical properties, and that some ofthese properties can change when thesubstance is dissolved. • Students can see that sugar is white before it is placed in the water. Then it disappears. • But how will they know that the sugar is still there?
  66. 66. • Of course we are going to let themtaste it. I use a pipette to put a tinysquirt into the mouths of any studentwho wants to see for sure.• For a more lasting bit of proof, we canlet the water evaporate leaving thesugar residue behind.
  67. 67. • For an ongoing demonstration for thenext week, heat the water and dump in allthe sugar you an get to dissolve. • Point out that after a certain amount, no more sugar will dissolve. The rest falls to the bottom. • You might mention at that point the suga water solution is holding all the sugar that it can, and use the word saturated.
  68. 68. •Then suspend a string into the waterand in about a week the sugar willreform on the string.
  69. 69. •By then, students really begin to getthe idea that: •substances have physical properties. •some substances dissolve in water. •substances that dissolve lose some of their physical properties
  70. 70. •Now, the students are ready to dothe lab which could be something likethis:•Prepare an instruction sheet withsteps students are to follow.•Provide each team with six smallbeakers of water and small containersof six substances to test; salt, sand,sugar, cornstarch, Epsom salts and smallpieces of styrofoam.
  71. 71. •On a data chart, list in two columns,substances that do and substances thatdo not dissolve in water. Showproperties lost or kept for those thatdid dissolve.
  72. 72. •After team reports, the teachershould summarize with a statement ofwhat students should have learned:•Solutions are mixtures in which thedissolved substance (like salt or sugar)loses most of its physical properties—it seems to disappear but really itbreaks down into molecules andthose molecules mix evenly with thewater molecules.
  73. 73. Some general thoughts on doing labs with elementary students:•For some lessons, a teacher demonstrationmay be more productive than a lab.•When doing labs or activities, watch theclock, pacing is very important.•You must know your LearningObjectives, but it is also important to knowthose of the following grade level to be sureyou are providing the foundation for thoseoverall concepts.
  74. 74. •When selecting and when doing yourlabs, look for concepts previously taughtthat can be reviewed or reinforced in thelab or activity students are presently doing. Following are some examples:
  75. 75. •When you teach “describe the life cycleof plants” -Review “parts of plants and their functions”
  76. 76. •When you teach “Identify thesignificance of the water, carbon, andnitrogen cycle”. a. –Review “changes in states of matter caused by addition or reduction of heat” b. –Review “identify the Sun as the major source of energy for the Earth and understand its role in the growth of plants, in the creation of winds, and in the water cycle”
  77. 77. •When you “test the properties ofsoil, including texture, capacity to retainwater, and ability to support life.” -Review all Learning Objectives of your grade level to do with the scientific method.
  78. 78. •To review, even though our lab and activity selections will be based on several things, student readiness, classroom management, etc. they must be specifically focused on teaching Learning Objectives of your grade level.•Your success will be very much affectedby how familiar you are with theseobjectives and how well your teachingfocuses on them.
  79. 79. •Even with the right focus, goodorganization and appropriateactivities, student learning willultimately depend on the studentson the students being thoroughlybeing thoroughly engaged.engaged.
  80. 80. Remember doing a lab or an activity maybring you agony or ecstasy
  81. 81. Remember doing a lab or an activity may bring you agony or ecstasy......because activities and labs are sometimesORGANIZED CHAOS but real learning almost always takes place.