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Don’t you love the weeks when you’ve completed science unit “A”, but you’re not ready to start science unit “B”? That was my week this week, and I had to get creative (or should I say my kids did.) My favorite unit to teach in science is our astronomy unit because all of the 4th grade teachers rotate classes for one week, and then ta da your unit is ready to test. The students do not have to understand too many concepts in our astronomy unit, and they are very captivated by the subject matter. The lesson I get to teach is about the eight planets. The students need to be able to order the planets from the sun and compare and contrast the inner and outer planets by the end of my lesson.
The one aspect I hate about our astronomy standard is the fact that the students do not have to become familiar with each individual planet. Well, since I had a week to “kill” I decided my students would do a planet jigsaw. As a class we decided what questions we would like answered for each planet including: does it have any rings? what is the surface made up of? can people live there? What is the temperature? I am happy to say that even in the 4th grade I have a class full of “questioners”.
I have 27 students, so to make things easy I added Pluto back into the mix. This meant I had 9 clean groups. Each student drew one of the 9 planets (or dwarf planet) out of a hat and began researching. I gave the students two science periods to research and one period to create a presentation to teach their fellow classmates. I instructed that they did not have to use a specific app. All that mattered to me was the fact that they could teach the others what they learned.
Most of my mini-teachers gravitated quickly towards IMovie trailers. I was extremely weary of this decision because although I use IMovie on my Mac all the time, I had not familiarized myself or my class with this app. I decided to allow the students to problem solve using the app, and I prayed that the entire project wouldn’t become a flop because they couldn’t figure out how to use the app and apply it to the topic we were studying. I was pleasantly surprised to see my little instructors helping each other with the app and sharing new insights on how to make their trailers relevant to the information that needed to be taught.
On the 4th day, everyone was ready 26 ipads in hand and 1 poster board (one of my mini-teachers didn’t choose to teach with his IPad). I separated them into three different groups and allowed the magic to unravel before my eyes. The students that watched presentations jotted newly learned facts onto flow maps and within forty-five minutes I had expert astronomers. Watch the presentation that was dubbed, “out of this world” below!
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