Elementary Science:
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Free Teaching Strategies

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This resource contains strategies appropriate for use across grade levels and learning styles to help you activate students’ prior knowledge, reinforce a variety of literacy skills, and give students an opportunity to self-assess at the end of an activity or investigation.
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Prior Knowledge Strategies

KWL – Knowing, Wondering, Learning

A KWL chart is a teaching strategy used to activate prior knowledge. Use chart paper and make a three-column graphic organizer as illustrated in the example below. Students brainstorm everything they know about a topic. The teacher records this information in the “K” column. All student responses should be accepted and recorded. In the “W” column, the teacher should record what students want to find out about the topic. A KWL chart is a working document that should be referred to daily throughout the unit so new information can be added or misconceptions can be corrected as appropriate. This chart should be posted in the classroom where it is easily accessible and visible at all times. At the conclusion of the unit, revisit the KWL to correct any misconceptions that were listed under the “K” column and to fill out the “L” column with all the new information students learned.

K. What I Know W. What I Want to Know L. What I Learned
(Student Responses) (Student Responses) (Student Responses)
K. What I Know
(Student Responses)
W. What I Want to Know
(Student Responses)
L. What I Learned
(Student Responses)
KLEW – Knowing, Learning, Evidence, Wondering

A KLEW chart is a teaching strategy used to activate prior knowledge. Use chart paper and make a four-column graphic organizer as illustrated in the example below. Students brainstorm everything they know about a topic. The teacher records this information in the “K” column. All student responses should be accepted and recorded. The “L” column and the “E” column should be filled out at the same time. The “L” column should reflect what students learn as the unit progresses, and the “E” column should support these statements with evidence. A KLEW chart is a working document that should be referred to daily throughout the unit to add information or correct misconceptions as appropriate. This chart should be posted in the classroom where it is easily accessible and visible at all times. At the conclusion of the unit, use the KLEW chart as a tool to review the unit and then add to the “W” column what students are wondering now.

(Sample Format)

K. What do we think we know? L. What are we learning? E. What is our evidence? W. What are we wondering?
(Student Responses) (Student Responses) (Student Responses) (Student Responses)
K. What do we think we know?
(Student Responses)
L. What are we learning?
(Student Responses)
E. What is our evidence?
(Student Responses)
W. What are we wondering?
(Student Responses)
KWL Q & A Map

Draw a large circle in the center of a piece of chart paper. Write what the students think they know about the topic in the circle. Draw lines radiating out from the original circle and slightly smaller circles at the end of each line. On the lines write what they want to find out. In the circles at the end of the line fill in the answers as the unit progresses.

T-chart Before and After

Lead a brainstorming session in which students generate questions about a new unit of study. Draw a two-column chart (t-chart) on your front board or chart paper. Record questions under the left column labeled “What I Want to Know.” As the unit progresses, students record answers to the questions under the right column labeled “What I Know Now.”

Prediction Walk

Copy key phrases and concepts from a unit of study onto index cards. Write one statement on each card. Make enough cards so every student has a different statement. Divide students into groups of three to four. Students walk around the classroom and share statements with each other. They should try to remember as much as possible, but they may not take any notes. Allow three to five minutes for students to walk around and share information before they return to their groups. Students should discuss what they learned from each other. Distribute a sheet of chart paper and markers to each group. Students record predictions about what they think the unit will be about. Lead a class discussion, permitting groups to share predictions. Discuss similarities and differences. Display the predictions in the classroom and revisit them as the unit unfolds.

Word Toss

Write four to six key words from an upcoming lesson on strips of an overhead transparency. Scatter the words on to the overhead projector so the students can read them in random order. Students work in groups of two to three to collaboratively write a sentence that reflects how the words are related. Lead a class discussion in which groups share sentences. Discuss similarities and differences.

List and Share

Students work independently to brainstorm words or phrases associated with a new topic. Lists should be recorded in science journals. Lead a class discussion where each student shares a fact about the topic. If students have the same fact they should mark it with a check. If it is a new fact, they should add it to their list. Students continue sharing facts until all have been read. Record facts on chart paper or front board as they are read for students to use as a model.

Anticipation Guide
Before Statement After
AgreeDisagree A balance scalemeasures mass. AgreeDisagree
Before
AgreeDisagree
Statement
A balance scalemeasures mass.
After
AgreeDisagree

Write 6-10 statements central to an upcoming unit of study. Statements should be a combination of true and false or fact and opinion. Make a ‘Before’ column and an ‘After’ column next to each statement. Copy for students as needed. Students answer agree or disagree for each statement. Anticipation Guides should be filled out once at the beginning of the unit and once at its conclusion. Compare student responses pre and post unit.

Pros, Cons, What I Wish

Generate a question that is central or related to a unit of study. Write the question across the top of a piece of chart paper. Divide the rest of the paper into three columns. Write “Pros” in the first column, “Cons” in the second column, and “Wish” in the third column.

Sample Question: What if I were a magnet?

Pros Cons Wish
I could stick myselfto the refrigerator. Everywhere I walked metalobjects would stick to me. I wish I couldmake a magnet.
Cons

Pros
I could stick myself to the refrigerator.
Everywhere I walked metal objects would stick to me.
Wish
I wish I could make a magnet.

Literacy Skills Strategies

To The Top ↑Fluency

Practice and Recite

Students choose a short passage, poem, or riddle related to a unit of study and practice reading it out loud independently. Students recite their piece of literature to the teacher or the whole class as appropriate.

To The Top ↑Main Idea and Supporting Details

Main Idea & Word Match

Write 2-3 related main ideas from a passage or unit of study and several supporting vocabulary words for each. Students sort vocabulary words and match them to the appropriate main idea.

Main Idea & Picture Match

Write 2-3 related main ideas from a passage or unit of study and find or draw several supporting pictures for each. Students sort pictures and match them to the main idea.

To The Top ↑Cause and Effect

What Happened?

Generate ideas that fit into each of the three categories in the table below. Students use this table to organize the cause and effect relationships.

We started with… This is what caused… …this to happen
a puddle of water heat from the sun the puddle evaporated
We started with…
a puddle of water
This is what caused…
heat from the sun
…this to happen
the puddle evaporated
Match It

Generate a list of cause and effect relationships and organize them into two columns. Students match the causes with their corresponding effects.

T-Chart

Lead a class discussion, and allow students to brainstorm examples of cause and effect relationships. Record responses on chart paper. Fill in an example “effect.” Students should generate potential causes. Record responses. Fill in an example “cause.” Students should generate potential effects. Record responses. Display chart in the classroom where students can refer to it as needed.

(Sample Format)

Cause Effect
I added ice cubes to hot water The ice cubes melted.
Cause
I added ice cubes to hot water
Effect
The ice cubes melted.
Signal Words

Display a word bank of cause and effect signal words/phrases. Explain that these are clue words that help identify cause and effect relationships. Choose a passage from a science text and project it so the class can read it together. Students start by reading the text and looking for the words independently. Next, the teacher should read the passage out loud and stop when a signal word is located. Discuss the cause and effect relationship identified. Make a two-column chart and record the example.

Find It

Choose a reading passage that offers multiple examples of cause and effect relationships. Project the passage on the front board using a document camera or a prepared overhead transparency. Read the passage once through out loud. Read the passage out loud again as the students listen specifically for cause and effect relationships. Read the passage a third time and ask the students to stop you by raising a hand when you read a cause and effect relationship. Student should come up to the board and identify the cause and effect relationship by underlining the cause and circling the effect.* Continue through the passage until all cause and effect relationships have been identified.

*Students can write directly on the front board with a dry erase marker or on the overhead projector using an overhead marker.

If…Then Statements

Facilitate a whole group discussion during which students practice writing “If…then” statements. Write an “If” statement as an example on your front board. Students brainstorm as many possibilities as they can think of to complete the sentence. Record responses. Repeat with examples as needed. Write a “then” statement example on the front board. Students brainstorm as many possibilities as they can think of to complete the sentence. Record student responses. Repeat with examples as needed. Students should record completed sentences in science journals. This method demonstrates how a single cause can have many effects as well as a single effect may have many causes.

Completed statement example:

If I drop a raw egg on the floor………………..then it will break open.

To The Top ↑Writing Skills

Character Traits

(Sample Format)

Character’s Name Character Trait Evidence
Max curious Max asked several questions throughout the story.
Evidence

Character’s Name
Max
Character Trait
curious
Max asked several questions throughout the story.
Narrative Writing in Nonfiction

Generate a word bank of science terms from a unit of study. Students use the vocabulary to write a narrative story. Students should be careful to use the science terms in context but the intent of the assignment is to inspire a creative story that is centered around the concepts being learned.

Idioms

As students broaden their use of figurative language in this customized lesson for the motion unit, idioms should be defined and explained.

To The Top ↑Compare and Contrast

H-Map

This graphic organizer provides a visual representation of the similarities and differences of two objects. Students draw a large H in their journals. Characteristics that are unique to each individual object are listed down the vertical strikes of the H, whereas characteristics that the objects have in common are listed across the horizontal strike of the H.

Venn Diagram

A Venn Diagram is a type of diagram that uses circles to compare objects. Venn Diagrams help us sort objects into groups and make it easy to see how things are alike and how they are different. Students draw two large overlapping circles. Characteristics that the objects have in common are listed in the overlapping section of the circles, and characteristics that are unique to each individual object are listed in the outside sections of the circles.

Similarities and Differences

Generate a list of paired words from your unit of study. Students work in pairs to identify one similarity and one difference for each pair.

To The Top ↑Categorize and Classify

Name Me Five…

Generate four to six categories that can be applied to a unit of study. Students list five original examples for each category using words or pictures as appropriate.

Sort the Groups

Generate a list of words associated with a unit of study, and then make some category labels for these words. Copy the list and distribute so the students can cut out and manipulate the words. Students work with a partner to categorize the words into labeled groups. Students glue the words onto construction paper when completed and add original examples using words or pictures as appropriate.

Categorizing Objects T-chart

Generate a list of objects and two category headings. Students use a t-chart to place the objects into the correct group.

ABC Grid

Students brainstorm words or pictures of objects associated with a topic that start with each letter of the alphabet.

To The Top ↑Vocabulary

Drawing the Words

Fold construction paper to make squares. Students fill the squares with pictures that represent each vocabulary word.

Vocabulary Index Cards

Students use large index cards to complete this strategy.

In the center of the card, write the vocabulary word in large letters.

In the upper left hand corner, write the definition.

In the upper right hand corner, write a synonym.

In the lower left hand corner, write the part of speech.

In the lower right hand corner, draw a picture or symbol that represents the word.

Cloze Activity: Vocabulary

Choose a paragraph or passage related to a unit of study. Copy with a few key vocabulary words omitted, and leave blanks where the words were. Copy for students as needed. Students use a word bank and work with partners to fill in the blanks with vocabulary words.

Analogies

Analogies are comparison statements that highlight relationships between objects or words that may appear to have nothing in common. Use analogies to reinforce and assess relationships between vocabulary words or key concepts.

Example: Up is to down as above is to _________. (over, below)

Vocabulary Draw It!

Students work in teams to guess which vocabulary word a team member has drawn. Students use definitions on index cards for assistance. When a team guesses correctly, a point is awarded. If a team guesses incorrectly, the other team has a chance to steal a point by correctly identifying the vocabulary word depicted.

Recorded Vocabulary Words

Record each word and its definition on an audio cassette tape or other device. Students listen to the vocabulary words and definitions using headphones as part of a center. Include picture examples of each word when appropriate.

Vocabulary Categories

Students use the graphic organizer to place new vocabulary words into the appropriate categories.

(Sample Format)

I Know These Words I Know These Words a Little I Do Not Know These Words
(student responses) (student responses) (student responses)
I Know These Words
(student responses)
I Know These Words a Little
(student responses)
I Do Not Know These Words
(student responses)
To The Top ↑

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