6th Grade Day 1 Training...The First of Many

Yesterday was the first elementary whole grade level training of the year.  It was absolutely AH-MAZE-ING!  I'd probably put some 40+ hours into prepping a six-hour workshop, and to have it go so well made all of that time feel well like it was well-spent.

We focused on a sixth-grade performance expectation (standard) that had some overlap with the old California content standard: the water cycle.  We framed the unit with a simple and yet thought-provoking question: Will we ever run out of drinkable water?  To help explore this question, I structured the model multi-day lesson following the 5E model and included connections to math (ratios & proportional reasoning), history (ancient civilizations), reading (fiction & nonfiction) and writing (informative/explanatory, argument and narrative).  In short, I gave teachers a wealth of way to tie science into the Common Core teaching they are already doing.  I'm tired of teachers seeing science as "one more thing" that needs to be taught!  It's not.  Science is an engaging vehicle that gives students purpose and meaning when interacting with reading, writing and math.  

Facts are not science, as the dictionary is not literature.
— Martin H. Fischer (1944)

Unfortunately, science has been taught in a less than engaging manner since the adoption of the 1998 standards.  With standards focusing on what "students know" we have an entire generation of students who think that science is a collection of facts.  What a shame this is!  And what a challenge it represents moving forward with the NGSS implemention.

A huge thank you goes out to the folks across the State of California who put together the modules on CCSS Literacy in Science!  Your model lessons were very, very helpful.

If you've stumbled here from the web, please let me know what you think.  I would love the feedback.  I have many training days this year and want each successive one to be better than the last!


Outline of the Training:

  • Welcome/Business Items
  • Engage:
    • Inquiry Question: Will we ever run out of drinkable water?
    • Write down all guesses on chart paper
    • Mini-Activity - Bucket of Water: If the total amount here represents all of the water on Earth, how much of it is drinkable?
      • Watch TedED video, do the calculations, measure out the water
      • Math Connection: 6.RPA (Ratios & Proportional Reasoning) & 6.NS.B.3 (Fluently compute with multi-digit decimals)
  • Explore:
    • Breakout Stations with various set-ups to explore the various processes in the water cycle (i.e. condensation, evaporation, etc.)
    • Share observations (write on chart paper), discuss vocabulary building in science - instead of defining vocabulary out of context, "assign" the vocabulary to the student observations
      • Emphasize water and energy as they arise
    • “I Wonder…” - opportunities for additional inquiry
  • Explain:
    • Opportunities to Focus on Reading in Science:
      • Fiction: “The Drop in My Drink” & “A Drop Around the World”
      • Nonfiction: “Water is Life” Close Reading & Discovery Ed Passages
    • Argument Writing:
      • Claim/Evidence/Reasoning Framework for Scientific Explanations - Address original Inquiry Question: "Will we ever run out of drinkable water?"
      • Share out what we learned - add to chart paper
  • NGSS Structure (Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, Science & Engineering Practices)
  • Elaborate:
    • A Simulation/Game - “The Incredible Journey” (adapted from Project WET)
    • Have students share their "journey" - as they share, map/draw their path on chart paper - repeat until you have created the entire water cycle
    • Narrative Writing - The Story of Your Water Droplet’s Journey (a la “The Drop in My Drink”)
      • Write in the context of an ancient civilization
  • NGSS & CCSS - What’s the relationship between the two?
    • Triple Venn Diagram activity
  • Evaluate:
    • Student Created Models (with explanations) + Rubric
    • Sample of a Short Formative Assessment Probe (from Paige Keeley)
  • State & District Timelines
  • Assessment in the NGSS
  • Questions & Evaluations
  • Closure

The Presentation (since the accompanying narration is missing, it may not make complete sense as it is presented here):


"Incredible Journey" Flipagram (Thank you, Ann!):