I’m a huge advocate for collaboration in and out of the classroom. Too often, teachers work in isolation behind closed doors, missing out on opportunities to share ideas with colleagues, get feedback, and grow professionally. Even if teachers reach out within their own school to collaborate, many are missing the chance to collaborate on a worldwide scale. Early on in my teaching career I was inspired by the likes of Dan Myer (math blogger extraordinaire) who not only blogged thoughtfully about teaching, but also published his lessons and videos freely- for anyone to use in their own classroom. It begged the question: Why doesn’t everyone do this? Especially in an age where teachers are just as likely to turn to the internet for lesson ideas as they are to the textbook, I firmly believe all teachers should simply share more of what they do.
In that spirit, I’m sharing all of my digital documents for my 6th grade science units, starting with the scientific inquiry unit in this post. Hopefully you’ll find a few things that are useful for you to use in your own classroom, or at least get a better idea of how documents can work in digital notebooks. I’ve organized them by categories so it’s easier to find what you want: the study guide, lessons, homework, and assessments. Each lesson document is a notes document for students intended for a different day (we have 80-minute blocks, so they are pretty involved), and they are in a “scaffolded notes” style (which I wrote about earlier). Although they are designed for 6th grade science, most notes and lessons could easily be adapted to Upper Elementary or 7th/8th grades.
Copyright stuff: As with all work I post on my blog, you are free to use and adapt this work for non-commercial purposes (ie. in your classroom!) as long as you also share what you do too. This is part of my collaboration crusade, so if you do re-mix something I created, please consider sharing it here or on your own blog.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Thank-yous: I would be remiss if I didn’t thank several educators I’ve worked with who have contributed in some way to these documents. So thank you to Krista Bouhaidar, Mike Loria, and Melacyn Turner- the teachers who I worked with my first year moving from elementary to Middle School science. Thanks again to Melacyn for sticking around and working with me a second year, and continuing to develop this 6th grade science curriculum, particularly improving the rigor of assessments. And a huge thank you to Jeremy Horton, my recent 6th grade teaching partner and fellow embracer of paperless teaching. Jeremy is basically a co-author of most of these documents, so I might need to add his mug to the banner of this blog soon!
Disclaimer: I’m ashamed to say that in my digital documents I use a lot of images without crediting their source. While I believe this is technically allowed by Educational Fair Use guidelines, it does not give credit where credit is due, and it does not set a good example for students. If I could go back to the beginning of my teaching career and start citing images from the beginning, I would… but it’s a little late for that now. If anyone out there recognizes their own image I will happily cite them and I apologize in advance.
Enough of the fine print… here are the documents!
Scientific Inquiry Unit
This unit is designed to teach students the basic skills of scientific inquiry, in particular: asking scientific questions, identifying variables in a controlled experiment, collecting data, and drawing conclusions. We start off the year in 6th grade with this unit, for more on why, check out this post. It is a very hands-on unit to get students active in lab right away with short activities and experiments that give good fodder for discussion about scientific inquiry. In terms of inspiration, the first two lessons are based on NSTA’s great book Help! I’m Teaching Middle School Science and the last lesson is based on an episode of Mythbusters.
- Scientific Inquiry Study Guide (gives an overview of the standards of the unit and many learning resources)
- Penny Water (identifying variables)
- Paper Rockets (asking scientific questions)
- M&M Colors (collecting data) and data table
- Invisible Fire Extinguisher: Part 1 (making conclusions)
- Invisible Fire Extinguisher: Part 2 and data table
- Talking to Plants review and data table
- Magic floating egg (identifying variables)
- Time for fitness (collecting data)
- Soap and sink (asking scientific questions)
- Galileo drops the ball (making conclusions)
Assessments: (with the exception of tests for obvious reasons!)
The final summative assessment is called the Experiment Project. Students work in their lab teams to come up with a question they would like to investigate, using any of the materials used in the previous lessons. As a team they create a procedure for their experiment and do the experiment. Individually they do everything else to report their experiment: identify variables, collect data, draw a conclusion.
- Experiment Project part 1
- Experiment Project part 2
- Experiment Project data table
- Experiment Project rubric