Category Archives: Comparing and Contrasting

NEW Amphibian Nature Study — and a Spring Give-away!

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Spring showers have meant the arrival of amphibians in Connecticut. See our sister site, A Child’s Garden, for a blog post on the study of amphibians, emphasizing survey as an ecological study technique, and the use of approximate measures when recording observations of animals in the field.

See “Studying Amphibians in the Field: Using Approximate Measures” for more information, and a spring give-away of two great e-Books with science journaling resources and nature study ideas.

Or enter using the Rafflecopter form, below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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The Mathematics of the Natural World, Part 1: Attribute Patterns

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I have always been a lover of numbers. Math and science just go together so wonderfully. To me, the idea that most natural phenomena (population growth, diffusion, cell division, plant leaf arrangement, a beautiful vista…) could be explained by a simple mathematical formula or idea, is just mind-boggling and reassuring, at the same time.

This post will provide you, the teacher, with some definitions, establish the relevance of some mathematical ideas to the natural world, and share links to some online resources that will help you plan math connections to your winter study of patterns in nature.

Mathematics in Nature — An Overview

We will review, in brief, a number of mathematical principles in this blog, over the next several weeks. In each post, the concept will be defined, in mathematical terms, then explained as it relates to the natural world. I will share some real-life examples, and then provide helpful links to some classroom tasks to reinforce the idea.

  • patterns
  • order & magnitude
  • symmetry
  • scale & proportion
  • Fibonacci numbers
  • fractals
  • The “Golden Ratio”
  • tessellations

Patterns in the Natural World

When we think of teaching patterns to students, our first thought is usually those patterns we named with letters, back in kindergarten and first grade:

ABABAB…

ABCABCABC…

AABBABAAABBABA…

and so on…

In reality, there is much more to the mathematical idea of patternation than this. There are actually three major types of patterns, classified by the basis for the pattern:

  1. Logical patterns
  2. Numerical patterns
  3. Language patterns

All three types can be studied via your science and nature study work, as we will see today.

Logical Patterns

Logical patterns are conceptual patterns based on meaning. There are two main types of logical patterns: attribute patterns and order patterns. Today we will talk about attribute patterns.

Attribute patterns

Children learn, at a very early age, that objects in the real world have qualities, or attributes, some of which can be directly observed (size, shape, color), others which can be determined by the use of simple tools or tests (e.g., floaters and sinkers, magnetism, etc.). When children sort objects into groups based on like attributes, or classify objects into identified groups, they are using attribute patterns as the basis for their work.

Here’s a real-world example of these two types of patterns, based on my son’s homeschool library and room organization. I know that it is easier for children to find things if there is system to organizing them. I have used two different systems over the years, in classroom and homeschool, both successfully. One involves more on my part, one more of the child’s thinking.

Scenario 1: Pre-Determined Classification System (most common)

Before the start of the year, I organize the classroom or homeschool library according to pre-determined categories, based on past experience and curricular needs, label the shelves or explain the system, and guide students to replace materials in the proper category through classification. This is likely the same system most parents use to help kids organize their bedrooms.

I do this based on several attributes, some observable, some based on purpose (not observable). How do you think I organized the two areas in the photos, below?

Logical patterns attributes www.simplesciencestrategies.com

Read below for the criteria by which we sorted my son’s homeschool resources.

Here were our categories, based on use:

  • Encyclopedias and Reference Books (1)
  • History Books (2)
  • Today’s Materials (3)
  • Hats (4)
  • Notebooks (6)
  • Science Books (5)
  • Soccer Stuff (7)

Here is another example, using more obvious attributes…

Logical patterns attributes www.simplesciencestrategies.com

Sorting books based on more obvious attributes.

Scenario 2: Student-originated Organization System (less common)

In some cases, I let the students organize belongings, then tell me their criteria for arranging them. This is the skill of categorization, the flip-side of classification.This requires the adult to let go of the process, and accept the students’ system of organization.

When we did this with the classroom library, it entailed a huge mess (at first), lots of argument, and some rather clever, kid-friendly categories. This is the system my two youngest boys have employed when making sense out of about a million LEGO pieces, as below. (NOTE: My middle son employed a label maker and made category labels for the compartments of an inexpensive hardware storage box):

Logical patterns attributes www.simplesciencsestrategies.com

Form and functionality help the LEGO builder sort bricks.

 

 

 

 

Logical patterns attributes www.simplesciencestrategies.com

Kindergartners sort and categorize seeds, providing their own categories.

***There’s Still Time!***

Don’t forget about the Mid-Winter Give-away

Click over for more details on how to enter!

 

 

 

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Working with Analogies: The Analogies Center

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Classroom Instruction That Works, $22.80 at Barnes & Noble

Researchers have determined that strategies that have students looking for similarities and differences between and among items result in some of the greatest performance gains (Classroom Instruction That Works, Dean, et al, 2013). Among the ways that students can look at similarities and differences is through creating and explaining analogies.  This blog post will explain what analogies are, how they reveal a deep understanding in students, and some ways to help incorporate working with analogies into independent practice opportunities throughout your curriculum.

What is an Analogy?

An analogy is a comparison between two things that are similar in some way, often used to help explain something or make it easier to understand. In an analogy, the student must determine the way in which two things are related, and extend the comparison to two additional items similarly related. Those of us who have taken the SAT are familiar with this device:

 

Water:snow::lava:_____

This device is customarily read, “Water is to snow as lava is to ____.” This means that water and snow are related to one another, in the same way that lava and _____ are related. In order to accurately complete the analogy, the student must first determine the specific relationship between water and snow, and then apply that to lava.

The Bridge Map: A Thinking Map ®

We know that all bodies of information, and all thought processes, have their own “shape.” That is to say, there is a pictorial way to represent ideas, processes and functions that is not constrained by words, and is easier for learners of all ages to understand. Not only are these graphical representations easier to comprehend, but they also instruct the student regarding the overall structure of the information relayed. David Hyerle developed Thinking Maps ® as a way to simplify the graphical way that learners represent different cognitive processes. In his system, there are only eight “maps” needed to explain the different thought processes that humans use to process information.

Analogies www.simplesciencestrategies.com

Representing an analogy using a bridge map.

When creating and extending analogies, students could use the traditional device with which we adult test-takers are familiar, but the device requires that the learner is a reader, and, therefore, excludes its use by young children, second language learners, or struggling readers. A non-linguistic way to accomplish the same thing is the bridge map.

Analogies www.simplesciencestrategies.com

An extended version of the same bridge map.

The bridge map, extended, can be viewed at right.


Once students see two pairs of items, they can determine the relationship between items in each pair, which is represented by the line between the items:

 

“Water is the liquid form of snow, as lava is the liquid form of rock…”

Using Bridge Maps in a Learning Center

There are four main ways that students can work with bridge maps in an independent learning center. Using a combination of all the ways ensures that students understand the entire concept of analogies.

  1. What’s My Rule?
  2. Complete the Analogy
  3. Extend the Analogy
  4. Create an Analogy

For illustration purposes, let’s use something easy to understand, geometric figures, to explain these four different learning tasks.

 

The Basic Learning Center Design

I always like to use a chunk of bulletin board space for learning centers, so that students can manipulate items as they work collaboratively. Alternatively, a table top can be used (especially if you are working with realia as the items in the analogous pairs).

Other Materials:

  • A large copy of a bridge map (for bulletin board or table top) [See Note]
  • Photographs, drawings or real objects to use in analogous pairs
  • Index cards or sentence strips with words to use in analogous pairs
  • Blank cards or sentence strips to complete or extend the analogy
  • Markers
  • Student copies of individual bridge map worksheets
  • A finished work basket

NOTE: When creating a frame to be used over and over again in a center, consider reproducing it on heavier paper or cardstock, then laminating it. Use hook and loop dots to attach items to the frame, and store materials in zipper-style plastic bags.

See the diagram, below, for an example of how the basic center layout might look.

Learning centers www.simplesciencestrategies.com

                                                 
Version 1: “What’s My Rule?”

Learning centers www.simplesciencestrategies.com
Students can examine a teacher-prepared bridge map to determine the “rule.”

Use the basic format (shown above). Use photos, realia, or words to complete one bridge map section. Provide sentence strips for students to write the “rule,” or relationship between pairs of items. The relationship between one pair MUST be the same relationship between all pairs in a given map!

 

To check their work, students place their “rule” strip on the horizontal line between pairs. The sentence must be true. If it is, then they check the remaining pairs. If the sentences are all true, then they can conclude that the relationship is one possible “rule” for this set of items.

 

Version 2: “Complete the Analogy”

Bridge map www.simplesciencestrategies.com

Teachers can pre-fill some parts of the bridge map, and students can complete the analogy.

Use the basic format, as before. Use photos, realia, or words to partially fill in one bridge map section. Provide index cards and markers, or images, or sources of images, for students to complete the analogy. If providing images and words, provide a variety, so that some complete the analogy and some don’t, and so that students may visit the center more than once. Then provide blank bridge maps for students to record their work, and state their rule.

 

Hints:

  • Provide resources for students to research the topic
  • Keep sets of related items in labeled baggies for future use

Version 3: “Extend the Analogy”

This example of an analogy center uses real objects instead of word cards. In the example, below, students must correctly determine the “rule” (relationship) between the top and bottom of the bridge map, then use that rule to extend the analogy. NOTE: For this particular example, there is a very specific rule (“If an isosceles triangle is spun around its vertical line of symmetry, you get a cone.”). Watch out for students who only look shallowly at the relationship (e.g., they put a 3D “diamond” under the parallelogram), because they are missing the specific relationship between the top and bottom items (i.e., the 2D form is spun around a line of symmetry, so the resulting 3D form cannot possibly have all those “edges.”).

Provide attribute blocks and 3D geometric figures or real objects of those shapes, to help students to visualize. Then provide materials for them to affix the 3D object to the map. As before, give them the organizer sheet to record their thinking.

Bridge map www.simplesciencestrategies.com

Students can use real objects to complete and extend analogies.

 

Version 4: “Create an Analogy”

In this example, students use real objects from the classroom to create nets, paper models of 3-dimensional objects which, when cut out and folded, form the 3D shapes of the original items. You will also notice that the board space is divided so each group has a portion as a workspace.

Collect a number of classroom items and display them at the center. Provide paper, writing tools and scissors, and allow students to work individually or in pairs to create 2D representations of the objects, or nets. Students create the analogy by mounting the net, over the real object, and stating the rule:  “_____ is the net form of _____.”

Copies of the nets can be provided by teams below each analogous pair, so that their classmates can check the accuracy of their work (i.e., classmates can construct the 3D figures from the nets to determine if they do, in fact, create the shape of the original object).

 

Bridge map centers www.simplesciencestrategies.com

Students can be given a rule and create the analogy.

 

Other Ideas Using Analogies:

These are just a few ways that analogies can be used in a learning center. Here are a few more… see if you can think of others (the words in bold describe the relationship [“rule”] between the items in italics):

  • Hardware and human joints: “An elbow works like a hinge.”
  • Tiles and tessellations: “This design is a tessellation of this tile.”
  • Form and function: “A bird’s tail steers like a plane’s wing flaps.”
  • Organelles and parts of a factory: “The mitochondria work as the cell’s power plants.”
  • Seed dispersal and package transport: “Dandelion seeds move like air drops from a plane.”

 

Next Steps… and Sharing!

Please do try out analogies in your classroom. And share your ideas via our Simple Science Strategies Blog Carnival. Happy analogies!

 

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New e-Book: Nests, Nests, Nests!

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Burgess Animal Book for Children

Nests, Nests, Nests! – a 25-page e-Book for zoology and nature study. Simple Science Strategies, $1.95

Earlier this month, we studied nests, comparing a squirrel’s nest to an oriole’s nest in “Comparing Nests: The ‘Same and Different’ Center.”   For those of you who want to study nests in more depth, I am pleased to share my newest e-Book, Nests, Nests, Nests!

Nests, Nests, Nests! is a 25-page e-Book perfect for the elementary classroom or homeschool science class.

This set includes both primary and regular-ruled science journaling pages focusing on animal nests, as well as a variety of framed pages for thematic writing, note-taking or nature study. Organizers for studying and comparing nests of different animal orders, coloring and copywork pages, and game cards for sorting and classification tasks make this set versatile, perfect for direct instruction or independent learning tasks.

Burgess Animal Book for Children

Set includes both primary- and regular-ruled pages.

Burgess Animal Book for Children

Several different organizers lead students to compare nests of different animal orders, and to develop a deeper understanding of the purpose of an animal nest.

 

Vintage botanical and zoological illustrations provide high-quality visuals for students to study and color, and the pages include plenty of space for journaling, notebooking or note-taking tasks.

Plain lined pages provide space for more extended writing tasks, or writing paper for independent writing tasks.

The nests of 6 different animal orders  are featured, to get students to think beyond birds’ nests in this study.

Three different organizers are provided: a double-bubble map, and a concept definition frame and a discussion frame.

The double-bubble can be used to compare two different nests, either from the illustrations, from text studies, or from a classroom collection of nests.

The concept definition frame can be used by the class to determine the essential qualities of any nest, and to develop an operational definition about what a nest really is.

The discussion frame is useful for cooperative learning tasks where students decide whether or not humans also create nests.

Burgess Animal Book for Children

Two pages of sortable animal nest cards can be used for a variety of games or independent learning tasks.

Burgess Animal Book for Children

Manuscript and cursive copywork pages include scriptures that fit the theme.

A two-page set of images can be used to create a sort activity, for small group or independent learning task use. Simply copy them onto cardstock or heavy paper.

Images includes nests from birds, mammals, fish, insects, reptiles, amphibians, and other animal orders.

All images are original or images that are in the public domain. All the remaining work is original work.

 

If you are a homeschooler, and are looking for a “one-stop” set of notebooking pages, you will appreciate the manuscript and cursive copywork, which draws upon Scriptures on theme.

Per customer requests, this zoology item also includes suggested lesson uses, linked resources and much more.

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Click the button to order now!

 

The link to download the .pdf will be emailed to the email address you provide, within 24 hrs of your purchase.

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Comparing Nests: The “Same and Different” Center

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Similarities and Differences

Research-based Strategies for Teaching and Learning

Over the past several years, researchers have studied thousands of teaching and learning strategies, to determine which ones yielded the best increases in student performance (Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement presents one meta-analysis of these strategies).

The type of learning task that led to the greatest learning in students involved comparing two things to determine how they were alike and how they were different from one another. This shouldn’t surprise us, when we consider that all of us learn new things by comparing the new with the known, in order to better “file” the information in our brains.

This article explains a simple center that you can create to compare any two objects (related to your theme or content), in an interactive bulletin board display. We will use a squirrel’s nest and the nest of a Northern oriole, to accompany our November studies of autumn nature finds.

Materials

  • Index cards (three colors)
  • Markers
  • Colored yarn
  • A stapler
  • A large photograph of a squirrel’s nest
  • An oriole nest (or large photo)
  • Bulletin board space
  • Sentence strip (2 foot-long pieces)
  • Scissors
  • Field guides or other non-fiction resources on nests

Procedure:

[NOTE: This is designed to be an independent learning center. The assumption is made that students have already been introduced to, and know how to work with, both the bubble map and double bubble map, described in early posts.]

Provide materials on a counter below a bulletin board (cover the bulletin board with whatever covering you’d like — I used to buy fabric remnants on theme, and kept them folded in the box with the other unit materials, to use year after year).

Students use the photos or actual nests, and the non-fiction resources, to generate characteristics or descriptions of the two nests. In the diagram below, blue index cards are used for the characteristics of the squirrel’s nest, yellow cards for the oriole’s nest, and white cards for descriptors that can be used for both nests. Cards are stapled to the bulletin board, and attached to the appropriate header and/or photo with string (I opted for brightly colored yarn).

Leave the bulletin board up for interactive work for the duration of the unit.

science centers comparing nests

A simple, interactive bulletin board becomes a powerful tool for comparing two nests during independent learning time. Image credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2012.

Assessment

Make the assessment part of the student work, inviting students to question one another and revise one another’s work. For example, I have used a small, simple “o” on interactive bulletin board work, to indicate an “opportunity” for other students to revise a piece of information. When the information is updated successfully, I simply cover the “o” with a small, round sticker.

Periodically use the collaborative display in response work, having students summarize the learning, to date. Refer to the work during whole class instruction, as well.

Classroom routines

Once students have used this center, you can use the routine to compare all sorts of things: two books on a theme or topic; two closely related vocabulary words (e.g., blissful, ecstatic); two geometric figures (e.g., rectangle, trapezoid); two biological processes (e.g., photosynthesis, respiration).

In my elementary classroom, interactive bulletin boards were a staple among my learning centers — they fostered conversation and collaboration, were hands-on, and created a healthy “buzz” of learning. The differentiation is built into the task, allowing multiple “entry points” for the content. And the routine of revisiting the work reinforces to students that the classroom displays are meant to be resources for the students to use daily.

Additional lesson ideas

Burgess Animal Book for Children

For more instructional activities to use in conjunction with this learning center, please see “New e-Book: Nests, Nests, Nests!”,  a 25-page e-Book perfect for the elementary classroom or homeschool science class ($1.95 from Simple Science Strategies).

This set includes both primary and regular-ruled science journaling pages focusing on animal nests, as well as a variety of framed pages for thematic writing, note-taking or nature study. Organizers for studying and comparing nests of different animal orders, coloring and copywork pages, and game cards for sorting and classification tasks make this set versatile, perfect for direct instruction or independent learning tasks. Also included with this e-Book is a summary of ten lesson ideas with linked resources, enough for a great integrated unit on animal nests.

Animal taxonomy studies

One of our favorite animal study books…

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Check Out These November Carnival Entries!

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Welcome to the December 2, 2012 Edition of

The Simple Science Strategies Blog Carnival!

 

Potpourri…

Liz E presents “Worm Farming Adventures,” posted at Homeschooling in Buffalo, a beautiful photo gallery of her family’s worm bin project. This is a great “Potpourri” addition to the carnival! If you’ve never had a worm bin in your homeschool or classroom, try one this winter — it’s a great way to bring nature inside when it’s too cold to play outside.

Autumn Nature Finds…

From our house, we present “Ten (10) Fall Nature Studies: What the Leaves Have Kept Hidden”, posted at A Child’s Garden. We also submitted this to the “Top 10 Tuesday” Blog Carnival – a list of all the interesting things we have found on our travels this month.

Fall Nature Study - Evidence

Fallen leaves reveal a world of autumn treasures to study. (c) Kim M. Bennett.

   Thanks for your submissions! Remember, each submission earns the entrant a free e-Book of science journaling pages.

The Winter Simple Science Strategies Blog Carnival Begins!

December is a short month for many of us, because of parent conferences, winter holidays, and family vacations. For this reason, the next Blog Carnival will be a December/January edition, or a Winter Edition. Here are the details for the upcoming edition:

Topics for the edition

  • Patterns in Nature
  • Snow
  • Vines
  • The Winter Sky

 

Scientific and Engineering Practices

  • Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

 

 

Cross-Cutting Concept

  • Patterns

 

 

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • Engineering, Technology and Applications of Science: Engineering Design

 

 

Strategies:

  • The Experience (Documentation) Panel
  • Illustrating Analogies: The Bridge Map

 

 

Submit your blog article to the next edition of Simple Science Strategies using the logo link below (by January 31, for February 2 posting), or our sidebar carnival submission form. Be on the lookout for the print copy of the December/January Simple Science Strategies Newsletter, and the next e-Book edition, on evergreens. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

**** UPDATE!****

Here is the link for the post with the downloadable newsletter:

The Winter 2012/2013 Simple Science Strategy Newsletter


Blog Carnival submission form - simple science strategies

 


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What is Hibernation? An Activity Using Discussion Frames (November Study #3)

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A discussion frame is an organizational tool that helps learners prepare a well-supported argument. By considering both sides of a provocative issue or claim, students are better able to build a case to support their own stance on the issue.

In this lesson, students will use a discussion frame in a group activity designed to help them compare hibernation and sleep. In the process, they will learn the defining characteristics of hibernation, and the different types of hibernation exhibited in the animal kingdom.

This lesson will also demonstrate the use of a simple monitoring technique using colored index cards, which students and teachers can use to check on student progress in discussion groups

discussion frame compare and contrast

Photo credit: (c) Michael Himbault, 2010 via Creative Commons

Materials Needed

  • Copies of the discussion frame (one per group of students)
  • Non-fiction resources (texts, articles, web resources) on hibernation and sleep
  • Writing tools
  • Colored index cards (red, yellow, green) – one set per table group

autumn nature study

Background Information for the Teacher

Before assigning the task to students, you will need to do your own research, to determine the following pieces of information:

  1. Are sleep and hibernation the same thing?
  2. What are the essential features of hibernation that I want students to understand?
  3. What key vocabulary do I hope that students uncover during their research?

Do not provide the answers to these questions to students, but use the information to guide discussion as students work, and when you debrief after the learning task.

What is Hibernation?

Most biologists define hibernation as “specialized, seasonal reduction in metabolism, concurrent with scarcity of food and cold weather (“Hibernation”. Bear.org. 2004-07-19. Retrieved 2012-11-27).

Some key physiological changes that occur in mammalian hibernation include the following:

  • Significant decrease in body temperature
  • Onset of a coma-like state, from which an animal has difficulty arousing
  • Cessation of eating and drinking
  • Cessation or drastic decrease in frequency of defecation and urination

States Similar to Hibernation

Estivation is a hibernation-like state that occurs during the summer, usually during extremely hot or dry periods.

Brumation is the term used to describe the winter physiological changes in reptiles, which cannot regulate their own body temperature. During this hibernation-like state, reptiles find refuge from freezing temperatures, as their surroundings cause decreases in their body temperature.

Torpor is a short-term period of reduced body temperature and metabolism, in response to diurnal or weather changes, such as extreme hot spells or the heat of the day in the desert.

So What is Sleep, Then?

While hibernation is characterized by significant changes in physiology, especially body temperature, sleep primarily brings on changes in brain activity, and only minor changes in physiology.

During sleep, heart rate and breathing rate decrease slightly, and body temperature decreases, but the changes that occur in these are not nearly as dramatic as the changes seen in hibernating animals, where one of the most marked changes is in body temperature. Sleeping animals can resume normal activities within minutes of being aroused, while an animal coming out of hibernation often acts sleep-deprived, and needs extra sleep over the next several days.

Conversely, a sleeping animal demonstrates dramatic changes in the amplitude and types of its brain waves, and different phases of sleep have their own characteristic patterns. Studies of the brain waves of hibernating animals show their brain activity looks much like the brain activity of wakeful animals.

Important Tier 2 Vocabulary Words:

  • Hibernation, sleep
  • Physiology, neurology
  • Rate, frequency, duration
  • Increase, decrease

Helpful Resources

autumn nature study

Building Background Knowledge

On the SmartBoard, on chart paper or on the board, write the word, hibernation. Invite students to share everything they think of when they think of the word, hibernation. As students share ideas, create a concept web, grouping like responses together (e.g., “sleep,” “body slows down,” “body temp drops” will be grouped together, as will responses like “bears,” “toads,” and other hibernating animals) – see diagram, below, for an example. It is not important to “edit” student responses at this time, as you will return to this concept web to revise it, after the students complete their research.

 

simple science strategies describing

Use a concept web to gather students’ prior knowledge about a scientific concept, such as hibernation. Ideas can be revised after further study. Image credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2012

Post the completed web in view of all the groups.

A Note on Forming Groups

The focus of this learning task is on building an argument using evidence. This skill is accomplished through the use of cooperative structures which use discussion as an oral rehearsal for producing a written argument. So groups should be structured in a way to provide language models for students who are not as skilled in oral presentation, and to provide peer scaffolding for making meaning from a variety of non-fiction texts. See “Creating Mixed Instructional Groups” for more information on forming cooperative groups for activities such as this.

Cooperative Learning Strategies

Mixed ability instructional groups can provide peer scaffolding for comprehension, oral language and team building.

 

Having students assign team roles is helpful for all ages of student. Roles that will be helpful for this task include a time keeper, a recorder, a task master, and a materials manager. Some teachers add an encourager, wordsmith or illustrator, when working with groups of five. A wordsmith might be helpful when working with science texts.

The Discussion Frame: A Comprehension Tool

When posed with a provocative issue, students will quickly decide what their stance is on the issue. This is problematic, for several reasons:

  1. Their quick response is often based on emotion, misconception, or a limited amount of (often “popular”) information about the topic;
  2. Once committed to a view, it is difficult to persuade students of another viewpoint, even if their own turns out to be in error;
  3. The highest quality arguments anticipate alternative viewpoints, and prepare evidence to address these views ahead of time.

So, when using a discussion frame, students must use the text available to gather evidence both in agreement with and opposed to the central view or argument. Only when the teacher approves their evidence, is a group allowed to proceed to deciding on a stance on the issue. In this way, their view is more well-informed, has considered multiple possible views, and is prepared to address any dissenting views with appropriate evidence.

building an argument using evidence

 

The Discussion Frame: A Cooperative Learning Tool

Each group should receive the appropriate text materials (which, ideally, have been previewed by the teacher for their appropriateness for the task), as well as a copy of the discussion frame. If possible, enlarge to frame on 10” x 13” paper, to enable the whole group to more easily see the chart.

In the center of the discussion frame, have students write the statement: “Hibernation is simply a type of deep sleep.” (NOTE: When using discussion frames, using a declarative statement as the argument provokes more discourse than a question, which can lead to “yes” and “no” responses.).

You may print out the hibernation discussion frame, or the blank discussion frame, and edit as desired.

Provide students with enough non-fiction resources (ideally, previewed by the teacher for their appropriateness for the task), for all groups to have an assortment of reference materials to complete both the “Evidence to Support” and “Evidence to Refute” sides of the frame. They may use their concept web as a starting place for their research (as they will need to find evidence to support (or not) the ideas they have on the web. Remind students that they are NOT to take a stance until you approve their research.

building an argument using evidence

As a means of monitoring groups’ progress, pass out three colored index cards to each group: one pink, one yellow, one green. Prior to the groups beginning their discussions, instruct students to use the cards to indicate how their work is going: green if things are going well, yellow if they need clarification or some guidance, and pink if they are confused, or have reached an impasse in their team work. Periodically during the discussion period, use questioning to elicit a response from teams. Here are some examples of questions you might use:

  • [Before beginning]: “Show me with your cards how well you understand the task I have given you.”
  • [During discussion]: “Ok – just checking in. Use your cards to show me how well the team roles are going.”
  • [During discussion]: “Can I have your attention for a moment? Just doing a time check – use your cards to show me how close you are to finding evidence for both sides of the argument: green if you could stop now, yellow if you need a few more minutes to finish up, pink if you think you have a long way to go still.”
  • [After discussion]: “Ok – before we debrief: use your cards to show me how comfortable you are with the stance you have taken, how well you think you can defend it with the evidence you have. Green if you are confident, yellow if you think you have a good case, but could use some feedback, pink if you know that you need more or better evidence.”

Debrief

As students are winding down their discussions, pass word to each group, via the task manager, that each group should be taking a stance, based on their evidence, and that they should indicate what they feel are the three strongest pieces of evidence to support their stance (they do not need to write their argument at this time – just choose their evidence).

Begin by asking for a show of hands indicating whether the groups believed that hibernation was a kind of sleep, or not. Then ask groups to share what they thought were the most significant pieces of evidence. Project an image of the discussion frame, and record these pieces of evidence for all to see.

If time allows, discuss any evidence they recorded which they determined wasn’t strong or supporting evidence, and talk about why they decided so.

Return to the concept web, and invite students to revise their thinking about what hibernation is, and isn’t. Record changes to the chart in a different color.

 

building an argument using evidence

Photo credit: (c) Gilles San Martin, 2010 via Creative Commons

 

Possible Follow-up Tasks for Individual Student Research & Response

  1. Create a written argument, using the information on the discussion frame
  2. Conduct further research on any evidence which seems controversial or contradictory (e.g., black bears do not reach a coma-like state – are they true hibernators?)
  3. Conduct further research on one of the hibernation-like states (torpor, estivation, etc.)
  4. Create a double bubble map comparing hibernation and sleep
  5. Investigate the hibernation habits of an animal species of student’s choice, indicating specific environmental triggers and the animal’s response to them
compare and contrast

Image credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2012

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