Tag Archives: PBL

Powerful Graphic Organizers for STEM- STEM Vocabulary

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One particular graphic organizer that I like to provide for students is a vocabulary sheet.  Often, students run across new and unknown words in their research that they should capture for future reference.  So many times, students just skip over the word and don’t give it a second thought, but adding that word to their vocabulary is an important step.  This graphic organizer helps students to stop and document the new finding.  This graphic organizer can also be used to describe a scientific phenomenon.

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Powerful Graphic Organizers for STEM- Team Plan

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When students work in teams, they seem to either be really successful or really not successful.  Some of that success is due to team dynamics and the 4C’s (Communication, Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking), but some of the success is usually determined by whether the team has a plan (or not).  Having a solid plan is a big predictor of success for students, so taking the time to have students form a plan is critical.

We talked about one version of this last week, but now it’s time to add another one to the mix to help students focus on the big picture.  One issue students argue over is who is going to do what.  By working as a team to decide ahead of time, it helps students focus on the solution, not the dynamic.  It also helps students to brainstorm their solution and decide what materials they need to test their designs.

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Powerful Graphic Organizers for STEM- Planning Organizer

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In the spirit of graphic organizers, its always a good idea to have students organize their thoughts and set a course of action.  With the Planning Organizer, students work to document their action, predict possible outcomes and record their observations..

Encouraging students to think through their action plan by writing it down means that their plan will be well thought out (which is not necessarily the case with some students).  This advanced planning helps them create a more solid design that will then result in a more successful solution.

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Powerful Graphic Organizers for STEM- Step by Step

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This week, we are focusing on how to help students map out a process.  What steps will students take to carry out their investigation?  Most of the time, students think they know the steps they will take, but this graphic organizer compels students to think through all of the steps and capture them on paper.

Sounds easy, right?  Not so fast.  Students are notorious for forging ahead without a plan in place or without thinking through the steps they will take to answer an investigable question.  This graphic organizer encourages student to think things through…and then stick with the plan.

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Powerful Graphic Organizers for STEM-Problem and Solution

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Another Powerful Graphic Organizer for STEM is Problem/Solution.  This graphic organizer is a useful way for students to summarize the issue/problem at hand and capture the solutions that they have already tried.

Sometimes, students are so overwhelmed or excited about solving real STEM problems that they don’t have a clear plan in place.  Because of this lack of planning (Let’s face it, they are kids!) students can get off track.  This organizer helps student teams to stay focused by having them record pertinent information including potential attempted solutions.

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Powerful Graphic Organizers for STEM- RERUN

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A great formative assessment that lends itself to a very useful graphic organizer is RERUN.  RERUN is a technique that allows students to share their thoughts in regards to an investigation that they have completed.

RERUN stands for Recall- Explain- Results-Unsure- New Things and can be very informative for both students and teachers.  For students, it helps them to think deeper and analyze what information they understand and what pieces they don’t.  For teachers, it provides some of the same information, but also gives us insight into planning future investigations or mini-lessons.

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Powerful Graphic Organizers for STEM- Claim, Evidence, Reasoning

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Next in the series of Powerful Graphic Organizers for STEM is Claim, Evidence, Reasoning.  This concept, although it seems pretty straight forward, is one of the most difficult for students.

In the CER model, students seem to struggle most with what kind of information to write in each category.  Having students write their responses in this format ensures that they are: choosing a side or solution to support, providing evidence and support for their side/solution, and (the hard part) providing a sort of conclusion by tying their claim and evidence to a scientific phenomena.

Providing this framework in the form of a graphic organizer seems to help visually break down each component thus making it easier for students to make a claim and properly support it.

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Powerful Graphic Organizers for STEM- Engineering Design Process

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Along with Venn Diagrams and Webs, the Engineering Design Process is an appropriate graphic organizer to add to the mix when working through STEM projects.

The Engineering Design Process, sister to the Scientific Method, is a series of steps that engineers use to create a viable solution to a problem or issue.  I have two different versions that I use and I bounce between them depending on the grade level and ability of the students I’m working with.

The first version is a six step, simplified version for use with either lower ability students, primary grade levels or (honestly) if my higher ability/ higher grade level kids need more room to write or sketch.

The second version is a little more fleshed out and contains eight steps.  I tend to use that one for higher ability students or projects that are more detail oriented.

Both follow the same process and contain the same basic steps, but I like having two different versions to best meet the needs of the students I’m working with.

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Powerful Graphic Organizers for STEM- Venns and Webs

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To start our series, we’ll begin talking about the usual suspects in Graphic Organizers.  Yes, you guessed it- Venn Diagrams and Concept Maps.  These two graphic organizers seem to be the go-to, catch-all ones, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention them.  These oldies-but-goodies are so versatile for all subjects including STEM.

But why should you use these two graphic organizers in STEM?  Here’s why:

Venn Diagrams– Venn Diagrams help students to sort, categorize and see relationships between/among different sets of data.  Usually students use them in a Compare/Both/Contrast fashion, but for STEM, other “categories” like Engineering/Both/Science, My Design/Both/Your Design and others are appropriate too.  At any rate, Venns help students to visually compare and contrast different sets of data, concepts or event subsets.

Concept Maps (Webs)– Concept Maps help students visually manage concepts and sub-concepts. They allow students to creatively “take notes”, map out processes, brainstorm potential solutions to an engineering design challenge, or even capture different pieces of a problem in order to find a solution.

Even though these two graphic organizers are quite common in a Science or STEM classroom, that doesn’t mean that they can’t be powerful tools for extending student learning.

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4 Super Fun Science Experiments for Kids

 

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