8th Grade Graphing Skills: less rubbish than I thought

September 3, 2011 at 8:11 AM 1 comment

It’s accepted wisdom that kids are terrible at graphing and every year, we teach ‘The Rules of Graphing’ again. But what do they really know and remember about this important science skill? Thought I’d find out with this activity (plus teach how to graph and interpret distance against time):

5. Silly Walks Dist vs Time graphs

I love finding a seriously silly way to do the dull stuff, or a scary, meaningful way.

Right now, I’m erring on the side of silly. I know I am because a parent commented after Back to School Night that watching Mythbusters was frivolous. True, although it WAS the toy car race against the Viper, similar to our last activity. But this takes it to a whole other level. To be followed by the Tortoise and Hare race with more playground chalk and running about with timers and clipboards.

After running the Ministry of Silly Walks from Monty Python and having the kids (well, and me) time their own silly walks, it was time to get down to graphing.

Bringing back what they already knew in to their working memory seems really key – similar to what the Concept Construxions card activity does. Then they start working together naturally at their tables and I circulate early on, to check they are getting it set up okay. Circulate another couple of times to give encouragement and coaching.

They bring their graphs to the circle around the white board and I can quickly eye-ball each one and give very quick feedback. Here’s the white board for the summary discussion – seemed very engaging for them to ‘spot the deliberate mistakes’ by talking with their neighbor and sharing out. Quite fun, and they got all of them.

Here’s the close up of the board:

The lead-in to slope of the distance vs time graph being the speed is what the fourth graph is about.

Bottom line, they knew, or almost knew, most of what they need to know about making graphs with a little reminding and coaching. I do not need to take a week to re-teach this, yay!

We’ll be practicing interpreting motion graphs with some textbook reading and examples, as well as the story of a graph with the upcoming “Trucker’s Tale” activity. I think it’s important to use the fun stuff as a way to funnel them in to the rigorous academics that they so need to be the engineers of the future. Engineers with a small e.

Graphing fun to share? Please do!

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Entry filed under: Critical Thinking, Data Analysis, Inquiry and critical thinking, Physics Topics, Starting the School Year. Tags: .

Pre-testing academic vocabulary interactively Expecting the Best

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