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A Potential Lesson Plan

LuisanaT's picture

Disclaimer: This is an exact replica of one of my final projects for my 220 Math and Science Pedagogy course last semester, which is a lesson plan I devised for a science class. I have offered to post it up on serendip and decided not to make any alterations to it as of yet. For my hope is, after my participation in the summer institute this year under Professor Grobstein, I will return to this lesson plan and make an much more profound change for its betterment. Please feel free to read this, critique it, and look forward to my second take on it at the end of this summer. Thank you.

Luisana Taveras
May 15th, 2008
Math and Science Pedagogies

Lesson Plan

The lesson I am creating is for a third grade physics class entitled “Differences in Sounds”, which, like the second grade science classes at Overbrook Elementary, should last approximately two hours and will be allowed to continue for the maximum of one week. At this point in the curriculum, the children should be able to effectively use a sound source, be comfortable describing and recognizing concepts related to sound which includes but is not exclusive to things such as the way in which sound travels, through what sound can travel, and the relationship between the size of an instrument and the type of volume and pitch it produces. More important than anything else, the students should definitely understand the terms pitch and loudness. With this criterion in mind, the objective of this lesson is to allow the students to acknowledge the differences found specifically in the varying volumes and pitches of sound.

In order to go about this, some necessary materials include a wooden guitar and six water bottles; the first three empty, one filled midway, and another near full. It will only be necessary to have as many duplicates of either experimental material as there are half as many students in the class because the teacher will eventually split the students up into two separate groups. The flexibility in the application of these materials is essential because this lesson plan needs to give the students the opportunity to decide what kind of evidence to collect in their experiment that will be reliable enough to make a fair distinction between sound and pitch. Asking the students questions will help the teacher after presenting the materials will stimulate the class to think about the different things they can use to measure with, (our ears) what they can measure, (the volume and pitch levels) and what can they can control, (the amount of water in the each bottle, whether to blow gently or hard into each bottle or not, whether they will pluck the guitar strings gently or strongly, whether the string will be pulled tightly or loosely on the guitar, etc).

This aspect was touched upon in Dr. Valletes model whenever he asks his students to state to the rest of the class what s/he notices when he lets go of a weight on a pendulum, generating the student’s previous knowledge about physics. Taking a spin on this idea, I’ve devised this lesson plan to incorporate that vocalization of observation into a coherent structure called the K-W-L Chart. In the K-W-L chart, the students are required to provide as much information as they possibly can regarding what they K-know about the subject matter, W- want to know about the subject matter, and L- learned from the subject. This chart will function primarily as the backbone of the entire lesson plan as it will reappear several times throughout the course. This lesson therefore, will be distinctly different from traditional curricula, for it allows the students to explicitly express goals and understandings about the subject matter both before and after the actual lesson.

In this case, because the subject is regarding the physics of sounds, the majority of the information gathered in the first column, K, should reflect material already established earlier on in the year, providing a good way of checking how effective the past lessons about sounds have been for the students. This ability to successfully fill in the different components of the chart proves to be effective in extracting intellectual behaviors important for learning as shown in the revised research of Benjamin Boom’s taxonomy. The ability to successfully complete the “K” column correlates specifically to the first fundamental level of cognitive domains Bloom creates regarding the ability to recall facts.

Also found in this ‘K” column will be the preconceived notions andunderstandings the children have picked up on their own, outside of the classroom setting, about sounds. Utilizing this chart, the teacher will successfully exercise the first implication to incorporate the new science of learning into their pedagogy because it will function to discern whether they are conscious of the difference between the volume and pitch or not and allow the teacher to work with them accordingly.

Working as a regular reminder of the things the students have already learned as well as what they might expect to learn, the “W” column of this chart covers the things the students will want to know after the week is over about sound, pitch, and volume. This will revive their motivations for participating in the class, reasserting the zero key principle of the new science for learning that calls for a strong sense of motivation from the students to distinguish between pitch and sound.

It is important to make sure that students accurately differentiate between pitch and volume because evidence has shown that children do not fully develop their perception of sound until they are in about the fourth grade in which teachers, therefore, have to make note of and constantly keep in the back of their mind. Seeing as to how educational school districts are requiring students to tackle sounds in the third grade, teacher’s have be even more patient yet assertive when establishing the different relationships sound has with volume and pitch. Being conscious of this pre-existing knowledge is crucial for the lesson to run with as little difficulty as possible. If performed accordingly, it is without question that the students will properly observe and compare results from instruments that produce sound and leave with a better sense of hearing.

Similarly as complex, it has been said that children tend to think that the properties of a system belong to individual parts of rather than arising from the interaction of the parts of a system. In this case, referring to one piece of instrument as opposed to the entire thing itself, this lesson is important because it pay attention to the synergy involved in producing the loud/soft and high/low pitched sounds an instrument can make. For, as established once before, there are different combinations in handling the instrument when playing it, creating differences in the sound produced.

To start the lesson off, the teacher will construct the K-W-L chart on the board and have the children fill the first two thirds in regards to volume and pitch on paper. Then the students will provide their answers out loud to the rest of the class to be written down on the board, where the information collected under the “K” column will be coded in blue and the “W” in red. The chart on the board will help the students think about and record anything they may not have thought of about sounds and will reemphasize the previous material the have just mastered.

Inside the two bodies of students, the students will be broken up into smaller groups of 3-4 to work together throughout the rest of the lesson. It seems beneficial to have the students placed into small groups because as I experienced in my third grade science praxis, the students were much more productive once the teacher worked with only one half of the class on one experiment and I worked with the other half on another. This kind of decision has been supported by research conducted by people like Robert J.Marzano discusses in his book Classroom Instruction that Works when he refers to a report done in 1996 that reveals 3-4 members in a group yields the most effective learning capabilities, recommending cooperative groups be kept small. (1, 88)

The students, now in their groups, will work together first to agree on a prediction regarding the volume and pitch of sound. To facilitate this, the teachers should direct the student’s attention to some of the things discussed under the “K” column to help them determine a good prediction about the relationship between pitch and volume of sound. This is because, as established in the third key finding in the new science of learning, allowing the students to take a “metacognitive” approach and control in the lesson is effective in student learning; using what they already know, the students can find out what they want to know and hopefully succeed in actually learning it by the end of the week. The teacher at this point should also pose to the class questions about what they can vary in their experiment and how in order to create the basis of their experiment and then, if not already formulate their prediction. The teacher should advise the children to think about how they will make fair comparisons of whether the sound they hear has a high pitch or a low pitch is loud or soft. Through trail and error, the students will consider the different physical experiments they can perform, eventually choosing one they can conduct in the classroom and will challenge their prediction(s).

This task as facilitator bestowed upon the teacher gives the students the freedom, interest, and challenge they need in a classroom because it is they who must create the experiment they will perform. This pre-experiment activity should be very effective for learning because, also demonstrated in Dr. Doug Vallette’s inquiry based physics laboratory, giving students the flexibility to create the experiment in way they want to, maintaining the zero of motivation, fostering greater exploration in the class. Research conducted by Duckworth supports this pedagogy where the ability to produce different ideas are considered “wonderful” because of the fact that it is a reflection of the individual’s intellectual development. His involvement in the text about teaching and learning entitled “The Having of Wonderful Ideas,” brings up the reality that children can come to general understandings when left alone with their own devices. (3, 3) Here, Duckworth is emphasizing how important it is for student’s to make creative intellectual contributions in the classroom whether it has already been established once before or is absolutely irrelevant to the lesson because it helps build stronger and new connections between the things they are currently learning about and have already mastered in class. This control the student’s have therefore, relating back to the third implication for the new science of learning again, is appropriate because it gives the students the option to experiment in the experiment.

Now that all of the students are settled and ready to conduct the actual experiment, it is a good time to hand out the lab worksheet that includes the instructions for either the water bottle activity or the wooden guitar activity. The water bottle sheet will provide ample space for the students to draw all six water bottles (that is, if they so choose to utilize them all) and identify how full each is in an order that demonstrates the relative change in sound and pitch. Similarly, there will be sufficient space on the guitar worksheet to draw the entire instrument and still be very detailed in the particular strings that get strum or/ how hard they were strum by color coding each of them provided an optional color legend at the upper top portion of this sheet.

Once they have completed drawing what they have gathered from their scientific observations, the students will be asked to jot down next to it a few words describing what they observed and experienced. Following this, the students will have to answers questions about the details of the experiment such as what did you change, what did you keep the same? The next set of questions, similarly, will ask what changed as a result andwhat stayed the same, requiring the students to explain, based on their experiment, how exactly did the pitch and volume changed. The worksheet will end with a question asking the students to record any final observations and identify the actual relationships found between the volume and pitches of sound, finally distinguishing between volume and pitch effectively as they change the physical properties of it.

Once the students have completed their specific experiment, have the students prepare to explain the experiment to the rest of the class to the best of their ability for the next day. On this day, the students will be required to present and teach what they learned and recorded from their experiment to the members of a group from the other half of the class. This is putting a twist to one of the summary questions found in ProfessorDonnay’s Vector Fields lesson plan, which is a rather effective form of formative assessment. The particular question in his model is “Imagine you are describing what you learned today to a classmate who was absent from class. Explain the process graphing vectors in a vector field.”

In this lesson, the students who participated in one type of experiment will demonstrate how much they actually got out of it to those who were only absent from the that particular experiment. And so upon hearing these instructions, each group will work together to figure out how they will communicate their scientific findings to the group, requiring much more clear supporting evidence to realistically convince and therefore teach the students about volume and pitch.

This ability to successfully teach fellow classmates what one has already grasped is another way of reinforcing the information the “teachers” in this situation have learned successfully. When discussing this idea in the education class where ones taught teach, a good analogy that arose was that of a student tutor; they who have learned the same material are well capable of teaching it to another student who is struggling with it. In this case, the other half of the class has never been exposed to this experiment before reveals the level of aptitude the students teaching have gained when explaining to them the difficulties of the activity or going through their thought-process and methods for the activity, allowing the “teachers” to become conscious of their own learning habits and effective learning strategies simultaneously.

Presenting the information to what is hopefully both a skeptical and critical audience, this lesson calls on the “teachers,” to consciously undergo a state of metacognition as they actively choose, express, and defend the steps they took and determine the learning tasks needed that are specific to their scientific findings. The ability to properly participate in this part of the lesson separates those students who remember and thoroughly understand the material from those who don’t, therefore functioning as a good example of peer assessment and a great form of metacognition. For all of this allows the “teachers” to come to a deeper understanding when thoroughly recognizing the material just learned, find and reevaluate their own and their experiment’s weaknesses, ultimately retaining everything from the lesson much more. The actual teacher in the room hold less responsibility in the learning process, where the children are left to take responsibility for the education they receive, consciously acknowledging their self-investments and once again supporting the third metacognition implication of the key for the new science of learning.

This Q&A session is executed most successfully amongst the students as opposed to with the teacher because the peer interaction allows for much more natural and comfortable discussions about science to occur. This is fundamentally important because the fact that both students are on equal levels in maturity, education, age, etc, with the “teachers” they are more likely to take the criticism of their work from the other students easier than if it came from a teacher. This notion seems to hold true for effective learning when raised in Black’s Assessment for Learning where a student admits to having more difficulties having an open dialogue with teachers than with classmates. (2, 40)

A way to prevent any discomfort between both groups, the students in the audience during the presentation should be making comments that identify what has been done well and what still needs improvement as well as ideas on how to make such improvements in both the presentation and the experiment performed by the other group. This can be accomplished using the very delightful worksheet called “Two Stars and a Wish” Professor Donnay presented the education class once before. Here it is necessary to fill in two means of positive feedback and one thing that s/he wishes to change in the form of constructive criticism, providing a fair and sufficient feedback for the “teachers.”

Once all of the groups have gone and all is said and done reintroduce the KWL chart and fill in the remaining third column asking what they have learned. The teacher should now start off by filling in the chart with all of the students that performed one of the experiments while the other half cleans up the classroom and goes about rereading and proofreading their observations and explanations. Once the teacher has finished, alternate and do the same with the remaining students, with those who performed the other type of experiment.

Now that the entire K-W-L chart is filled, have the students come to a general consensus on the topic on the volume and pitch. To help with the discussion, the teacher might want to ask the students if they have learned something new from their classmates and if so, what. The statements the students place in this final column, the things they have come to realize at the end of the entire lesson is placed into the third “L” column and will be juxtaposed to the findings made by their peers in the other groups. This should stimulate the students to find similarities between the results, demanding great cognitive effort, demonstrating a high level within the cognitive domain also from Bloom’s Taxonomy, the level of analysis. The teacher should make sure to emphasize whichever findings made in each of the activities that appear similar in actuality are. This final task calls forth one more major area of cognitive activity necessary for an effective learning experience, evaluation, which is demonstrated as another one of the highest levels in the new version of Bloom’s taxonomy for an effective learning experience and therefore should be recorded only once in the chart (in purple).


1.Marzano, Robert J. Classroom Instruction that Works.
Ch 7 Cooperative Learning

2.Black, P., and Harrison, C., and Lee, C., and Marshall, B., and William, D., eds. Assessment for Learning; Putting It Into Practice. Ch 4 Putting The Ideas Into Practice

(Please see attached page below)

3. Duckworth, Eleanor. The Having of Wonderful Ideas and Other Ideas on Teaching and Learning.
(Please see attached excert below)

4.Vector Fields Lesson Plan Donnay, Victor
(Please see lesson plan attached below)

Having Wonderful Ideas.pdf721.26 KB
Vector Donnay.pdf410.37 KB
Assessment Learning Chpt 4-3.jpg825.12 KB


Cynthia Henderson's picture

lesson plans

A compilation of plans may be helpful resources to create an inquiry-based science program.