Tell a Story: Quantitative vs. Qualitative
by Bonny Ralston, CSTA Middle School Director
All science students need to practice the skill of detailed observation. In describing an object or an observation, it’s important to cite as many details as possible. In order to engage students to observe all details, it is necessary to have them practice what they should be looking for. Shape, color, and amount are the most common observations.
This lab is used to introduce students to all kinds of observation. Students will learn how to use observation by using similarities and differences, and quantitative and qualitative observations.
Part 1: Any type of small colorful toys like windups, or variety of colorful plants.
Part 2: Different types of natural items such as shells, pieces of wood, bones, or skulls. If possible, include same types of shells like abalone for students to observe. For each group: Chart showing qualitative vs. quantitative observations.
Part 3: Each student may bring in or select a natural item from the classroom. For each table group: balances, rulers, (for small items) tools for density measurements.
Into: Hold up an item (toy or plant etc.). Ask students to describe an observation like a color, a number, texture, etc. Write down all answers on the board (qualitative). Repeat with two or more trials until you feel all students have participated. Hold the same items up or use a simple plant, and ask students to observe numbers of leaves, stems, etc. (quantitative).
Through: Have the group divide themselves in half. Hand out an item to each group. One group will determine as many quantifying observations and record on one-half of a folded paper. The other group will find as many qualitative observations as possible then record on the second half of the paper.
If there’s time, the group can write a short story about the item using qualitative and quantitative observations. The story can be about the life and times of the organism using a creative twist. (Have students bring in their own items for next part on day two.)
Beyond: Now that the students have had a little practice, have them select an item from classroom specimens, or select the item from home.
On their own, students will complete observations for their item (as practiced previous day). The goal is to use these observations to create a fictional story about the life and times of the item (organism, etc.). Students should use creativity to write the story. Students are allowed to research more about the organism they selected. Students may also draw a close-up picture of the organism; use a jewelers’ loop (private eye) or magnifying glass. The story or account should be a minimum of one page and no longer than three.
For English learners, you can have them draw a day in the life, like a comic book. Encourage some vocabulary use to describe what’s happening in the picture.
by Michelle French
Since the public reviews of the Next Generation Science Standards have come to a close, like many primary teachers, I’ve been wondering what science will look like in kindergarten, first, and second grade classrooms. Learn More…
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Responses from Readers:
Peter A’Hearn: Rush hour in little blue circle land.
by Valerie Joyner
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by Tim Williamson
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The election is being conducted electronically and opened for voting on April 16, 2013. Voting will close on May 16, 2013. All CSTA members were sent links to the online ballot. Members for whom we do not have current email addresses or who request a paper ballot have been mailed a ballot and candidate statements. Learn More…