Category Archives: Cause and Effect: Mechanism and Explanation

Preschool Weather Observations

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In seed-time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy. ~William Blake

{This post is Part 1 of “The Weather Calendar:  Science Activities for Preschool, Elementary Grades and Beyond,” a 6-part series on weather observations as part of daily math and science teaching in the early childhood years, and beyond}

“What is the Weather Today?”

Are you looking for a way to hook your students in your daily lessons? Do you have some students who still struggle with number concepts or math and science vocabulary? Has winter weather disrupted your flow and distracted your students?

Of course, most of you will answer yes, yes and yes – especially if you live in the Northeastern United States, where we (once again) are being buried in snow. If this is you, consider adding a weather calendar to your morning routine.

I once was working with a group of first grade teachers and recommended calendar routines as an important addition to the daily mathematics repertoire. One teacher balked, saying, “I think calendar routines are a big waste of time. There are so many more important things to do during that time than calendars.” I so disagree! While those of us who have taught kindergarten no doubt use a weather graph somewhere in our school year, weather observations and calendar routines can be adapted and used to teach important grade-level concepts from preschool through grade 3, and higher:

  • By keeping the number of data points low (under 31), weather observations on a calendar can be used for initial or remedial teaching of important concepts of number;
  • Through careful choice of what is recorded on the calendar, grade-level earth science concepts can be layered on and emphasized;
  • Because of the discussion format of calendar time, proper use of the content vocabulary of math and science can be practiced.
  • During conversation, students will have the opportunity to ask and answer questions, analyze and make predictions and statements about data.
  • By focusing on weather phenomena, students can practice new ideas using familiar, readily observable content (the weather).

With better understanding of the grade level math and science possibilities, preschool weather observations, and weather calendar work, can be incorporated into daily routines in all early childhood (birth to grade 3) years, and beyond.

Hip Homeschool Moms

 

Understanding Toddlers and Preschoolers

The preschool years are a time of incredible physical, social, interpersonal and cognitive growth. Babies step out of the familiarity of their home into the bigger world of preschool, daycare or play group. They take in and make sense of a seemingly infinite amount of new information, and begin to make sense of it all. The big advantage teachers (both homeschool and classroom) have when working with children at this age is their innate sense of wonder about everything. Using observations about the weather can be a great way to hook students on looking at the world like a scientist.

In order to make the most targeted use of preschool weather observations and calendar routines for your students, it helps to first note what important number and science concepts toddlers and preschoolers should understand:

 Toddlers to Preschoolers~

  • Understanding and working with numbers to 5
  • Observing and recording patterns in the weather
  • Sorting objects into groups based on one attribute
  • Noting the effect of weather on the environment

A “Circle Time” Staple: the Weather Calendar

Let’s break the concepts above into individual pieces, and see how your weather activities can address each. For each part, I will share some ideas for how to make the best use of this wonderful time of the day. For veterans, some of this information will be old news. But I will also tell you why these activities work with young children, and how they can be powerful ways to emphasize important math and science concepts.

Focus on School Day Observations, Monday through Friday

What to do:

In my classroom, I had one pocket chart that had spots for the date or weather cards for each day of the week: seven pockets in all. Because my preschoolers often didn’t really understand the difference between Saturday and Sunday (especially if they didn’t attend preschool every day of the week), I sometimes ignored the weekend pockets. Sometimes, we knew about an event (“Sarah, your birthday party was on Saturday, right? What was the weather on Saturday, do you remember?”). But mostly we used observations that we made right then, so we focused on the days of the school week.

http://www.simplesciencestrategies.com preschool weather observations

Use a weekly (rather than a monthly) calendar for weather recording with preschoolers. {Photo credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2015}

 

Why it works:

By focusing on Monday through Friday on our winter weather calendar, we can then practice counting within five: an important skill to begin with toddlers and preschoolers. Very young children learn to master the numbers up to five, because they can count them on one hand!

But understanding the idea of the numbers 1-5 is also an important skill for students to master before they work with larger numbers, which they will learn to break apart into the smaller, “friendlier” numbers of 1-5. For example, they will use tools, such as a ten-frame, to see that the number 7 is made up of 5 and 2 more. In fact, adults do this when counting large numbers of objects, or memorizing phone numbers (which are broken into series of 3- and 4-number sections, not by accident). So really understanding the meaning of the numbers 1-5 is a foundation for work with bigger numbers when they are four and five years old.

 

The Daily Weather Report

What to do:

As a preschool teacher, I taught in a co-op, where parents helped out with some of the daily tasks of running the school. The classes with 2- and 3-year-olds had two helping parents; the 3- and 4-year-old classes had one helper. If your parent was a helper that day (and everyone’s parent helped), you were the Weather Reporter for the day. {If you don’t have a co-op, or you are doing this in your homeschool, you can set up a rotating schedule for this job.}

We would all sing the “What is the Weather?” song, as the Weather Reporter(s) looked out the nearby classroom window, to decide what the weather was that day:

What is the Weather? {sung to “Mama’s Little Baby Loves Short’nin’ Bread”}

What is the weather, weather, weather?

What is the weather {clap} today?

What is the weather, weather, weather?

What is the weather {clap} today?

 

The Weather Reporters then either chose from a selection of pre-made weather symbols (that fit inside each pocket), or drew the weather symbol on the chart (when we used a hand-made version). Once the Weather Reporters came back to the circle and reported their findings, we finished the song:

Jesse says it’s sunny, sunny, sunny.

Jesse says it’s sunny {clap} today.

What a good job, job, job,

What a good job Jesse did!

 

I will not be lying if I told you that sometimes observing the weather took a looooonnnnggg time! If a child had a hard time doing this task (which often happens with the littlest ones), buddying up helped. Sometimes we would need to narrow down the choices for kids (“Is it cold or hot today?”) Focusing on one type of weather observation (sunny/cloudy, hot/warm/cold, etc) often helped the youngest children. This also helped later when we began to sort our observations.

 

 

Why it works:

When children are very young, our goal in science, and in all things, is to get them to LOOK. The patterned and predictable nature of a calendar routine helps define for little ones what observation looks, sounds and feels like. The song routine helps them to develop the content specific vocabulary around weather that helps them later ask and answer questions about the weather.

The Weekly Weather Report

What to do:

After a week of weather watching, my kids had between 5 and 7 weather observations on their weekly weather calendar. The Class Mathematician (a class “job” that I used in grades pK through 3, for attendance, calendar work, number line work… any time we needed to count anything) would remove the weather symbols from the calendar, and sort them so that like symbols were grouped together. {Note: Velcro or magnet dots on the backs of the cards enable you to use your felt board or white board as a place to sort.} Once sorted, we would chorally count how many were in each group.

 

http://www.simplesciencestrategies.com preschool weather observations

Make use of a classroom window to make weather observations in the winter months. {Photo credit: (c) Glenn Beltz, 2014 via Creative Commons}

 

Why it works:

Before children learn that a numeral matches a number name, and matches a quantity, they learn how to match one object with another: they put one plate next to each chair, one napkin on each plate, and one spoon on each napkin, while setting the table for snack. They also learn how to visually discriminate among objects, and match like objects with like objects. This 1:1 correspondence is an important concept that lays the foundation for understanding the meaning of numbers later on. Because we are limiting our observations to seven, it is easy for little ones to count the cards in each category, as the quantity will be a number within five.

What is “sunny?”

What to do:

As we studied new weather words, we began creating posters for each word. I used large butcher paper or chart paper, which I hung on an easel near our meeting area. An ongoing center in my classroom was the magazine center, where (in this case) students would be looking for pictures that show what sunny looks like. These pictures, plus students’ own drawings and mini-paintings, would be glued to the poster. Every morning, during the weather calendar, we would talk about the poster, and ask, “What does sunny weather do to the environment?” Children would use their own work to describe the effects of sunny weather on the environment: grass grows, snow melts, clothes dry, etc.

When we finished discussing a weather term, I laminated the poster and hung it on the wall as a reference tool for students.

http://www.simplesciencestrategies.com preschool weather observations

Let children express understanding of weather words in many ways. {Photo credit bberlin2015, 2010 via Creative Commons}

Why it works:

I like to tie language and vocabulary into all my teaching, because I want students to talk like scientists and mathematicians. Part of the process for little children is to connect words, images and the real world together, to build the vocabulary understanding in the child’s mind.

A child’s understanding of a concept is called schema. In the beginning, they have relatively little understanding of a concept (“I see a sun. It is sunny.”). With each exposure to the idea, they begin to build understanding of the idea. Sometimes, their schema contains errors or misconceptions. One thing I often had to clarify is the difference between “sunny” and “warm.” Children would see the bright sun in January and say it was “warm” outside, or see snow on the ground, on a sunny winter day, and say it was snowy. Taking kids outside for a brief nature walk on a sunny winter day, or having them look closely at where the snow was (“Is the snow on the ground? Or is it in the air?”), were needed to clarify this misconception. The iterative process of researching, visualizing and discussing the relationship between weather and the environment helps refine the child’s schema, or conceptual framework, related to weather.

Preschool Weather Observations Yield Mighty Learning Results

Weather routines do much more than give kids a chance to check the weather. As we’ve seen, with a proper focus, they can be a way to get daily practice with important grade-level ideas in science and mathematics. They also provide opportunity for students to discourse about their learning.

So let’s dust off those pocket charts and get ready for some weather reporting!

Weather – Watching Materials for Your Classroom

I’ve gathered some helpful materials for weather-watching and weather studies with preschoolers, all in one place. Click to order directly from this page.

http://www.simplesciencestrategies.com

Poem in My Pocket: Winter PreK-1 ($13.99 at Barnes & Noble)

 

Poetry + pocket charts = lively literacy lessons! Each book features five original poems. For each poem, the book provides word and picture cards designed for use in pocket charts, and much more! This Volume, “Winter,” is a perfect accompaniment to your winter weather observations.

 

http://www.simplesciencestrategies.com

COMPLETE Calendar & Weather Pocket Chart ($36.99 at Barnes & Noble)

Complete calendar and weather study pocket chart, with date cards, months of the year and days of the week, weather symbols, and more!

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.simplesciencestrategies.com

Emma’s Cold Day ($1.99 at Barnes & Noble)

In her latest escapade, Emma is one game hen with a big problem. It’s the middle of winter and the chicken coop is freezing. Learn about how farm animals stay warm in the winter in this zany tale of Emma, an adventurous chicken, in this award-winning children’s book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Art of “Blending” – Winter Camouflage (November Study 1)

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What is Camouflage?

cam·ou·flage

  1. concealment of things: concealment of things, by disguising them to look like their surroundings
  2. concealing devices: devices designed to conceal by imitating the colors of the surrounding environment
  3. protective coloration in animals: the devices that animals use to blend into their environment in order to avoid being seen by predators or prey, especially coloration

Fall provides many opportunities to observe how living things prepare themselves for winter. One topic we will explore this month is how animals’ coloration can aid in their protection during the fall and winter months.

This article will focus specifically on how animals’ coloration protects them in the fall and winter months. The larger topic of coloration will be reserved for another month.

Types of Camouflage

Animals exhibit several types of coloration, each of which protects them from harm in a different way.

  1. Concealing Coloration
  2. Disguise
  3. Disruptive Coloration
  4. Mimicry
  5. No Camouflage

Each of these methods will be examined more closely as it applies to fall and winter protection.

Concealing Coloration

When folks think of camouflage, this is the type of camouflage that probably comes to mind first, and is probably one of the most common, especially among prey species of birds, insects and other prey animals.

When an animal exhibits concealing coloration, it is colored or patterned in such a way that it blends into its surroundings, looking very similar to its environment.

Many animals adopt a different coloration in the winter. Some adopt the drab browns and grays of the fall and winter woodlands, such as many sparrows, winter goldfinches, and winter starlings.

Here’s a fun birding note – there are so many small birds that move fast, hide undercover, and are hard to tell apart unless you get a good look at them through binoculars: warblers, sparrows, finches, buntings… birders refer to these as “little brown jobs” or “LBJs.”

 

Camouflage Concealing Color Fall Nature Study

Many sparrows and other small birds use concealing color year-round, or just in the winter, to hide among the brown leaves of the forest floor. See “Little Brown Birds: Sparrows and Friends” for a study of brown birds. (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2010.

 

Disguise

Overwintering insects are at great risk of being someone’s wintertime food. In many cases, they disguise themselves as dead leaves or twigs, to avoid being noticed. This is the case with many of the giant silk moths, whose caterpillars overwinter in cocoons wrapped in dead leaves and twigs, effectively blending them into the leaf litter. This is even more important, when you consider that some, such as the Luna moth, must overwinter, then remain in the pupa until nearly the end of July, before the adult moth emerges – a long time to remain hidden from view, and from potential predators.

 

Camouflage Fall Nature Study

Many caterpillars cover their cocoons with dead leaves, to look like leaf litter, as they overwinter. (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2012.

 

Disruptive Coloration

In the fall and winter, some birds don’t change color drastically, but become a little more striped or spotted, and begin to congregate in large groups. The combination of the markings and the masses of birds make it hard for a potential predator to pick one bird out of the group, similar to the way that the stripes on zebras make it hard for a lion to pick one zebra out of the herd.

This type of camouflage is called disruptive coloration. By adopting a pattern of stripes or spots, the “edges” of the animal become less distinct, making it hard for a predator to zero in on one animal, or on an animal’s vulnerable spot (head, neck). Gathering in a large group makes this even more effective.

European starlings don’t change color dramatically, but, in the winter, become much more spotted. Similarly, juncos have a strikingly white belly that blends in with the snow, making them look like a cluster of black dots hopping over the snow.

 

Disruptive Coloration Nature Study Fall

Juncos’ white underparts blend in with the snow, making their vulnerable underside indistinguishable from their environment. (c) Phoenix Wolf-Ray, 2008 via Creative Commons.

 

Mimicry

Sometimes, animals have markings that resemble other, less “edible” or more dangerous creatures. The Viceroy and monarch butterflies are a classic example of this, as are caterpillars that have markings and “horns” to resemble more menacing creatures. While not a true mimicry, there is a subtle version of this “look-alike” phenomenon seen in winter birds.

If you have been watching your feeding station (that you assembled last month), you may have noticed a few days when you had huge flocks of black birds that descended on the feeders, stayed for an hour or so, then left as quickly as they arrived. This happens in my feeding area sometime in September or October. I usually see a huge flock of grackles, but, amongst the grackles, there will be a few starlings, some red-winged blackbirds, and maybe a crow or two.

While this isn’t true mimicry, the species that are in fewer numbers gain protection from looking like, and joining, the flock of grackles (a species that commonly gathers in large numbers in the fall). This association doesn’t affect the grackles, but benefits the other bird species. Would-be predators are less likely to attack the raucous grackles than they are the more timid starlings and blackbirds. So there is protection by association.

 

camouflage fall nature study

Birds such as red-winged blackbirds and starlings, will sometimes join large flocks of similarly colored birds, such as these grackles, for safety in numbers. (c) Rich Anderson, 2005 via Creative Commons.

 

No Camouflage

Not every animal uses camouflage as a protective measure, in winter or any other time of the year. Just one look at your bird list from your bird feeding station, and you can see a number of common species that remain brightly colored, year round:

  • Northern Cardinal
  • Blue Jay
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Evening Grosbeak

There are also some common feeder birds that are brightly colored, but migrate to warmer, or even tropical, regions during the winter, so they continue to blend in with “summery” surroundings:

  • Scarlet Tanagers
  • Northern Orioles
  • Many warblers
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak

For these birds, the advantage of bright colors to attract a mate outweighs the risk of being easy to spot, or the bird has other means to protect itself from predators.

 

Blue Jay No Camouflage

Blue jays keep their bright blue coloration year-round. (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2010.

 

The Learning Task

The Key skills and concepts

  • Dimension 1: Science ProcessEngaging in Argument from Evidence
  • Dimension 2: Cross-Cutting ConceptCause-and-Effect: Mechanism and Explanation
  • Dimension 3: Scientific DisciplinesLife Sciences: Biological Evolution – Unity and Diversity
  • Cognitive Process: Comparing & Contrasting

If you are not a member of Project Feeder Watch, consider donating your time (and a few dollars) to become a citizen scientist, and contribute your observations to a scientific project. For your subscription, you’ll get a poster of common feeder birds in North America, data sheets and/or access to electronic recording forms online, and a subscription to a monthly newsletter that is chock full of great information for homeschool, birding enthusiasts or classroom use.

If you’re not a member, you can use this procedure to study the fall and winter coloration of your feeder birds:

  1. Find a place to observe birds for about 15-30 minutes. [Your bird feeding station is a good place]. It is good to pick the same time each week, so that you get a true representation of the kinds of birds that come to your feeder.
  2. Print out copies of the camouflage recording sheet (enough for pairs or small groups of students).
  3. Note the date and weather conditions or any other important factors that might affect bird numbers (e.g., disturbances in the environment; a new feeder or food; the presence of a dog or cat in the area).
  4. Record the species of birds that come to your feeder during this time in the first column.
  5. Record the maximum number of that bird that you see at any one time (use a pencil so you can erase).
  6. Check off what kind(s) of camouflage you think the species uses in the next columns (NOTE: Only the most common winter camouflage types are listed).
  7. Record any other interesting observations in the last column.
  8. Summarize your observations about birds and coloration on the lines at the bottom of the page.

NOTE: There are no right answers to this task. The point is to begin to examine the coloration of birds, compare them, and draw some inferences about the relationship between the birds’ coloration and adaptation to changing seasons.

 

Share

Post your observations, photos and links to your blog post to the November edition of the Simple Science Blog Carnival! Make sure you include a link back to this post or the blog carnival in your blog post.

 

Backyard Birds of North America: An Introduction to Familiar Species — Perfect for bird lovers, this informative pamphlet details more than 140 urban avian species and provides instructions on attracting and feeding backyard birds. Laminated for durability, this handy guide is ideal for field use by novices and experts alike. $2.71, Barnes & Noble.

 

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Cause and Effect: Using a Multi-Flow Map in a Science Center

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Why Study Cause and Effect?

Scientific investigation and experimentation is all about connecting things. In  order for students to connect two events, or a treatment and its effects, students have to understand that things stay the same, unless acted upon by something else, and that things have the ability to change the behavior of other things.

science strategies cause and effect flow map

Understanding cause and effect is central to scientific thinking and exploration. Photo Credit: Alastros Oistros, 2005, via Creative Commons

Understanding cause and effect is a complex skill, involving many subskills:

  • Direct observation of objects and their attributes
  • Observation of objects through the use of simple tests and tools
  • Connection of two events
  • Making predictions based on facts, observations and past experiences
  • Evaluation of the probability and possibility of past and future events, based on observations, the body of scientific knowledge and past experiences
  • Understanding and communication of scientific ideas in words, diagrams and writing
  • Understanding causality and correlation

In short, the understanding of cause and effect, and communication about it, is at the heart of scientific experimentation and investigation.

Tools for Communication Cause and Effect

David Hyerle has established a system of eight Thinking Maps to organize thinking around distinct cognitive processes. One of these maps, the Multi-Flow Map, is specifically created, by the learner, to demonstrate cause-and-effect relationships. (Please click on the link, below, for resources prepared by Wappinger Central School District, in Fishkill, New York, for teaching about the Multi-Flow Map and using it with students:

The Multi-Flow Map

The Multi-Flow Map: useful for demonstrating an understanding of cause and effect relationships.

Using a Multi-Flow Map in the Classroom

This month, we have been using some typical October events to teach questioning:

  • the formation of fruits and seeds from flowers
  • fall color development
  • bird migration
  • changes in the weather

Here are some ways that you could use a multi-flow map in a science center, to provide independent practice in showing cause and effect. Provide the object identified, blank observations sheets and the directions for making a multi-flow map (see the link, above). Leave “cue cards” with the words “What happened here?” and “What will happen next?” Provide a basket for completed work, or create a class bulletin board for students to combine all their thinking into a classroom display (use different colored cards for causes, the event, and effects, and connect with string — leave a stapler at the bulletin board to facilitate student independence).

Fruit and Seed formation

  • an apple with a poke in the side
  • a cut or bitten apple that has begun to discolor
  • an apple with a bruise or rotten spot
  • a photograph of a chipmunk with full cheek pouches
  • a photograph of a blue jay with an acorn in its beak

Fall color formation

  • a branchlet with leaves in different stages of color development
  • a skeletonized leaf
  • a leaf with scorched leaf margins
  • a leaf with sooty mold, powdery mildew, or leaf spot
  • a leaf with insect galls

Bird migration

  • a photograph of geese in V-formation
  • a photograph of blackbirds congregating near a feeder
  • a photograph of vultures climbing a thermal
  • a photograph of goldfinches or other bird in transition plumage

Weather changes

  • a photograph of flooding after Hurricane Sandy
  • a photograph of a tree on downed power lines
  • a photograph of houses collapsed on a beach after a hurricane
  • a photograph of a person chopping wood
  • a photograph of wood smoke coming from a chimney
  • a photograph of  a pile of student jackets on the playground

A Note About Centers

Whenever possible, use real objects, and any relevant tools, instead of photographs or pictures. When photographs or pictures are used, make them relevant to the students. For example, after our experiences with Hurricane Sandy,  I would photograph downed trees or flooding in my town, or the school’s flooded playground, instead of another location. Always use whatever has the most meaning to your students.

science strategies cause and effect flow map

Use available, familiar items whenever designing independent learning centers. Photo credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2011

 

 

 

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Question-Answer Relationships in Science

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What are QARs?

Has this happened to you, as a teacher?

Student B (age 9, 12 or 18… it doesn’t matter) sits with a scientific editorial, and an essay assignment. The prompt asks him, “Does the author believe that nuclear power is a benefit to society, or a danger? Use evidence from the editorial to answer your question.” At the end of class, the student turns in a blank paper: “I don’t know what to write — it didn’t say.” Sigh.

Researchers developed the concept of QARs, or Question-Answer Relationships, to help students understand that there is a relationship between the type of question asked, and the place the student goes to find the information to answer the question. By quickly determining the type of question, the student is better able to figure out how to answer the question.

Types of Questions

Reading response questions fall into four categories, based on where the reader must go to find the answer:

  1. “Right There” Questions
  2. “Search and Find Out” Questions
  3. “Author and Me” Questions
  4. “On My Own” Questions

If students can learn to identify the hallmarks of each type of question, then they can more quickly determine what they have to do in order to craft the appropriate response. Here is a general overview of the categories of questions:

Right There Questions

  • assess literal comprehension: there is little need to think beyond the text in order to answer
  • the answer is readily identifiable directly in the text (e.g., a definition, a specific fact, a quote)
  • tend to be lower Bloom’s levels (because the reader merely has to identify or locate the answer)
  • are text dependent: the reader cannot answer the question without reading the text
  • may include the words, “according to the text”
  • may include the question words, “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” or “how.”
  • may contain words in bold print
  • Example: “What is an igneous rock?

(c) gregw66, 2011 via Creative Commons

Search and find out questions

  • assess literal comprehension
  • the answer is identifiable in the text, but the reader must read through a more extended portion of the text to find all the parts (e.g., several reasons, multiple steps)
  • involve more summary and extrapolation, so are higher than “Right There” questions, but still lower level questions
  • are text dependent
  • may also include the words, “according to the text” and the question words “who-what-where-when-how”
  • Example: “What are the three major kinds of rocks? Explain how each is formed.

(c) gregw66 (2011), Jonathan Wilkens and Ken Lund (2010) via Creative Commons

Author and me questions

  • assess inferential comprehension
  • are text-dependent (the reader must have read the text in order to answer), but cannot be answered with the text, alone
  • involve interpretation and reflection, so are higher order
  • may include the words, “why,” “in your opinion,” “you,” or “use evidence from the text to explain your thinking.”
  • Example: “Find five rocks outside. Use the table on page 5 to classify them as igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary, and explain what characteristics helped you decide.”

(c) 2008, Gwen and James Anderson via Creative Commons

On my own questions

  • are not text-dependent: the reader does not have to have read the text at all to answer the question
  • involve connections to personal experiences
  • can vary in Bloom’s level, depending on the question
  • may include the words, “you/your,” “think of a time,” “when have you,” or “have you ever.”
  • Example: “List ten things in your school or schoolyard that are made from rock.”

(c) Kim M. Bennett, 2011

The Reading Lady has an excellent overview of QARs in .pdf form. It’s thirteen pages long, and includes planning sheets for teachers to plan different levels of questions for a lesson, or to classify the kinds of questions at the end of the chapter (so you can add others that are lacking). It also includes organizers for students to classify or create their own questions for each level — a very powerful task for student learning.

QARs in Science

The above examples show how QARs can be used to help students make sense of science texts. The Tantasqua School District (Massachusetts) has developed examples of how QARs can be used in other content areas – very useful for supporting literacy across content areas.

But can we use the same levels of thinking in non-text-based tasks? What would that look like?

Let’s go back to the original levels, and what they stand for:

  1. Level 1 (Right There): just reporting the proper information
  2. Level 2 (Search and Find Out): the information is there, but you have to work to get it
  3. Level 3 (Author & Me): you process the information based on your own thought and experiences
  4. Level 4 (On My Own): only your experiences are needed

Here is a suggestion for encouraging these four levels of thinking, even when text is not used. This is helpful thinking, for working with struggling readers who are not struggling thinkers, for making grade-level content accessible to students with disabilities, for making input comprehensible to students who are second language learners, and for ensuring overall rigor of thinking for all students.

Level 1 (Right There) questions

  • Involve direct observation using the five senses

Some data can be directly observed, using the 5 senses. (c)  lara604, 2011 via Creative Commons

Level 2 (Search and find out) questions

  • Involve indirect observation
  • Involve using text resources, simple tests and simple tools to gather additional data not directly observable
  • Involve knowing that some data cannot be directly observed

Simple tools and tests can be used to gather more information. (c) 2012, Kim M. Bennett

Level 3 (Author & Me) Questions

  • Involve extending beyond the observations to possible causes and effects
  • Involve applying prior learning and knowledge to new observations
  • Involve prediction based on knowledge and present data

Level 4 (On My Own) questions

  • Involve generalizing to the real world
  • Involve establishing relevancy and real-life connection

Comparing the new with the known, the student generalizes to similar observations and experiences. (c) Alastros Oistros, 2005 via Creative Commons

Fostering Thinking…

To help organize students’ thinking at these four levels, I created a simple reporting sheet that can be used with many types of science tasks, from experiments, to outdoor observations, to science centers. I also made a companion sheet for using QARs with text-based tasks, in science or any other content area. Click on the image to download a copy.

QARs for Science: an Organizer for Download

QARs: an Organizer for Download

For More Information…

For more information on strategies to help foster literacy in science, see 50 Instructional Routines to Develop Content Literacy. From some of the best-known authors in the field comes a book that provides all middle and high school teachers with practical information about improving students’ reading, writing, and oral language development. Every teacher needs to use instructional routines that allow students to engage in all of these literacy processes. Classroom examples from science, social studies, English, math, visual and performing arts, and core electives ensure that all middle and high school teachers can effectively integrate literacy instruction into their lesson delivery. Click on the link (above) or the image (below) for ordering information.

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Indirect Measurement: Color and Bird Feeding

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Learning Focus:

Essential Questions —

  • What is the relationship between color and bird feeding behavior?
  • How do you quantify something that you can’t measure yourself?

Enduring Understandings —

  • Treatment effects can be measured using both direct and indirect means.

Focus for This Task:

  • Focus Strategy: Indirect Measurement
  • Targeted Skill: Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
  • Key Concepts: Cause and Effect
  • Core Ideas: Biological Evolution

The Learning Task:

Designing the Investigation:

  • Problem Statement: Does the color of a bird feeder affect bird feeding behavior?
  • Null Hypothesis: The color of the bird feeder has no effect on bird feeding behavior.
  • Alternative Hypothesis: The color of the bird feeder does affect bird feeding behavior.

 Do you think that the birds will eat from one color feeder more than the other? Why or why not? Which color, if either, do you think will attract birds the most? How will you know?

Materials Used:

  • two identical pie pans
  • construction paper (one sheet of green, one sheet of red) [You can use more than two colors with older students; make sure one of them is red.]
  • scissors
  • mixed bird seed (or seed of your choice)
  • 1-cup measuring cup

Procedure:

  1. Trace the bottom of the pie pan onto each sheet of construction paper; cut out the two construction paper circles.
  2. Place one circle inside the bottom of each pie pan.
  3. Measure one cup of mixed bird seed into each pie pan, making sure to push the seeds to one side to expose the color at the bottom of the pie pan.
  4. Place the pie pans on the ground in a place where birds frequently come to visit and feed.
  5. After 2 days, bring the pie pans inside. Measure the seed in each pan using a measuring cup.

 See the photo gallery, below, for questions to ask while conducting this investigation.

Results:

  • Record your results using a data table.

How would you set up your data table? What would be the column headers? What would be the row labels? What data would you put in the body of the table? How might you order the data? Why?

Key Vocabulary:

  • dependent, independent variable
  • direct, indirect measurement
  • scientific method
  • experiment
  • data
  • measurement
  • observation

Follow-up:

  • Did you use direct measurement or indirect measurement to determine the effects of color on bird feeding behavior? Explain.
  • What would be other direct ways of measuring your treatment effect? What would be other indirect methods?
  • What other factors might have influenced the results of your experiment? How could you change the experiment to eliminate these factors?
  • Could you change your procedure to more accurately measure your treament affect? How?

Grade-Level Considerations:

Pre-K/K:

Students who are very young are learning that objects have properties, some which can be observed directly, using their senses, others which can be determined using simple tools and tests. The focus for them is on honing their observational skills, and exploring measurement.

When conducting this experiment with little ones, ask them questions, like the ones below.

  • Which color do you think will attract more birds? Why?
  • What did you notice about the birds feeding?
  • Which feeder has more seed? How can we figure it out?
  • Why do we measure things?
  • If you were a bird, which feeder would you go to? Why?
  • What do you think would happen if we changed the color of the feeders? Why?

Common Core State Standards Connections:

Grades 1/2:

As students enter the primary grades, they are learning that all living things have basic needs, in order to survive. They  begin to notice and can explain the connection between the behaviors of living things and their need for food and water. They are becoming more adept at the use of tools to investigate their world, and are learning to select the appropriate measurement tool for a given situation.

Simple experiments give primary grade students an opportunity to design and carry out fair tests to to investigate their world, and to practice recording their observations in various ways. As they work , ask students questions like the ones below:

  • Which color attracted birds more? Why might this be?
  • How could you figure out which feeder the birds preferred? What measurement tool would you need? Is there another way you could measure this?
  • If you wanted to find out if different colors attracted different birds, how would you change this experiment? Work with a partner to design this new experiment.
  • Use pictures, words and numbers to show the results of your experiment.

Common Core State Standards Connections:

Grades 3/4:

Children who are moving through the elementary grades are exploring the relationships between and interdependence of living and non-living things in the environment. They are beginning to understand that some behaviors of living things make them better adapted for their living conditions — that there is an underlying purpose behind the way that plants and animals respond to their environment. They are also moving beyond concrete to representational, and are using symbols and visuals to show ideas.

If this investigation is conducted with elementary grade students, ask them questions like the ones, below:

  • If this were a different environment (city, desert, beach), would you expect different results? Why or why not?
  • What other factors (environment, human activities, etc.) might have influenced the results of this experiment? Explain.
  • Draw a diagram showing the way you set up your experiment. Include a caption, and clearly label important parts of the feeding station.
  • Re-design this experiment, including a direct method of measuring the effects of color on bird feeding behaviors, in place of the method in this activity.

Common Core State Standards Connections:

Grades 5/6:

Students in the middle grades are honing their skills as scientists, and learning to evaluate the validity of experimental methods and claims. Their experiments should focus on evaluating and selecting from among various experimental methods. They can be expected to produce more sophisticated arguments and presentations, based on data and resources.

When conducting this experiment with older elementary students, consider the following adaptations:

  • Measure the effects of color on bird feeding behaviors using the following measurement methods: weight of seeds before and after feeding period; number of feeding visits per feeder, during feeding period; average length of feeding visit per bird, during feeding time.
  • Which measurement method most accurately measured the effect of color on bird feeding behavior? Support your claim using results from your experiment.
  • Find an article online that discusses color and bird feeding. Summarize your findings in your report.

Common Core State Standards Connections:

Suggested Resources:

 

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