Sunday, February 12, 2006

The week to come...

The sixth graders are going to finish their rollercoasters. They have one more day to build and test. We have a half-day on Thursday due to parent-teacher conferences. They will spend that shortened period, plus one full period, preparing a final project to hand in, including their scale drawings, their time trial record sheet, and a decorated scale drawing of their final rollercoaster. They have to label that with information about the kinetic and potential energy of the little metal ball at various points on the rollercoaster. They also have to think of exciting names and other elaborating details for their coasters.

I am also taking one day to have them look through the work in their portfolios and complete a reflection sheet. I am experimenting with student-led parent-teacher conferences in the sixth grade. I'm going to have them reflect on their strengths and areas for improvement, find evidence within their work to demonstrate these things, reflect on their behavior, and then complete a "script" for a parent-teacher conference. They aren't required to stick to the script but it will be there to support them in giving a full description of their progress. They will practice their conference with another student role-playing their parent. Then, on conference night, I am going to have two or three conferences occurring simultaneously, while I circulate and talk to parents when they want to know more than what their child is saying.

We'll see what happens. I had hoped to give them two days to prepare, since this is the first time we're doing this, but what with the half day and the rollercoasters taking longer than expected, this is the best I can do.

Meanwhile, I'm taking over an additional 7th grade class again, as I did at the beginning of the year, as we have still not hired anyone for the position. Mr. Richter is relieved to hand them off to me, and I'm kind of dreading it. It means four fewer free periods per week, plus more planning and grading than normal. I've done a lot of planning for the weather and climate unit that we are starting on Monday, but it's never enough.

We are going to begin with a weather & climate book pass, followed by the kids making K-W charts about the topic. We are also going to start weather journals, which will be the warm-up at the start of class for at least three weeks. At the beginning, they will record just the temperature (I bought an indoor-outdoor thermometer) and some predictions about the weather to come. Later, we will add air pressure readings, cloud observations, precipitation observations, and more. I am having them work in partners, so that if one partner is absent, the other can still gather data.

From there, we will begin talking about air and the atmosphere. We're going to try to show them that gases have mass and density by creating a balance out of a meter stick and two paper bags, one tied to each end. Then we will create a bunch of carbon dioxide by mixing vinegar & baking soda, and we will "pour" the carbon dioxide into one of the bags. With any luck, the more dense carbon dioxide will displace the air in the bag, and it will sink relative to the other bag. Then we can discuss why this happened. They will also read and answer questions about the contents of air - nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, trace gases, water vapor, particles, etc.

The next day, we're going to do the soda can crush demo. You fill the bottom of a soda can with a bit of water, heat it, and then invert the can into a tub of cold water. The heating evaporates the water, which takes up more space in the can, driving some of the air out of the can. When you invert it in cold water, the air inside the can cools and the water vapor condenses again, only this time, air cannot flow back into the can to equalize the pressure. Thus, the pressure inside the can is less than the air pressure, and the can should crumple. For homework, we'll show them these pictures and ask them if they can explain what happened to the tanker.


Blogger Alexis Walker said...

I never got the carbon dioxide pour to work when I was teaching science, though it was fun to try. I think my measuring-stick scale was lousy.

The can crush, however, was very popular with my fourth graders. I spent a great deal of time doing things with them that helped them understand air was matter.

My own roller-coasters were done with that foam pipe insulation cut in half.

This is the kind of stuff that makes me miss teaching science.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Chaz said...

Ms. Frizzle;

What are K-W charts?

The crushed can experiement is nice. You might want to add an environmental component by using global warming and the NYC heat island effect in the climate and weather section. The students tend to ask lots of questions. By the way why is the sky blue? Ask your students that question.

4:21 PM  
Blogger Jenny D. said...

My kids' middle school uses this conference structure. The student leads the parents through the work. The teacher circulates among the families. We've done four at a time. One of the things that happens is that the teacher spends less time with successful kids and parents, and more time with those who need more time. I'm fine with this. But interestingly, parents of successful kids are often the ones trying to get the teacher's time.

8:17 PM  
Anonymous k said...

>>What are K-W charts?<<

What I know and What I want to know.
Kids write what they know about a subject on one side and ask questions on the other side.

8:42 PM  
Blogger Chaz said...


Thank you for the information. Sounds good when you have intelligent students. Not so sure it works at the high school level but I might try it.

9:36 PM  
Blogger ms. frizzle said...

K-W charts (I phrase it "Know" and "Wonder") work best for me when I do a book pass or something similar first, so the kids have a sense of what kinds of things we might be studying. If I just said weather & climate, I'd get a very limited set of facts & questions.

11:10 PM  
Blogger Jules the Crazy said...

i love the idea of student reflections and leading conferences! i'm really going to think about that tonight, and see if i can do a shabby exercise in that tomorrow. do you have an existing reflection sheet? are they concrete things or more abstract, or both?

thanks for sharing such a great idea!

4:42 PM  

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