Sunday, October 7, 2018

Air Pressure, Air Masses and Weather Fronts NGSS MS-ESS2-5

Recently I spent some time considering how to teach middle school students about weather for the Next Generation Science Standard: 

MS-ESS2-5. Collect data to provide evidence for how the motions and complex interactions of air masses result in changes in weather conditions.

There is a lot to this standard and I decided the first thing that students needed to understand was air pressure.  I was excited when I figured this out because there are so many cool experiments that can be done with air pressure. 

After teaching all about air pressure, with five different labs and investigations, I knew I needed to give some direct information on air masses and weather fronts.

I used a slideshow and some nonfiction text for this and had the students do some QR code research and play with some simulations for weather fronts.

Sample from my Slideshow

Next, I had students really try to apply the information using weather maps, and answering questions to determine that they understood what they meant. 

Sample Weather Map Task Card

This was a really interesting unit to plan for and ended up being really HUGE.  I finished by assessing students with several quizzes that help them practice the information in a format that will be similar to what they will be asked on a standardized test.  
The whole unit is available here: 
Air Pressure, Air Masses and Weather Fronts Complete Unit NGSS MS-ESS2-5

I also created a unit specific to Utah SEEd which has a similar standard.
Air Pressure, Air Masses and Weather Fronts Utah SEEd 6.3.2

Utah SEEd
the interactions between air masses
that cause changes in weather conditions. Collect and analyze weather data to provide evidence for how air masses flow from regions of high pressure to low pressure causing a change in weather. Examples of data collection could include field observations, laboratory experiments, weather maps, or diagrams. 

Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Earthquake Lab Activity NGSS 4-ESS2-2, NGSS 4-ESS3-2 and NGSS 4-ESS1-1

Teaching students about earthquakes can be interesting!  There is so much to teach them about the science around earthquakes.

I like to make sure the understand a little about plate tectonics and then I like to teach them about faults, seismic waves, magnitude and more.  

After I have given them some background information or had students explore with QR codes and a WebQuest, I like to give them an engineering challenge. Build a structure out of toothpicks and marshmallows that can withstand the shaking and movement of an earthquake.

Make some jello and allow it to become firm. 
Let the students design their building.
 Test the building with shaking.
Redesign the building and test again.
 Discuss what worked and what did not work.  Have student read some informational text about earthquakes and complete interactive notebook flaps. 

If you would like to see the complete unit with a slide show, nonfiction text, lab pages, interactive notebook flaps, response pages, answer keys and sorting cards...I have done the planning for you here.

Complete Earthquake Unit NGSS for 4th Grade

Thank you for visiting! 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Teaching Photosynthesis for Middle School

The middle school standards for science want students to understand that photosynthesis is the beginning of the flow of energy through the food chain.

NGSS MS-LS1-6. Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for the role of photosynthesis in the cycling of matter and flow of energy into and out of organisms.

Utah SEEd
Plan and conduct an investigation and use the evidence to construct an explanation of how photosynthetic organisms use energy to transform matter. Emphasize molecular and energy transformations during photosynthesis.
Ask questions to obtain, evaluate, and communicate information about how changes to an ecosystem affect the stability of cycling matter and the flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem. Emphasize describing the cycling of matter and flow of energy through the carbon cycle.

Students need to first understand the basics of how photosynthesis works.  Some of the chemistry and specifics will be delved into more deeply when students are in high school.

Students in middle school should understand that:
  • photosynthesis takes place in the chloroplasts in the leaf

  • Light energy is absorbed by chlorophyll, a green substance found in chloroplasts in some plant cells and algae

    • Absorbed light energy is used to convert carbon dioxide (from the air) and water (from the soil) into a sugar called glucose
    • Oxygen is released as a by-product
    • Photosynthesis is the single most important chemical process on the earth.
    • Almost all plants needs the sun in order to survive.
    • Plants produce oxygen during this process and utilize carbon dioxide.
    • All people and animals need oxygen to survive.
    • photosynthesis takes place in the chloroplasts in the leaf

    I think this is a great opportunity for students to practice some science skills:
    • Setting up fair tests
    • arguing from evidence
    • supporting claims with evidence
    • critical thinking
    • making a model to explain thinking

    Once students understand the basics, the emphasis should be on how energy moves through the food chain starting with the sun and moving into plants and then up the food chain as it is consumed.

    Monday, July 2, 2018

    4th Grade NGSS Lessons and Units

    This post is going to be about how to decipher and plan for the 4th grade NGSS. Some of the standards are really straight forward and easy to plan for.  Other resource require some clever thinking.

    Later I will tell you about some of the resources I have created so that planning work is done for you.

    The first standard I want to tell you about I think is especially difficult to figure out and in doing a google search I could not really find a resource that met this standard fully.  Because of this, and because I enjoy a challenge, I developed my own lesson to meet the standard. 

    The standard I am talking about is:
    4-LS1-2. Use a model to describe that animals receive different types of information through their senses, process the information in their brain, and respond to the information in different ways

    Now it is not that difficult to think about what they want students to understand.  Students need to understand that animals received information in different ways and that the information is processed in their brain so that the animals can respond to the information.  That part is clear.  I had to do a little more thinking to figure out the making a model part.

    In NGSS when they talk about models, they are not referring necessarily to the traditional model of a solar system or model of a volcano, they are referring to making a model to explain your understanding.  This model can be a 3-D model, a flow chart, a graphic organizer, a diagram or something else that demonstrates the concept.

    So, in this lesson first I would present students with a slideshow showing them different animals and how they receive information.

    Next we talk specifically about how the brain processes the information.

    We also discuss how this processing happens almost instantly giving the opportunity for the animal to react to the information.

    Students complete some response pages to the slide show.  

    And finally each student chooses and animal and makes a model.  Here is one student's idea based on learning about the dogs impressive sense of smell. 

    This lesson including the slideshow is part of my life science unit for 4th Grade NGSS Structure and Function Life Science Unit

    Another tricky standard for NGSS 4th grade is 
    NGSS 4-PS4-3 Generate and compare multiple solutions that use patterns to transfer information.

    I had a lot of fun planning this interesting set of lessons.  I designed 4 lessons and activities that have students creating different patterns to communicate and then comparing them.  
    This resource includes secret messages, Mores code, QR codes and more. 

    In all of my resources I like to include nonfiction reading passages.  I think students are more interested in informational text when they have completed a hands-on activity.
    I also like giving students interactive notebook flaps to record their ideas and practice communicating ideas in writing.

    And of course, students need hands-on activities and labs. I try to create these using easy to find household materials. 

    The NGSS for 4th Grade are not difficult, but they do take some thought and planning for the teachers.  

    If you are a busy 4th grade teacher and want some help with planning some complete units and some ready to teach lessons, you should take a look at my 4th Grade NGSS Bundle at 20% off.  I have combined my 4th grade NGSS resources and discounted them by 20%.  The bundle as a year's worth of resource for teaching ALL the NGSS standards for 4th Grade.
    Take a look at all the resources included in this bundle: 4th Grade NGSS Bundle Save 20%

    All of my resources are available in smaller units and lessons.  Visit my store and see what else I have for 4th grade as well as other grade levels.

    Thanks for visiting my blog and I hope you will share with a 4th Grade teacher that you know. 

    Sunday, July 1, 2018

    Dissecting a Flower to Teach Structure and Function NGSS4-LS1=1 and NGSS 4-LS1-2

    I decided to write a blog post on how to dissect a flower.  Students can learn a lot about the structure and function of different parts of the flower by dissecting one. They can also learn about pollination and pollinators.


    Florists will often donate browning or old flowers, which work fine.  Be sure to tell them you are a teacher!  You can supplement these by purchasing a few new specimens that clearly show the structure of the flower. The best flower types to dissect include lilies, tulips, daffodils, and gladiolus. I used a lily in my example. You need a flower for each group of students.

    If day lilies are plentiful near you, it is possible to get someone to donate a flower for each student.  Day lilies have all the parts we are looking for and the bloom prolifically.

    Background Information: Plants have male and female parts.  (Teachers just ignore the giggles from the kids.  Speak matter of factly about the fact that all living things reproduce and with plants are living things, so they reproduce). 

    Some plants have exclusively male parts.  Some flowers have exclusively female parts. More commonly, plants have both male and female parts.  Plants do not move so they need help moving pollen from male parts to female parts.  Even flowers that have both male and female parts need to cross pollinate with other plants in order to flourish.
    Cross pollination is the transfer of pollen from the male reproductive organ (an anther) of one plant to the female reproductive organ (a stigma) of another plant. Insects and wind are the main agents of cross-pollination.

    1. Have the students find the sepals. (Sepals are the first or outermost tissue you encounter on the stem at the base of the flower. )They protect the flower bud before it opens and support the flower later. They are often the same color as the petals.

    2. Have students identify the petals.
    3. have the students locate the stamen and the pistil. 
    Have them first look closely at the stamen.  It is made up of two parts: The filament and the anther.  The anther has the pollen.   Your students may notice that their flower has more male parts than female parts.  Ask why?  The function of the stamen is to produce pollen.  The more stamens in a flower the more likely an insect will bump against it will gathering nectar and will carry some pollen to another flower.
    5. Now look closely at the pistil.  It is also make up of two parts: the style and the stigma.  Touch the top of the stigma.  Does it feel sticky?  What would be the function of this stickiness?  This stickiness helps the pollen being scattered to stick.  

    6. Have students carefully break open the ovary with a fingernail and look closely for seeds with a magnifying glass.

    Sometimes there are no seeds which probably means the plant has not been pollinated.

    If you have any buds they can also be sliced open. 
    I would also have students record their results on a lab page. 

    This lesson goes nicely with many standards, but I have included it in my 4th Grade Life Science Unit on Structure and Function.  This unit comes with slide shows, a nonfiction article, response pages, lab pages, interactive notebook folds and answer keys. 4th Grade Life Science Unit

    This resource addresses these NGSS Standards: 
    4-LS1-1. Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.
    4-LS1-2. Use a model to describe that animals receive different types of information through their senses, process the information in their brain, and respond to the information in different ways.

    I was especially happy to have come up with a lesson to go with NGSS 4-LS1-2., which I think is an especially difficult standard to address, but I have addressed in fully in the above unit. 

    See related resource on Honey Bees. Honey Bees Reading Passages and Comprehension Questions

    Thank you for visiting my blog.  Hope you will share on social media.