Elementary Science

Science as a Collaborative Effort

When elementary school children are in science class how interactive is it? Are your students working individually or are they talking with their peers? When students are actively engaged in an assignment by collaborating with their peers, there is a window of opportunity for learning. Students may feel more comfortable to take risks, build trusting relationships with their peers, and understand science in a way that may not be thought of as boring. Science has so much to offer our students. We need to let them experience it together.

Kimberly Grossman
Kimberly Grossman
1050 Activity Points

Hi Kimberly and welcome to the discussion forums!

Last year I was teaching in an elementary science lab and I used both independent and group work. I had my room set up with 4 desks pushed into table. Each team was a "Team of Scientists" and the each table was named as a different type of scientists (for instance biologists, chemists, etc). The team worked together to complete hands on learning experiences. As a reward for good work or good behavior, the teams earn "Research Money" that they can spend to do hands-on mini experiments that I have set up around the room as stations. This article, The Eight Step Method to Great Group Work, outlines several guidelines to successful group work.

How do you plan to use group work in your classroom? Do you already have any projects or labs in mind that you plan to use group work to accomplish?

Maureen Stover
Maureen Stover
41030 Activity Points

For teachers in Hawaii, we're on our last week of the first quarter this week. I always have students start-off science with a group, classify, and sort activity of known objects. They learn about attributes like girl/not-girl vs. girl and boy. wooden/not-wooden, etc. The more guided and hands-on your activity, the better off you are. A fun one for all-ages is footwear. The students can classify themselves into a human tree-diagram with chalk on a sidewalk. Usually shoes vs. not-shoes (most of our students wear slippers, commonly known as flip-flops to continental Americans) and they get to see the visual. It really makes a difference for me when we get to rocks in the second quarter. The students (in groups of no more than 4) get to sort rocks based on appearance. Tree diagrams really work--even for 7 & 8-year-olds.

Lori Towata
Lori Towata
2805 Activity Points

One of the best group work programs I have seen is for the Challenger Center. We have one here in Hawaii, and they provide an entire binder of activities that address a wide variety of content areas and strands. However, I use the materials as a base. I incorporate many different hands-on experiments for the students. Even though each student is assigned a specific "job", al take part in every part of the training. I use the example of a pilot and co-pilot;What happens if the pilot gets sick? The co-pilot is trained to take over for the pilot. That way, each student is willing and eager to learn every job, even those they wanted nothing to do with in the first place. Unfortunately, it is only available here for 6-8 grades, but I wish it could be adapted for younger ages.

Will Kane
Will Kane
780 Activity Points

Collaboration is a really important idea in science. One of the recommendations coming out of Taking Science to School and Ready Set Science is that students become engaged in science discussions on a regular basis as part of their instruction beginning in the very young grades. There is leverage for this happening as students in K-6 or even K-12 need to be proficient in Comprehension and collaboration beginning in kindergarten and it is scaffolded all the way to grade 5. Here is what is expected in students grades 3-5.There are similar expectations for grades K -2 Grade 3 students: 1. Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacherled) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly. a. Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion. b. Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles. c. Pose and respond to specific questions to clarify or follow up on information, and make comments that contribute to the discussion and link to the remarks of others. d. Review the key ideas expressed and explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion. 3. Ask and answer questions about information from a speaker, offering appropriate elaboration and detail. Grade 4 Comprehension and Collaboration 1. Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacherled) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly. a. Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion. b. Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., gaining the floor in respectful ways, listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion). c. Ask questions to check understanding of information presented, stay on topic, and link their comments to the remarks of others. d. Explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion. 3. Identify the reasons and evidence a speaker provides to support particular points. Grade 5 1. Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacherled) with diverse partners on grade 5 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly. a. Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion. b. Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles. c. Pose and respond to specific questions by making comments that contribute to the discussion and elaborate on the remarks of others. d. Review the key ideas expressed and draw conclusions in light of information and knowledge gained from the discussions. 3. Summarize the points a speaker makes and explain how each claim is supported by reasons and evidence. How should or can this be used for science instruction? Kathy

Kathy Renfrew
Kathy Renfrew
34035 Activity Points

Kimberly said, "Science has so much to offer our students. We need to let them experience it together. "
The research backs this up through the guise of inquiry instruction. This ties into the question that Kathy asked, "How should or can this be used for science instruction?"
There is a book chapter in the Learning Center that might help anyone trying to see the connection between collaboration and inquiry learning. It is called, "The Cornerstones of Good Science: Inquiry and Collaboration". I love the chart that teachers can use to determine whether they are promoting inquiry or not (p. 10). Thanks for starting this thread, Kimberly. There are some great ideas being shared here that promote collaboration! I look forward to hearing others' ideas to use collaboration as a vehicle to help children learn science.

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
86483 Activity Points

Kimberly, Those are great thoughts and questions. I feel as thought students learn best when they are engaged in the activity and the more hands-on the better. Although every student learns differently, when kids work toegether and figure things out as a group I feel as though everyone is learning together. I always enjoyed hands-on activities and in some circumstances, especially science, it can be very beneifical for the student. Getting into an activity alone or with a group is more personal and interactive. Putting heads together to figure out a problem can be fun and can hopefully help everyone in the group. Also, it's great to see students work together to find the end result!

Alicia Krause
Alicia Krause
470 Activity Points

Collaboration is really important in science. It is great for our students to be engaged in hands-on activities but that is not enough. Those actiities need to be done for a purpose, and they should lead to dialogue about why they were doing an activity. For example,ask students to use an eyedropper, water, and pieces of different types of paper and let students explore, but for what purpose? This time students are asked what they think they know about the properties of liquids? The teacher charts their responses. Then he/she hands out the eyedropper, water and squares of differet types of paper e.g. newsprint, aluminum foil, waxpaper, etc. and asks students to identify properties of liquids using these materials. The students work in pairs, talking as they investigate, recording information in their notebooks. After the designated investigation time, the teacher calls the students back to the science circle. She has them brings their notebooks. The teacher what did this investigation teach you about the properties of liquids. Student A responds "Water slides on wax paper" Teacher "How do you know?" Student A might respond or student B might say " I agree with Student A and this is my evidence. This might be a beginning scenario that could eventually lead to scientific discourse or argumentation. Can you see this happening in your classroom? What would have to happen for this type of scenario to occur? What support might you need? Kathy

Kathy Renfrew
Kathy Renfrew
34035 Activity Points

I just reread a resource that I have that is dog-eared from the many, many rereads of these pages. It is my favorite Chapter 5 from Ready, Set , Science. It even addresses management concerns. Students need to talk if they are are going to become collaborative learners. I hope someone finds this useful. If someone reads this and wants to talk about it , please post here.

Attachments

Kathy Renfrew
Kathy Renfrew
34035 Activity Points

Collaboration is necessary when using inquiry science methods. Having students to use the inquiry method of learning science causes the students to interact with one another while experience the science hands-on. They create their own knowledge and then are curious to learn more informtion through trade books and other hands-on experiences! In my opinion, there is no other way to teach science effectively, except through inquiry science!

Susan Grandick
Susan Grandick
3870 Activity Points

My class is divided into pods of 4 students with their desks facing each other. In all subjects, particularly science, they are learning to collaborate, share resources and information, and learn together through observations, discussion and dividing up assignments. They are only 2nd graders, but sometimes they amaze me with how well they work together. Just last week they completed a T-chart on chart paper illustrating the differences between aquatic snails and guppies. They did a great job and noticed many more things than I might have if it had been completely teacher directed. I do get them started by modeling and then cut them loose! They absolutely love science!

Margaret Hunter
Margaret Hunter
1645 Activity Points

Margaret, What a great strategy for promoting cooperative learning. Student imaginations often feed off of one another and as you said, they often 'see' and identify as well as categorize things that might have been overlooked in a teacher directed inquiry. I am wondering if you assign different roles to the pod of students and if you change the population of the pods throughout the year or from inquiry to inquiry. What other cooperative techniques do you employ? Thanks for the great sharing; we look forward to more. ~patty

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45915 Activity Points

Margaret, You are a woman/educator after my own heart! You believe that young children can engage in scientific collaboration and then you provide the supports to make it happen. I am wondering what your initial instruction was to get your 2nd graders where they are now? I also noticed you mentioned "modeling". If you wanted to strech your students even further in their collaboration, what might you do next? I am looking forward to hearing more Kathy

Kathy Renfrew
Kathy Renfrew
34035 Activity Points

I like to move my students around at the beginning of the year from group to group until I find just the right mix. The first time they do a cooperative activity it is usually a "practice" type of thing that will get them working together. Second graders love having a job, so when I assign their first roles I tell them that they will eventually get to try out all the roles to see which suits them the best and that they will probably be required to do every job at least once. I also tell them that sometimes they will get to choose the job they want to do or think that they are best at. Sometimes they are pretty good at choosing the right person for the job when I let them assign their own roles. I try to change the small groups about once a month, keeping it that way until they get too comfortable or if there is a major clash of personalities. They are all forewarned that if they are not on task because they are playing with their friends instead of doing their jobs, they might have to move. Sometimes I just exchange one or two students from a group. Sometimes they ask for a change. One of my goals is to help them learn to get along with different personalities, so it is inevitable that new friendships develop between students who may not have ever gotten together.

Margaret Hunter
Margaret Hunter
1645 Activity Points

My initial instruction that led my students to this stage of collaboration might have been when I told them at the beginning of the school year that we were all going to become real scientists and that we would learn to think and act like real scientists. I also gave them their very own science notebook, just like real scientists use. We looked at some real models of scientific writing...I have a friend who is a wildlife biologist who keeps a detailed notebook of all the species he sees. After showing them his notebook, they were duly impressed, especially when he told them how it helps him to be able to look back at his notes when he wants to remember something or if he thinks he may have seen a species that he has never seen before. Then I proceeded to model how scientists use their senses and many different kinds of tools to make careful observations. This year we started out with a study of seeds, so I modeled how to use a magnifying glass, and how to record my observations. I did all this on large chart paper. Students added to these observations by making their own in small groups and making their own lists of observations on chart paper. Then we all shared our information. I added to my chart some of their ideas, making a big deal of their astute observations and commenting about how I had missed some of the things they had noticed. We do this with every inquiry, and if there is a graphic organizer that I want them to learn how to use, I model how to do so. At this stage of their development I might challenge them to put their heads together to figure out what protections there are for the pond snails and guppies in our aquatic environments. I like to begin my questions with "I wonder..." It makes them feel like they are trying to discover something that I don't already know! (Works everytime!!!)

Margaret Hunter
Margaret Hunter
1645 Activity Points

Margaret, What a great idea to show your students the notebook of a real scientist. It sounds like he also explained its relevance, why it is important to keep a notebook. I would love to see the work of your students after this experience. Is there any way you could share some of their work? Maybe scan in some of it and attach it to a post??? Just a thought. Kathy

Kathy Renfrew
Kathy Renfrew
34035 Activity Points

I teach 3rd grade in Citronelle, Alabama. My students don't even realize that we have science textbooks in the classroom. They know science is hands-on learning and it always involves working in groups or pairs. I also make sure to instill in them the fact that scientists almost never agree. It is important to be able to back anything you state with why you think it to be true with evidence from your observations. It is so much fun to watch them get excited about an idea and come up with a plan as a class to test who is correct. I also have many trade books on the subject areas that my curriculum covers so we can research for answers as well. They also know that their notebooks are a resource of information and will go back to past notebooks to check for similarities in other investigations. It is so much fun to be the guide and watch them explore.

Valerie Sweeney
Valerie Sweeney
230 Activity Points

Margaret, "What a great idea to show your students the notebook of a real scientist. It sounds like he also explained its relevance, why it is important to keep a notebook. I would love to see the work of your students after this experience. Is there any way you could share some of their work? Maybe scan in some of it and attach it to a post??? Kathy, Some of their notebooks are amazing for second graders. I must admit! I will give it a try after I get back to school. I have taken digital pictures of their notebooks to share in an online project, so I don't think it will be problem. Margaret

Margaret Hunter
Margaret Hunter
1645 Activity Points

Margaret, That would be awesome. I love looking at student work. It tells us so much about what students are understanding. I am going to see if I have any student work we could look at as well. Thanks for being willing to share. It will make us better science teachers! Kathy

Kathy Renfrew
Kathy Renfrew
34035 Activity Points

Kathy, I will post it this weekend...too much going on this week. Margaret

Margaret Hunter
Margaret Hunter
1645 Activity Points

Margaret, I want to let you know that we are talking about notebooks in the Writing in Science forum. if you can find the time, I would still love to see some of your students work. Just a random thought, do you use their notebooks as part of your assessment of their learning?

Kathy Renfrew
Kathy Renfrew
34035 Activity Points

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