My students for this unit are third graders. My classroom is comprised of 20-26 students, about half of them are male students and half are female students. We are a very diverse classroom made up of Hispanic students, African American students, and White students. About half of the students receive LTSS (Language Transition Support Services). They are LTSS students because they were in bi-lingual classrooms. After thirty months, the students are exited and forced into mainstream classrooms, whether they are proficient or not. My students vary in levels from very low to very high. Almost half of the class is below level in reading.
In third grade, students practice reading, writing, phonics, and vocabulary during the literacy block. The math program that is used is Saxon Mathematics. This program touches upon all of the CMT math strands.
The science curriculum for grade three students includes the following topics: plant growth and development, chemical tests, rocks and minerals, the solar system, health, and ecology. The New Haven science department issues two science kits for the year. In the beginning of the school year, third graders complete the science kit on chemicals and chemical tests. Towards the end of the school year, third graders focus on a science kit for plant growth and development. The other four units in third grade do not have specific science kits. Therefore, this unit will serve as a supplement for the solar system unit.
In the beginning of the school year, third grade students are introduced to chemistry. They examine the different physical and chemical properties of common household chemicals. They focus on physical properties of color, form, and texture. Then they discover the changes in these chemicals when they are mixed, separated, or heated. Students are challenged with new vocabulary, such as evaporation and filtration. Students are able to classify some substances as acids, bases, or neutral substances.
Toward the end of the school year, third grade students examine plant growth and development. By growing and observing their own plants, students learn about the life cycle of a plant. As they watch their plants grow, students learn that plants need nutrients from the soil, water, and sunlight to grow. Students also learn about bees and pollination.
My students really enjoy these two science units. The science kits are very thorough and full of hands-on activities. The most difficult part for the students seems to be the vocabulary because most of my students are LTSS students (Language Transition Support Services).
For each unit, there are performance standards. In the solar system unit, students should be able to do the following:
Identify objects in the sky, such as the sun, moon, planets, and stars
Identify and describe the patterns of movement of objects in the sky from day to day and season to season
Explain the characteristics and patterns of movement of the moon
I have noticed that third graders do not know all of "the basics" about the solar system. I think that it is important that we begin with the basics. My unit will touch upon many concepts but most importantly it will focus on "the basics." For example, students will learn the name and location of each planet in our solar system. Students will also make solar system models in small groups that will be displayed in the classroom. But the main focus of this unit is the Sun-Earth connection. The Sun is vital for life on Earth, without its light and warmth life as we know it would not exist.
Therefore, the purpose of this unit is to show students the relationship between the Earth and the Sun. The unit will touch upon many key concepts such as, rotation and revolution. It is important that students learn about solar system, more specifically the Sun and Earth, because it relates to life. Through my experience, readings, and knowledge from this seminar, I will create a unit that will provide elementary school teachers with activities about the solar system. These activities will match district wide goals. This unit will fit in perfectly between to two science kits. After learning about the Sun and Earth, students will understand how important the Sun is and be able to relate this knowledge to the last unit on plant growth and development.
For many of the facts about the Sun, Earth, and solar system I have relied on my reading of
by William Kaufmann and Roger Freedman. I have also used many websites. All of my sources opened my eyes to new ideas.
There are many ideas that should be discussed in this unit. The topics that I suggest are as follows:
Planets and their position in the solar system/Model of the solar system
Climate and Seasons