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January 30, 2014 | Volume 9 | Issue 9
Table of Contents
Inquiry-Based Instruction Explores, Then Explains
It is common for lessons to follow an "Explain-before-Explore" model, which includes reviewing previous work, introducing a new concept, modeling that concept, and then student practice with the concept in a controlled, prescriptive exercise. The goal is for students to be able to replicate solution methods or to parrot what was told to them. With the Explain-first model, ask yourself, how are you challenging students to think deeply every day about science or mathematics? Alternately, an "Explore-before-Explain" instructional model allows students to grapple with the ideas and skills within a concept before the concept is thoroughly discussed and described.
The Explore-before-Explain approach generally follows this pattern.
The following sample science lesson shows how you might teach an Explore-before-Explain lesson in your classroom.
Sample Science Lesson: Where Has the Moon Gone?
Key Concepts: Relationship of the Earth-sun-moon system; relative movement of moon and sun relative to our position on Earth.
Next Generation Science Standard: MS-ESS1 Earth's Place in the Universe
Objective: Students will demonstrate through 3D physical models and 2D paper models how the various phases of the moon are created.
Essential Question: Where will the moon be at noon tomorrow? And noon the day after that?
Lesson Overview: Students have difficulty transferring a 2D model of the phases of the moon into what they see in the day and night sky. They also often have misconceptions regarding the moon and its movement relative to Earth. So students' misconceptions will be probed and then correct conceptions will be reinforced through exploration of the models and support from the explanation that follows.
Engage: Give a quick multiple-choice pretest to probe for common misconceptions. Questions should cover the relative size of the moon in relation to our sun, the relative distance of the moon from Earth, the length of a lunar day, the cause of a lunar eclipse, and the reason our moon is visible during the daylight hours at some times, yet only visible at night during other times.
Teacher Support for Engage: All students have observed the moon, but they typically have a large number of misconceptions about it. Once you uncover misconceptions, adjust the lesson so that it best allows students to explore these issues.
Explore: Given eight discs, each shaded to represent the key phases of the lunar cycle, students in teams of two to three organize the discs in the proper order on a lab counter, with Earth at the center of the counter. Then they are to place the cut out vocabulary words next to the corresponding disc: new, full, waxing (used twice), waning (used twice), crescent (used twice), gibbous (used twice), first quarter, and third quarter. Differentiated instruction is reinforced here because some students will be more confident in figuring out which vocabulary word fits with which image.
Teacher Support for Explore: Although students may have difficulty connecting all the vocabulary with the correct phase of the moon, most will get the phases in the correct order. The question that will puzzle many students will be whether the phases should be increasing in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. (When viewed from the North Pole, the moon appears to move counterclockwise around Earth. If using a globe or daily observations to model this motion, students should begin by seeing that it appears to be moving to the east; then they can determine with a globe that this motion translates into counterclockwise when looking down from the North Pole.)
Explain: During the Explain phase, students will visually represent specific phases of the moon using 3D models (sun, Earth, moon). It is important that the model of Earth (a globe) has a dot for where the students are located. You can pause periodically and request that all students draw and explain how one or more phases of the moon are created.
Teacher Support for Explain: It will be clear by the end of the visual demonstrations that several misconceptions should be corrected and explicitly addressed. For instance, when modeling a phase of the moon, the sun must always be considerably farther from Earth than the moon (by a factor of nearly 400:1).
Extend: Have student groups research and then model one aspect of the Earth-sun-moon relationship. These topics may include solar versus annular eclipses, lunar eclipses, reasons for eclipses in some months but not others, the relative size of the three bodies, the relative distances of the three bodies, and the relationship of the period and rotation of our moon.
Teacher Support for Extend: Two-dimensional models are often helpful for simplicity, but they can be limiting. Specifically, it is challenging to explain how a new moon or full moon can be created without also creating, respectively, a solar (or at least annular) eclipse or a lunar eclipse every month. A 3D visual will show that the moon's orbit does not always fall in the same plane as the Earth-sun orbit. This Extend activity gives students an opportunity to become experts on one aspect associated with the interrelationship of the Earth-sun-moon, but it is critical in the process that all students understand each of the aspects. All students must know each topic or concept addressed relative to the moon.
Adaptations: This lesson is written for a middle grade audience and standards but can easily be adapted for other audiences. At the elementary level, the lesson should focus on observing patterns associated with objects in our sky. Obviously, the moon and sun are the objects that are most visible and recognizable. The goal is to get students to explore the behavior of these objects in our sky. They could make maps of the sun's location at different times during the course of a day and at the same time each day. The same can be done with the moon except the timing needs to coincide with when it will be visible in the daytime sky. After collecting data for a couple of days, students of various ages can begin predicting where the moon or sun will be at a given time on the next day.
Source: Adapted from Succeeding with Inquiry in Science and Math Classrooms (pp. 44–45 & 54–56), by J. Marshall, 2013, Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Copyright 2013 by ASCD. Adapted with permission.
ASCD Express, Vol. 9, No. 9. Copyright 2014 by ASCD. All rights reserved. Visit www.ascd.org/ascdexpress.
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