Beyond Predictionsby: Dennis W. Smithenry and Jenny Kim

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By thinking about the concept of density and taking into account the research on children’s ideas about this concept, the authors were able to unpack the typical sink or float activity and realize that it has students unscientifically making comparisons between objects by changing two independent variables (mass and volume) at one time. With this realization, they were able to modify the activity so that students were making comparisons in which they were only changing one independent variable (mass). The end result went well beyond the common “prediction” objective found in the classic sink or float activity.

  • Elementary
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Reviews (4)
  • on Tue Dec 05, 2017 10:03 PM

Teachers are supposed to clearly identify their expectation of their students in a science lesson. In Ms. Kim’s class, she wanted her students to learn to make predictions. She has no idea about is the concept of density too difficult for kindergarteners to understand (Smithenry & Kim, 2010). Exploring why the concept of density can explain the reason of things sink or float is essential. Developing a model contains liquid water, floating object, sinking object is needed. The teacher should provide representation that all mater is make up of particles even they cannot be seen by the naked eye and the particles packed together. The sinking object has particles packed together more closely. This instruction directly explains what influence on the floating and sinking of objects. Students are required to predict whether certain objects will sink or float. Students in kindergarten may predict that lighter objects will float and heavier ones will sink. Elementary students began to consider weight and size. However, according to a recent study (Kloos 2008), children at age three are able to “distinguish objects with salient differences in density” (Smithenry & Kim, 2010). The teacher put a plastic egg into water and it floated. She encouraged students to think how to make this egg sink into water. Students thought about adding something inside the egg. Then, the teacher put marbles in egg and ask students to predict how many marbles can help the egg sinks. They should record what they observed. From my perspective, combining predictions with hands-on activities can be a good instructional strategy. Some unknown results can arouse students’ curiosity and they will try to predict what will happen. Then, they will think about their prediction after they saw the overcomes of experiments. So that, teachers should attach importance to use predictions to help students understand some abstract concepts.

Zhengyun Lu
Zhengyun Lu

  • on Fri Jun 23, 2017 9:36 AM

This article is excellent for practical ideas to make sure elementary students understand density as something more than just heaviness. I absolutely love the simple graphic figures. I will be using this!

Michele M  (Baytown, TX)
Michele M (Baytown, TX)

  • on Tue May 03, 2011 10:47 PM

I liked that this article addressed the activity it presented from both the science process perspective and the science content perspective. It explained the background information for teachers to understand the scientific implications of the work the students were doing. The teacher who did the lesson did an excellent job of explaining her process in a way that would be easily replicable in the classroom.

Kate  (Louisville, CO)
Kate (Louisville, CO)

  • on Mon Dec 04, 2017 6:10 PM

I am very enjoying read your article review 1. It is well organized and in order. I agree with you on it's paramount for teachers to ascertain the targets and central focus before class based on the standards advised in GSE or other formal and authoritative websites. And the example you provided is typical and articulated clearly, which can verify you have read this article carefully and had a deep thinking.

Jingjing Heng
Jingjing Heng

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