Saturday, November 28, 2009

Space Spectacular #4

Week 6 and 7 - Finding Out, Sorting Out, Making Conclusions, Going Further

The activities in these weeks were designed to provide opportunities for students to find out about space and sort their ideas in a range of forms. Students took a test to demonstrate the conclusions they had made from their learning. We then had an excursion to Questacon for students to take their learning further and explore other scientific concepts through hands on exhibits and shows.


One of the focus questions for our unit this term is: What is gravity and how does the force of it pull things on or above the Earth's surface towards it?In preparation, I took the text from Ask an Astronomer for KIDS! and spread out the key ideas on a worksheet:
As we discussed each key idea, students drew a picture to illustrate the concept. I found that this was a helpful way to unpack the ideas. I particularly liked the last point and showed students these photos from when I stood on the special scales in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

We also read and discussed this simple explanation.
We then made artificial satellites as explained in this NASA activity. The gravity of the larger clump of plasticine balances out with the centrifugal force of the smaller clump of plasticine, keeping it 'orbiting'. I'm not sure that this is the best way to describe how orbits work, but it was fun to do anyway! You can see a video of the result below:

Earth's Atmosphere
Jonathan, my teaching partner, crafted the following lesson using this lesson plan found online. In teams of four, students drew the Earth and then added the atmospheric layers using a scale of 1mm=2km. We used this website for further information and also watched this animation to see it all in motion. The only change I would make is that I would make sure the Earth is to scale next time as well, by checking out the diameter of the earth and using a compass to draw it. (I just found this animation that would be helpful as well - too late for us this time, but may help others).

Guest Speaker
"Commander Cooper" (AKA Captain Lister) came to talk to us about his experiences with Space travel. We actually combined two grades - the Year 1s who are learning about transport and the Year 4s who are learning about Space. Yet again, Commander Cooper did an awesome job of engaging students with costumes, photos, videos, student participation and valuable, kid-friendly information about Space travel. Thank you Commander Cooper!

Making Conclusions - Taking the Test
I created this test to determine whether students had achieved the key learning outcomes for the unit of work. I asked them to give as much detail as possible and not just take short-cuts with their answers. I was impressed by how much students demonstrated in their responses and was also surprised when some students asked for a spare copy so they could do it again at lunch, just for fun! As you can see, the test ties very closely to the activities we did throughout the unit.
Going Further - Excursion to Questacon
I've found no better place to take students to experience science on a large scale, than Questacon. It is fun, kid-friendly and brings science to life. Rather than post all the photos separately, I've added a slide show here for you to see.

Integrating with Literacy

Journey to the Moon
Jonathan crafted and taught this lesson. He began with astronaut training, briefing students on some key information about the Moon. They then buckled in as Jonathan used Celestia to take them to the Moon. As they got close, their lunar module experienced difficulty and crash-landed on the surface of the moon. Students worked in small groups, to prioritise a list of items they would need as they travelled toward a space station for support. I found a similar lesson plan here. Students then reported back to the group giving justifications for their choices. This was a very engaging activity and provided students with opportunities to use language to discuss the problem in small groups and also to share their ideas with the whole class.

Descriptive Writing
This activity is similar to one we did about spiders earlier in the year. We looked at some photos of nebulae and created a list of words that could be used to describe them. Students then played with the words (and their own adjectives) to create descriptive pieces of writing. Some had a poetic structure and others were descriptive paragraphs. My plan is for students to type these up and display them with their Nebula Watercolour Paintings from Week 4.

Evaluating Explanations
Earlier in the term students wrote explanations of the life cycle of a star. This week I displayed their posters around the room and gave students mini post-it notes on which to write constructive feedback (one + and one - ) for each other and attach to the posters. I asked that they ensure every poster had some feedback. They continued with this process of reading and providing feedback for about 10 minutes, collecting additional post-it notes as necessary. At the end of the 10 minutes, students collected their own poster and made a circle sitting on the floor. We went around the circle with each student sharing the feedback they received and what they had learnt about themselves as a writer and the process of writing an explanation. It was a great way for students to reflect on their work and learning and to consider areas for improvement in the future.

Reading with Expression and Comprehension
We have had a strong focus on writing during Literacy this term, so I wanted students to have an opportunity to practise some reading as well. Some of the students in my group have become a little lazy with their reading: not self-correcting when reading aloud, and not focusing on what they are comprehending. I decided to address that with some reading aloud about space.
We only had 7 copies of a book called "Life in Space" which provides explanations about elements of space travel, so I grouped students to read together.
Each person was given a topic to master. They needed to be able to read it fluently with expression and to have full comprehension of what it is explaining. Students took turns to read aloud to their group, who then provided feedback on their expression/volume etc.
Next week students will 'perform' their reading to a larger group and explain their topic and/or any diagrams on the page.

If you enjoyed this post, why not check out previous posts in the Space Spectacular Series.

1 comment:

  1. I like the way you structured the post-it notes feedback- I can't wait to try it out!


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