This past week was the third and final week of the science content coaching cycles in which I wrote and designed a science lesson plan that I taught to my students. For this past week, I taught a STEM lesson that I designed based on “Sheep in a Jeep.” I modified the lesson heavily to meet the needs of my students and to make the lesson fit the STEM requirements for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. When I modified the lesson, I designed it to meet the following standards.
- MAFS.1.MD.3.4 – Organize, represent, and interpret data with up to three categories, ask and answer questions about the total number of data points, how many in each category, and how many more of less are in one category than in another.
- SC.1.P.13.1 – Demonstrate that the way to change the motion of an object is by applying a push or a pull.
- SC.1.E.5.2 – Explore the Law of Gravity by demonstrating that Earth’s gravity pulls any object on or near Earth even though nothing is touching the object.
- SC.1.P.12.1 – Demonstrate and describe the various ways that objects can move, such as in a straight line, zigzag, back and forth, round and round, fast, and slow.
- SC.1.N.1.2 – Using the five senses as tools, make careful observations, describe objects in terms of number, shape, texture, size, weight, color, and motion, and compare their observations with others.
- SC.1.N.1.3 – Keep records as appropriate – such as pictorial and written records – of investigations.
This allowed me to meet the Florida Educator Accomplished Practice (FEAP) 1A: “Aligns instruction with state-adopted standards at the appropriate level of rigor.” I designed this lesson by myself and implemented it by myself in the classroom. (I was unable to; however, implement the lesson one day of the week because I was not in the classroom since I was taking my college courses so my collaborating teacher took my place for me).
By designing the lesson myself, I was able to structure the days in order to make sure that the students received the content knowledge necessary to understand the lesson. This allowed me to meet FEAPs 1B: “Sequences lessons and concepts to ensure coherence and required prior knowledge.” I sequenced the lessons based on the following schedule, which can be studied in depth in the lesson plan link in the beginning of this blog post:
- Day 1 – Introduce the Sheep in a Jeep challenge through a read-aloud and engaging videos
- Day 2 – Students design, build, and test ramps in groups
- Day 3 – Students learn about gravity
- Day 4 – Students redesign, build, and test their ramps in groups. Students determine if the changes helped and why the jeep moved the way it did.
By doing this, I was able to meet FEAPs 2A: “Organizes, allocates, and manages the resources of time, space, and attention.” For further details of my step-by-step plan, please see the lesson plan at the beginning of the page.
On the first day, I had the students listen to a read-aloud of the book “Sheep in a Jeep” by Nancy Shaw. Since I did not have access to the physical copy of the book, I found a read aloud online and played it for my students. I had the students hold a thumbs-up if they saw or heard a force or a motion. It was at this time that I noticed a misconception that my students had. My students believed that unless they heard the words “push,” “pull,” or “forces” that none of these actions could occur even if the picture clearly showed the characters pushing or pulling the jeep. When I noticed this, I would stop on each page and asked the students what they saw and read. By taking the book page by page, my students were able to better understand and notice the motion and forces in the book.
After this I introduced the contest for designing ramps. Based on my experiences with the students, I have noticed that they really enjoy challenges and contests because they feel special when they can accomplish them so I decided to make the Sheep in a Jeep lesson a challenge for the students: “The sheep broke their jeep because they accidentally crashed into a tree. Now it’s time for us to try moving a jeep down a ramp. This week, we will participate in a special challenge. We have been learning about forces for a long time and I want you to show what you know about forces and motion. You will work in groups to design a ramp so a jeep can travel as far as possible.” By doing this, I made the students feel engaged and excited about the lesson to come.
I also inspired the students by showing them videos of water slides. I was going to show the students videos of ramps; however, man ramps do not simply go down but have an upward curve at the end.
When researching videos of ramps I realized that I had a misconception about actual ramps. I did not realize that the small ramp at the end would be used in so many real life ramps. I decided not to use those videos because they would create misconceptions in the eyes of my students because the toy jeep would be unable to climb the ramp at the end. So instead, I decided to inspire students with videos of waterslides. I used these videos because they had the downward ramp that I wanted my students to mimic in their designs.
One of the videos that I had the students watch was about the tallest water slide.These videos allowed me to make connections between the experiences and interests of my students and the content of the lesson. This allowed me to meet FEAPs 3E: “Relate and integrate the subject matter with other disciplines.” But instead of having students simply watch the videos, I had them take quick notes to use for another activity. By doing this, I believe I was able to keep my students focused and engaged. The students were to write about what forces and motion they saw in the videos, which connects back to the first activity. I chose this formative assessment because it would allow me to quickly see how many students were able to see forces that were not explicitly stated in the videos.
After the students took their notes, we performed an activity called “Commit and Toss.” The students balled up their papers and threw them into the middle of our circle and then each student grabbed a different sheet of paper. I was pleasantly surprised at how calm my students remained during the activity but the excitement was definitely palpable. This helped me to meet FEAPs 3A: “Deliver engaging and challenging lessons.” The only issue that we ran into; however, was that when it came time for the students to share out their peer’s responses, many students could not read the papers so I had to walk around the room and decipher the writing for them. I really enjoyed this activity and would love to use it in the future but I think I will reserve it for mathematics lessons.
Another pleasant surprise with this activity was that every single student was able to name a force and/or a motion that they saw in the video. One detraction from the lesson; however, was that I was unable to see if the students truly understood the forces/motion that they saw or if they just wrote down an answer. This formative assessment; however, was simply used to monitor their learning and inform me if there were any misconceptions that I needed to address. By doing this activity, I was able to meet FEAPs 1D: “Selects appropriate formative assessments to monitor learning.”
After this activity, the students glued charts into their notebooks to record the data that they would collect later on in the week. I handed out this chart and explicitly explained how to fill it out. On the chart, I put purple boxes around the “observed” columns so the students would understand where to record their data. I did this because in previous lessons, my students had some difficulty filling out the information in the charts that I gave them.
I also designed a class chart on chart paper that matched the charts that I gave to the students. The chart looked similar to this design:
I made the same purple boxes around the “Observed” columns and I put blue boxes around the “prediction” columns so students could see the difference between the two. I also changed the color marker that I used to fill out each column so the students could definitely tell the difference between what they predicted and what they actually observed. Below is a picture of the actual class chart that I used.
After I handed out the individual charts; however, I realized that they were incorrect. I put three trials on the chart but since last week was a shortened week, there was no time for the students to complete a third trial. I avoided this mistake on the actual class chart though. I was surprised that none of my students asked my about the third trial but this mistake reminds me that I need to always double check my copies and paperwork before every lesson to make sure they are correct.
The last part of the lesson was to explicitly model how to move the jeep and what data we would collect. I decided to use a nonstandard unit: the tiles on the floor of the classroom. I had learned in my mathematics class that when students measure, it is important that they understand the concept through non-standard units before using standard units to make sure they understand how to measure and what measuring means. If a student tries to measure with standard units first, he or she may make a mistake and it will be unclear if the mistake came from incorrectly using the standard unit (for example, not starting at the zero on the ruler) or not understanding the concept of measuring.
I made sure to demonstrate how to count the tiles many times for the students. It was very interesting for me to see just how explicitly they followed my model during the rest of the lesson. I used my foot to count out the tiles instead of bending down and every single group used their feet to count out the tiles by taping their foot on each tile as they counted. It amazed me just how much the students paid attention to my model, which reminds me to always explicitly explain what I want the students to do and to make sure to avoid creating misconceptions in my students by doing something incorrectly.
At the end of the first day, I had the students decide whether they wanted to write about what they had learned today or make a drawing of their idea for a ramp design. The majority of the students drew a ramp design but I gave them this option so they could get their ideas onto paper to remember for tomorrow.
For day 2, the students worked in groups to design the ramp. I made sure to explicitly tell the students that each group could only have one design. After the students created their designs, each group predicted how many tiles they believed the jeep would travel. I could immediately tell that the students were greatly overestimating how many tiles they thought the jeep would move because two groups predicted 20 tiles and the remaining groups predicted 10 tiles.
Each group then built their ramp. I gave the students approximately two minutes to build their ramps. I told the students about this time limit but did not hold them to it because I wanted to give them the opportunity to explore. The students were able to use five textbooks and one clipboard in order to create their ramp. Every single group created their ramp in the same way—they all stacked the books flat on top of one another and laid the clipboard down at the end.
The students really loved performing this part of the investigation. I was a bit nervous that the other students would be bored but they were just the opposite—the students who were watching were so eager to see what was happening that they kept moving and trying to get a better view! I had originally planned to do the lesson in the hallway outside of the classroom but my collaborating teacher and I did not want to disturb the other classes. If I were to re-teach this lesson, I would make that change because it would allow the students to have a better viewpoint because there would be more space.
After everyone recorded their data, we analyzed the chart by looking at which group had the jeep travel the most. As you can see below, group 4’s jeep traveled the farthest. After the investigation, I wondered if I had chosen the correct tool. It seemed that the jeep would only travel about 6 tiles so I think if I were to do this lesson over again, I would choose a different car to get more varied data. But since the students had almost the exact same design, that may have influenced why the jeep traveled an average of 6 tiles.
Since I was unable to teach on day 3, I will simply skip ahead to day 4. On day 4 I was formally observed by the science content coach and my PRT. On this day, the students redesigned their ramps and make new predictions. Most of the groups made more realistic predictions this time but one group had difficulty agreeing with each other and made a very large prediction (23 tiles).
The students redesigned their ramps and each ramp had a steeper incline than last time. One group designed their ramp and realized as they were building it that they could not do what they had planned. The students wanted to stack the books against each other to make triangles and have the jeep travel up and down each book. I realized that this was the exact misconception that I wanted to avoid in the beginning but I wanted to let them try it out anyways. The students; however, realized that they could not actually make their design when they have difficulty holding up the books (I informed the students that they could hold up the books/clipboard to give them more options for their new design).
I allowed this group to change their design because they immediately recognized that it would not work and instead of arguing worked to make changes. I explicitly pointed this out to the entire group and then allowed the students to continue working. I was amazed at the end of the second round of testing because I realized that my students and I shared a misconception which was that the higher the incline, the farther the jeep will travel. In the end, the jeeps traveled less distance on the second day than the first.
I really appreciated these results; however, because my students were able to clearly describe that their changes did not work.
After this discussion, I had my students describe what forces, motion, direction, and gravity they saw during the lesson. I noticed immediately that almost all of my students had misconceptions about gravity. They believed that gravity was a push not a pull. I realized that this occurred because the students saw the jeep move away from them (which is how we defined a push from the Nat Geo science text) so they assumed the gravity acted as a push as well. By noticing this misconception, I met FEAPs 3C: “Identify gaps in students’ subject matter knowledge.” I immediately addressed this misconception by returning to the text and having the students listen as I read it over multiple times. I also used many demonstrations and examples to help the students understand. By taking the time to discuss gravity in this way, I was able to help some students understand the concept better, which allowed me to meet FEAPs 3D: “Modify instruction to respond to preconceptions or misconceptions.” I think some students were able to address their own misconceptions but many did not understand that gravity was a pull so I will have to address this sometime later on.
At the end of my lesson, I had the students write briefly about what they had learned. I was very surprised to see that many students took the gravity content and integrated it into their answers. Some students also discussed how they used a force (a push) to move the jeep because it moved away from them. Other students described the motion/direction of the jeep (forward, away from me, down, etc.). I also had the students self-assess their knowledge of the lesson using the smiley face system. I made sure to explicitly explain to my students to be honest and fair—I told them not to say that they knew everything when they did not but also not to say they knew nothing when they really understood the lesson. I think the students are still a bit intimidated by this system but they may also be unsure of how to self-assess so I think more practice with this system will be beneficial for the students.
I am really happy that my final lesson for this first content cycle was a lesson that I planned all by myself. I took some inspiration from the Sheep in a Jeep lesson plan but I made many modifications to meet the needs of my students. Next week, I will begin the literacy content coaching cycle with a new content coach.