When presenting this unit, I will be using a variety of teaching methodologies to ensure student understanding. The most significant method is the thematic unit approach. This method provides for the presentation of information in a repetitive, yet fun, way across a selection of curriculum areas. When a student gets the same information in a variety of ways, s/he has a greater chance of developing ownership of that information and using it in the future. It has been my experience that a thematic unit approach is a very popular and successful teaching method on the primary grade level.
Because I teach at the primary level, I incorporate much children’s literature into the unit. Literature creates a rich, meaningful way to present and enhance science instruction. In addition, I will use specific reading strategies when presenting the literature to the class. For example, I have experienced success using the KWL. This approach addresses the educational theory that meaning is derived from future knowledge building upon prior knowledge. Using the KWL, the teacher begins by asking the question “What do we KNOW?” Then, the teacher records the responses of the students as they tell what they already know about a particular topic being studied. At this moment, the teacher is tapping prior knowledge and developing a teaching framework for future lessons and assessments. Next, the teacher asks the question “What do we WANT to know?” Again, the teacher records the responses of the students as they tell what they would like to learn. At this moment, the teacher is setting the purpose for instruction. The students have questions that need to be answered and therefore, give them a reason for participating fully in the class. In addition, the teacher can address the student questions in future lessons. In this way, the students have had some input and control over what they are learning.
Periodically, throughout the unit, the teacher will return to these charts that she made and ask some questions. “Has ‘What we Know?” changed? Did we have some knowledge that was not entirely correct? Do we have new knowledge and ideas to add to the chart? Does any of this affect ‘What we want to know?” Then, the teacher will ask “What have we LEARNED?” and record the student responses. In this way, the teacher and the class will be able to observe what has been accomplished thus far and what needs to be revisited. This is a tangible way for students to observe, record, and comment on their own educational progress. It again, gives some control and responsibility for learning back to the students.
Journal writing is another format for interacting with scientific information. Each student will keep a daily journal or log of their observations, thoughts, and ideas throughout this unit. The teacher will pose questions of the day for the students to respond to in their journal. For those students who have difficulty writing, a drawn picture would be a legitimate response to a question. In addition, students could dictate their thoughts and ideas to an adult or peer who would then record these responses in the journal. When the teacher examines the journals, she or he can assess the students’ knowledge of the scientific concepts being presented and use of scientific vocabulary. This assessment would result in modification of lessons to reteach concepts that are not yet understood.
Another great teaching strategy is the use of graphs and other pictorial representations as a means for organizing information in a meaningful way. For example, when discussing mixtures and solutions, the class could graph which things were dissolved in water to make a solution and which things would not dissolve in water . Then the students could look at the graph to see if any common characteristics could be seen with the items that could dissolve in water. Graphing provides the visual learner with an opportunity to interact with the lesson in his or her own style of learning.