Starting a New Unit

Yesterday I met with my new science class for the first time and I told them that are helping me with my research on science teaching and learning. Their first assignment was to help me find out what they already know. As a formative assessment, students engaged in three learning activities similar to what they will do later in the unit.

Students were presented with three tasks. They were asked to observe substances before and after mixing, then explain if they thought a new substance was formed or not. They were asked to develop a model of how smell travels to your nose and use it to explain how smell travels and why they cannot see it. Finally, they were asked what would happen to the weight when something melts and to explain why weight changes or does not change.

The preassessment items are phenomenon-based and three-dimensional. They provide insight to studentsʻ use of important disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

I learned about students prior knowledge of PS1.A structure and properties of matter. Items probed students knowledge of how to use properties to identify substances, determining if a new substance is formed when substances are mixed, how matter is made of particles too small to be seen, and about conservation of matter (for melting).

Crosscutting Concepts

I learned about studentsʻ prior knowledge of patterns as they used (or did not use) patterns of properties to identify substances. They also used cause and effect to explain what causes smell and what causes weight to change or not when something melts. They demonstrated their knowledge of systems and system models as they modeled smell and showed the components of a system (nose, smelly object, smell, air) and how they interacted to cause smell.

Science and Engineering Practices

I learned about studentsʻ abilities to use two practices—constructing explanations and developing and using models. Students constructed a model for how the smell of food travels to their noses and used the model to construct a written explanation.

This information will help me support students through the rest of the unit. Tomorrow we begin with a rubbish sort!

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