Small Group Models
As an alternative to the whole class model, kids in small groups could create their own initial models or explanations. These could be representations of the puzzling phenomenon that the teacher has introduced on the first day. Students however may need some “template” to use in order to get a drawing started.
For example, one of our teachers used a rough outline of a roller-coaster to have kids draw out their initial ideas about how potential and kinetic energy explain the motion of the cars. In another classroom where the teacher was talking about density and buoyancy, she had them do a 3-part “panel drawing” of a plastic canister that was filled with alka-seltzer and then submerged in water. The kids were asked to draw a “before”, “during,” and “after” sketch in which they labeled not only what was visible (their observations) but also their theory about what unobservable forces and events might be causing the sinking, floating, and sinking again of the canister. We have learned that the before-during-after drawings are particularly helpful for kids to show that they think is happening. We have also found that for micro-level events, it helps if you ask students to “draw what you would see if you had microscope eyes.” It sounds simple, but works well.
As the unit progresses, kids will learn more scientific ideas and have experience with activities that will allow them to make changes in these small group models. Kids can be asked to re-draw their models or add to a sparse model that they had started with. There are many possibilities.
Watch Kim talk about how she used a consensus model in a middle school unit on energy.
Or you can listen to how Anna used a small group model in her high school chemistry unit on solubility.