This month’s science curriculum council spent some time checking out an Investigation Pak featured in Science A-Z, a non-fiction reader resource associated with Reading A-Z. With the resource still mostly underused but our school year well underway, Wendy Pavlicek and I thought it best to model how one might use a Science A-Z resource, such as an Investigation Pak, in their classroom, allowing teachers to engage with the resource in a meaningful way as opposed to simply glazing over the vast selection of different Paks and other resources downloadable from their site.
We settled on using a Pak from the “Solids, Liquids, Gases” unit in the grades 3-4 range and handed out an individual investigation “file” to each teacher. Everyone worked through the file in search of clues to the essential question: “What properties do all liquids share?”
After teachers jotted down the facts presented through liquids such as lava, soda, waterfalls, and soup, they moved to the second stage of the lesson: communicating the information they had gathered and coming to a consensus as a group over what properties all liquids in fact share. Both groups were able to glean that liquids took the shape of their container, could flow, and could not be squeezed into containers too small to accommodate them. From here we moved on to the “Mystery Matter” stage of the Pak, where teachers read the “mystery file” to determine if it too was a liquid like the other files.
Instead of using the checklist suggested by Science A-Z, however, we used an alternative tool, the Claim, Evidence, Reasoning model for developing scientific explanations.
As Eric Brunsell shares in this Edutopia article, an explanation in the Claim, Evidence, Reasoning model consists of:
- A Claim that answers the question
- Evidence from students’ data
- Reasoning that involves a rule of science principle describing why the evidence supports the claim.
To help teachers work through this process, we gave each participant a Claim, Evidence, Reasoning” Organizer to use while reading the mystery file. It took a little time for some teachers to realize the metacognitive work they were doing inside their brain was the reasoning we were asking them to explicitly share! It’s my personal opinion that this is a common trip-up for students as well and why this process is so valuable for students and teachers to explore.
Determining whether mercury was a liquid through the mystery file made for some quality arguing back and forth using quotes directly from the text. But the real fun came next when oobleck was brought out and the Claim, Evidence, Reasoning chart was put to work again, asking teachers to state a claim and explanation for why the more tangible “mystery matter” was a solid, liquid, or a gas.
It never fails that adults will find oobleck just as entertaining as children! I’m so proud of our new first-grade teacher council member for even putting their face right through the stretched out slime! After plenty of poking, prodding, and pouring we offered our teachers a ticket-to-leave: sharing their claim and reasoning through a Socrative quiz.
The only thing I regret from the meeting was a lack of time to fully explore next-steps to use both the Claim, Evidence, Reasoning model and the Investigation Paks. I’m looking forward to using the tools more extensively in both our council meetings and in our classrooms across Burlington as our teachers become more familiar with C-E-R and all the resources Science A-Z has to offer.