Do you ever teach a lesson, think it went awesomely, and then realize that not a single person in your room understands anything that was coming out of your mouth? Yeah...that is how our first science lesson went this year.
Science is one of those subjects that is so very hit or miss with me. Sometimes, I think I do a spectacular job teaching and other times....not so much. The latter was the case with the first experiment we did this year. Apparently, teaching controlled, independent, and dependent variables in experiments is just NOT my thing. (raise your hand if I just lost you there?? Yeah...my hand is up too)
So, I went about my business, taught the lesson and gave the students a reflection sheet for their journals. I was thinking, "This will be great! They loved the experiment (which you can find here) and learned a lot, no doubt."
Then I read the reflections.
Apparently I was teaching them about soda cans. I thought I was teaching variables. Whomp, whomp.
So I turned to the trusted internet and scoured and scoured to try and actually UNDERSTAND what I was teaching. I found video after video on youtube that were SO much help to me. (Googling "independent and dependent variables in an experiment" yeilds a lot of helpful stuff) After watching them and taking notes, I think I was ready to go. Amazing how when I actually understand the concept things go much more smoothly......
So I decided to redo my lesson. First, we defined what the three different types of variables actually are. Writing it in kid-friendly language was THE BEST thing I could have done here. Not only did my kids see it as much easier....so did I.
Then, I gave the student example after example of how independent and dependent variables occur in real life. Looking at it from a language arts perspective, as a cause and effect relationship, really made it sink in for me. I think it did for my students as well.
Next, they drew some real life examples of the variables themselves. They thought about it this way:
If you sleep in, you will be late.
Independent variable (what you changed): Hit the snooze and slept in.
Dependent variable (what occurred): I was late.
Controlled variable (what stayed the same): the bus came at the same time it always does
I realize this is a more simplistic way of looking at it but, honestly, it really helped. The kids internalized the idea and are now more confident in what they mean. Click here to access the sheet I used.
The next day, I gave them these really fun Simpson's Family Experiments sheets. I found the sheets here. In groups, they had to decide what the different variables in the experiments were. The kids had a blast doing this...and it validated for me that they understood the different parts of controlled experiments.
I created this little slip that we are going to add to the end of each experiment in our journals. My hope is that the students will be able to identify the different variables and decide if it is a valid experiment or not. Then, come science fair time, they will all end with fantastic projects. (a teacher can dream!)
OK...Now that I shared my not so stellar teaching moment, you must share one with me. I want to hear all about how I am not the only one who does this :)