Graphing Motion: A Day In the Life of . . . (AIG IRP)
Within the physical science strand of 7th grade science, students focus on the motion of objects. In this task, students assume the role of a xenobiologist and explain the motion of a fictional organism over a given time period. Students will then trade narratives and graphs and are challenged to identify the graph based on the information provided in the fictional narrative. Students will critique the accuracy of each other’s graph-based narratives. The interdisciplinary and writing aspects of this lesson allow students to build meaningful connections among curricula while promoting creativity and 21st Century Skills. This lesson was developed by NCDPI as part of the Academically and/or Intellectually Gifted Instructional Resources Project. This lesson plan has been vetted at the state level for standards alignment, AIG focus, and content accuracy.
Brief Description of Lesson/Task/Activity: Within the physical science strand of 7th grade science, students focus on the motion of objects. In this task, students assume the role of a xenobiologist and explain the motion of a fictional organism over a given time period. Students will then trade narratives and graphs and are challenged to identify the graph based on the information provided in the fictional narrative. Students will critique the accuracy of each other’s graph-based narratives. The interdisciplinary and writing aspects of this lesson allow students to build meaningful connections among curricula while promoting creativity and 21st Century Skills.
Time Frame: 2 class periods (120 minutes)
Type of Differentiation for AIGs:
Adaptations for AIGs:
Explanation of How Resource is Appropriate for AIGs: AIG students in the middle grades often are advanced in mathematical reasoning skills. As a result, they quickly grasp the concept of line slope in relation to speed and position. To challenge these students, it is necessary to engage them in novel ways to examine graphs. Explanatory writing is essential in advanced courses (AP sciences, etc.), so any opportunity to develop this skill is beneficial to AIG students. Self and peer assessment using defined criteria also further develops the metacognitive and evaluative/evidentiary reasoning abilities of these students.
- 2 Position-Time graphs with teacher-prepared narrative statements (see attached)
- Graph Paper for student use in creating graphs and writing fictional narratives
- Index cards for student narratives
- Rubric for self/peer assessment
Sources: The Science Education for Public Understanding Program’s “Motion and Forces” module contains an example on which this engagement activity is based. In that instance, students are traveling by car to/from school.
Teacher Notes: Some prerequisite knowledge/skills are required. Students should have previously demonstrated success at interpreting distance-time graphs and calculating the speed of an object using either the speed formula (s=d/t) or the formula to determine the slope of a line (m=y2-y1/x2-x1) aka “rise over run.” Students should also understand the differences between distance-time graphs and position-time graphs prior to the end of the engagement activity.
Stage 1: Engage
Provide AIG students with the two position-time graphs. Explain that each graph represents a student’s movement as he or she goes to science class. Challenge students to identify which graph is which based on the provided narrative statements that describe the students’ locations, speeds, and speed changes at different time periods. Students should label the different line segments with the corresponding letter of each narrative. One statement for each graph uses that fictional student’s name to allow students to state their final conclusions.
See attachments for graphs and narratives.
Stage 2: Elaborate
Project the position-time graphs in such a manner for all students to view. Ask volunteers to identify the line segments for each of the narrative statements that they have chosen. As students respond, encourage them to explain their reasoning for their choices by referring directly to the graph and/or narrative evidence. The teacher should note and address any misconceptions or errors in reasoning before students move to the next step.
Explain to students that they will be completing a RAFT activity. They will be assuming the Role of a xenobiologist, a scientist who studies alien life. The Audience for the activity will be other xenobiologists (their classmates). The Format will be a “Field Notes” narrative and a graph “key.” The Topic will be recording and explaining the motion of the alien organism.
As students begin to organize their ideas, the teacher may want to pose the following guiding questions:
- “What does this organism look like and how does it move—does it walk on legs, swim, or fly? This has no bearing on the graph, but gives students a starting point for their narratives.
- “What would this organism encounter that would cause it to slow down? Why?”
- “What would this organism encounter that would cause it to speed up? Why?”
- “What would cause this organism to stop moving entirely? Why?”
- “What would cause this organism to leave its home? Why?”
- “What would cause this organism to return to its home? Why?”
Some students may choose to write their narratives first, including information about the organism’s distance traveled, speed, speed changes, and position changes and why these changes occurred, and then create the graph points accordingly. Other students may prefer to plot an interesting-looking graph first and then write the narrative explanation. Either process is acceptable to create the final product—a narrative describing the organism’s motion and an accompanying “key” graph.
Provide students with a rubric to self-assess their narratives and graphs to promote success. Important rubric elements for the narrative and graph include:
- At least three significant changes in the organism’s speed with appropriate accompanying explanations
- At least one significant change in the organism’s straight-line direction (ie leaving its home, returning home) with appropriate accompanying explanations
- -At least three speed calculations, which should represent instantaneous speed, a constant speed for a segment, and an average speed for the entire period that the organism is being observed
- Both the X- and Y-axis are labeled appropriately
- Graph increments remain consistent and are correctly labeled along each axis
- The graph is appropriately sized for easy interpretation by the reader.
Stage 3: Evaluate
Provide each student graph and narrative with unique matching identifiers before collection. After collection, redistribute the narratives in such a manner as to prevent a student from receiving back his/her own work and place the graphs in an easily viewed area. Depending on the number of students participating (cluster/whole class/etc.), groups of four may be swapped to narrow the number of graph choices viewed at once or students may gallery-walk the potential graphs.
Depending on teacher preference, students should provide written or verbal reasoning for their graph choices to allow for teacher assessment of student understanding. Students should also assess their peers using the same rubric as was used earlier for self-assessment. Peer assessments may be used by the teacher to determine student understanding (of both the assessor and creator) or may be a used in peer-to-peer discussions for continuous improvement.
Teacher Notes: A modification to shorten the length of time for this lesson to one class (60 minutes) would be to provide existing graphs for students to use for their narratives.