Introducing Models to Elementary School Students

Author(s): Linda Akiyama and Ranyee Chiang

Lesson Overview

Grade level(s):

Kindergarten, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6, Grade 7, Grade 8

Subjects(s):

Science Skills

Topic:

Using models to teach science concepts, promote dialog, and assess understanding

Big ideas(s):

A model is a representation of something in the natural world.


A model is like the thing it represents in some ways and is different from what it represents in other ways.

Vocabulary words:

- model, represents, evidence

- specific words relevant to the model and the object it represents (e.g. taste buds, saliva)

- descriptive words, sensory words and comparison words will also vary depending on the model used in the lesson

What you need:

  1. model of tongue (SEP RC #M038) or any other visible body part,
  2. toy car,
  3. realistic doll,
  4. science poster,
  5. a hand held mirror for each student (SEP RC #E143)

Grouping:

whole class

Setting:

regular classroom

Time needed:

20 minutes, set-up is minimal

Author Name(s): 
Linda Akiyama and Ranyee Chiang
Summary: 

Students learn what a model is by comparing a model of the tongue to their own tongue. They practice asking themselves, "How is this model like the thing it represents, and how is it different?"  This format of questioning can be used when using any model in science and can be used to check students' understanding and misconceptions.

Learning goals/objectives for students: 
  • Students will identify ways that a model and its subject are alike and some ways that they are different.
  • Students will learn to ask, "How is this model like the thing it represents and how is it different?"
  • As students learn more about a topic in science, their comparisons of model and object will reflect their knowledge
  • Students will practice comparative language forms (i.e. smaller than, darker than)
  • Extension: Students will recognize pictures and photographs as models.

Content background for instructor: 

Models are powerful teaching tools that can help students to visualize scientific concepts/ideas, identify their understandings and/or misconceptions about a topic, and build their critical thinking skills. Models may be three-dimensional objects such as an anatomical model of a heart, a picture, or a diagram. Because models are static representations of an object or concept, there are ways in which they are similar to the object they represent and ways in which they are different. This lesson helps scaffold the use of models in K-8 classrooms - putting a structure around how students interpret models. Importantly, it encourages students, whenever they encounter a model, to identify the model's limitations - an important critical thinking skill. This is a practice that scientist themselves use both when they develop a new model to describe a phenomenon in the natural world, as well as when they consider models developed by other scientists.

Getting ready: 

Get above material- for example:

  • tongue model (SEP Daly Ralston Resource Center M038) or model of other visible body part
  • toy car
  • realistic doll
  • science poster
  • hand-held mirror for each student (SEP Daly Ralston Resource Center E143)

Lesson Implementation / Outline

Introduction: 

Who can tell me what this is? (Hold up model of tongue)

Students usually answer that it is a tongue.

Is it really a tongue? What evidence do you have to support your answer?

Activity: 

1. After introduction, hand out mirrors and ask students to look very closely at their tongues. Ask them to think of words that describe what their tongue looks like from the top, bottom and sides.

2. Introduce the idea of a model as a representation of something and the models have some things in common with the object they represent, but not everything about the model is like the thing it represents. Stress that it's important to know what is alike and what is different.

3. Ask students to tell some ways that the model of the tongue is like their own tongue. List their ideas on chart paper. Do the same for the differences between the model and a tongue. Encourage likeness in function as well as structure. What can a tongue do that the model cannot do?

Checking for student understanding: 

4. Ask if students know of any other models. Show models such as toy cars, realistic dolls, poster of a science topic, photographs. Ask students why all these things can be considered models.

Wrap-up / Closure: 

5. Suggest to students that when they see a model of something, to ask, "How is this like the real object, and how is it different?" If they are not sure of the answer, then encourage them to ask someone or find out on their own by doing research.

Extensions and Reflections

Extensions and connections: 

I repeat this format whenever I use a model in science. I find it an excellent way to check a student's understanding and misconceptions about the topic being studied. It helps me to see if students are incorporating new concepts that we have learned into their general knowledge of a subject. It also helps students to realize what they don't know about a subject being studied. It's a good prompt for a quick science journal entry.

 



Reflections: 

Models can be a source of misconceptions. This is particularly true when a model represents something that the student has never actually seen. As an example, I asked my class how a student walking a Styrofoam ball around a light bulb in the middle of our class was like the earth orbiting around the sun and how was it different. One student said that the line that the Earth goes on when it goes around the sun was missing in our model. He said in space all the planets have a line that they follow to go around the sun. I asked him if he meant a real line that a person could see, and he answered yes. When I asked him why he thought that, he said that he saw it in the solar system books.

 


Standards - Kindergarten

Physical Sciences: 
1. Properties of materials can be observed, measured, and predicted. As a basis for understanding this concept:
a. Students know objects can be described in terms of the materials they are made of (e.g., clay, cloth, paper) and their physical properties (e.g., color, size, shape, weight, texture, flexibility, attraction to magnets, floating, sinking).
Investigation and Experimentation: 
4. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:
a. Observe common objects by using the five senses.
b. Describe the properties of common objects.
c. Describe the relative position of objects by using one reference (e.g., above or below).

Standards - Grade 1

Investigation and Experimentation: 
4. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:
a. Draw pictures that portray some features of the thing being described.
b. Record observations and data with pictures, numbers, or written statements.
d. Describe the relative position of objects by using two references (e.g., above and next to, below and left of).
e. Make new observations when discrepancies exist between two descriptions of the same object or phenomenon.

Standards - Grade 2

Investigation and Experimentation: 
5. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:
c. Compare and sort common objects according to two or more physical attributes (e. g., color, shape, texture, size, weight).
f. Use magnifiers or microscopes to observe and draw descriptions of small objects or small features of objects.
g. Follow oral instructions for a scientific investigation.

Standards - Grade 4

Investigation and Experimentation: 
6. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:
a.Differentiate observation from inference (interpretation) and know scientists’ explanations come partly from what they observe and partly from how they interpret their observations.

Standards - Grade 6

Investigation and Experimentation: 
7. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:
e. Recognize whether evidence is consistent with a proposed explanation.
f. Read a topographic map and a geologic map for evidence provided on the maps and construct and interpret a simple scale map.

Standards - Grade 7

Investigation and Experimentation: 
7. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:
b. Use a variety of print and electronic resources (including the World Wide Web) to collect information and evidence as part of a research project.
c. Communicate the logical connection among hypotheses, science concepts, tests conducted, data collected, and conclusions drawn from the scientific evidence.
d. Construct scale models, maps, and appropriately labeled diagrams to communicate scientific knowledge (e.g., motion of Earth's plates and cell structure).