Thursday, 10 March 2016

How Do Different Scales Work?

As we know, transdisciplinary learning is an effective and powerful way to engage children in learning and also saves valuable time in our classrooms.

We are beginning a new Unit oF Inquiry exploring our central idea:  Scientific knowledge is always expanding and impacting our lives.

It's a great central idea to enquire into and part of it entails how we gain scientific knowledge and so obviously conducting experiments falls into that finding out.  We don't give the children the scientific method to follow. Nor we do have the children write biring science experiment reports.  Instead, we encourage the children to think for themselves and have them create their own methods for enquiring scientifically.

We have also started our new text type unit into procedural writing and began yesterday by using some key concept questions to spark our memories of what they are and how we write them in addition to that being an informal pre-assessment of what children already know:

I figured we need to learn how to create diagrams, so why not use that skill learning with our measuring mass unit.

So, we created our own diagrams of how a balance scale works.  We had already played and measured with these and so this time, they examined it more deeply by looking at what features it has and thought perhaps a bit more of how it works.  As they created their diagrams, I used some of their ideas to add to mine on the board to help model some good ideas they were coming up with:

To practise our newly acquired diagram drawing skills & understandings and to continue with our enquiry into measuring mass, we had a choice of investigating kitchen scales or force scales.

Needless to say, the force scales were the most popular.

We used the following key concept questions to guide our enquiries:

° FUNCTION: How do the scales work?

° FUNCTION: How do we use decimals when measuring mass?

Some children chose to draw diagrams of the chosen scale first and then create and conduct an investigation whilst others chose to do the opposite.

Asking some for their reasons for that approach was interesting:

- If I can examine the scale closely first, I'll be able to use it more confidently.

The other camp tended to think:

- By actually using the scale first, I'll be better able to explain how it works in a diagram.

Both seemed completely logical to me.

It made me realise how as teachers, we really do need to give children opportunities to think how to tackle their own learning themselves.  We all think and learn more effectively in different ways and these two camps of thought illustrate that perfectly.  If I had directed all the children to create their diagrams first, those who might have learnt best by the doing first would have missed out on a more effective learning experience for them.  Additionally, giving children opportunities to take ownership of their own learning and make choices like these helps them become more effective learners. 

One group chose to measure the mass of the school bags using the force scales.
They compared the mass of the bags full of the things they carried to school and then an empty bag.  

They thought about how they could then convert those measurements into decimals.

Another group compared different masses of objects they found in the classroom and chose to convert them into decimal kilograms to help understand how we use decimals with mass. 

Another group was curious about how we convert pounds to kilograms and investigated this by using the measurements on the kitchen scales.

- Why is the symbol for pounds 'lb'?

I overheard a student theorising that she thought it might be a French word for the imperial system.  

It's a great question and a clever theory.

I am wondering the same thing now and looking forward to what they find out for us........

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