Newton's First Law: The Wheels on the Bus (AIG IRP)
Within the physical science strand of 7th grade science, students focus on the motion of objects. In this task, students will assume the role of school board members who must discuss and vote on the issue of including seatbelts in the district’s school buses. Students will read nonfiction passages regarding this issue to prepare for the board meeting that will take the form of a Socratic Seminar. Students will then individually cast their votes through written explanations of their decisions that reference the discussion and provided passages. The real-world and interdisciplinary aspects of this lesson allow students to build meaningful connections and promote the development of 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 will assume the role of school board members who must discuss and vote on the issue of including seatbelts in the district’s school buses. Students will read nonfiction passages regarding this issue to prepare for the board meeting that will take the form of a Socratic Seminar. Students will then individually cast their votes through written explanations of their decisions that reference the discussion and provided passages. The real-world and interdisciplinary aspects of this lesson allow students to build meaningful connections and promote the development of 21st Century Skills.
Time Frame: 120 minutes (~ 2 class meetings)
Type of Differentiation for AIGs:
Adaptations for AIGs:
Explanation of How Resource is Appropriate for AIGs: AIG students in the middle grades demand real-world examples of conceptual physics. In addition, AIG students need to develop evaluative skills when exposed to informational text and verbal discussions. The use of Socratic Seminar processes will assist these students as they focus on providing textual evidence to support/refute a point of view, as opposed to focusing on the individual expressing the point of view. Finally, written arguments based on evidence are a necessary skill in advanced courses (AP sciences, etc.), so this opportunity to further develop this skill will benefit AIG students.
- Pro/con articles on seat belt safety
- Rules/Procedures for Socratic Seminars
- Rubric to evaluate Socratic Seminar participation
- Rubric to evaluate final position paper
- This idea in an altered form was first developed for an MEd group project for UNC-CH EDUX 779 with Jose Garcia, Missy Ronches, and Bill Wade. Websites like the National Coalition for Seatbelts on School Buses- http://www.ncsbs.org/ and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - http://www.nhtsa.gov/School-Buses provide pro and con articles and information for the Socratic Seminar, as well as national news sites
- Socratic Seminar information and sample rubrics for evaluating student participation can be found at the National Paideia Center- http://www.paideia.org
Teacher Notes: Some prerequisite knowledge/skills are required. Students should have been previously exposed to Newton’s 1st Law in order to evaluate the scientific accuracy of the informational text provided. Students should also be able to mathematically evaluate the accuracy of probability and cost claims presented in the informational text provided. Providing the readings the day before the seminar will improve student questioning and responses, although students familiar with this process may be able to complete this lesson in one class meeting.
Stage 1: Engage
Share with students a current news article (unfortunately, there usually will be one within the last 1-2 years) about a child or children killed in a school bus accident. Choose one that is intentionally emotional, including quotes from parents, etc. Ask questions about the content of the article to ensure student comprehension. State that although this accident did not occur in this school district, fictitious local parents have asked the school board to consider the issue of seat belts on school buses. However, this news article only discusses this particular accident and its effect on its community and lacks the facts to inform the school board on this broader issue. As a result, different school board members have conducted internet research and located several articles.
Stage 2: Elaborate
Explain to students that they will be completing a RAFT activity. They will be assuming the Role of a school board member. The Audience will be the other school board members (other classmates). The Format will be a Socratic Seminar that will allow the school board to discuss the Topic – the different issues associated with seat belts on school buses – as well as a final individual vote with a written justification based on the discussion. If students do not have much prior experience with Socratic Seminars, explain the process and provide the necessary scaffolding/support for these procedures. Some teachers find that providing a limited number of “speaking chips” to each student provides a goal for more introverted students, while requiring extroverts to self-monitor and choose the times that they speak. Share the Seminar participation rubric with students (see Sources for examples). Explain that the purpose of this rubric is for individual students to receive feedback on their involvement for metacognitive growth, not for a grade. The graded portion of this assignment will be determined by the written vote rubric, which also should be provided ahead of time to students. This rubric should include the following elements:
- Written justification maintains the point of view of a school board member
- Contains a main idea sentence that explicitly states whether the board member is voting for or against requiring seatbelts in school buses in the district
- References at least three different pieces of evidence from the articles/Socratic Seminar to justify the vote
Provide each student with both a pro and a con article. Have students make notes on their copies using Post-It flags if the teacher wants to re-use these copies. Also, have students generate literal, interpretive, and evaluative questions in preparation for the Seminar, such as:
- Literal Question examples: How much does it cost to outfit or retrofit seatbelts on a school bus? How many students are injured in bus accidents each year? How many people are injured in all traffic accidents in each year? According to the article what purpose do the high seat backs serve on existing school buses? In what type of accidents are high seat backs more effective/less effective? What type of accident testing has/has not been done on school buses? According to the article, why is ____________ involved in this issue?
- Interpretive Question examples: How do parents’ views and priorities differ from federal & school officials’ views and priorities? Based on ________’s statement in the article, do you think s/he would wear a seat belt if it was provided—why or why not? What is ______’s purpose in making that statement? How is ______ using statistics to prove his or her point?
- Evaluative question examples: What piece of reasoning is most influential to how you will vote as a school board member? Which of the people involved in these articles do you think most/least deserves the title “expert”—why? If you were a student on a bus, would you now choose to wear/not wear a seat belt if it was provided—why or why not? Is ______’s statement designed to promote a logical or emotional response from the audience?
Review the procedures for the Socratic Seminar, including roles and expectations. Alter the room arrangement to facilitate the discussion.
Begin the Seminar and allow it to continue for the next 30-40 minutes. Encourage students to make notes of key points that they are interested in including in their vote justifications. Be prepared to redirect and maintain student focus through guided facilitation and inserting questions that have not yet been asked into the discussion. Conclude the Seminar with a short debrief that focuses on the content and the participation of the students. The teacher should also be explicit in making connections to the science concepts of forces, Newton’s Laws, and momentum to enable students to better understand the content focus behind this activity.
While the discussion is still fresh in students’ minds, allow them the last 15 minutes to determine their vote and write their justifications.
Stage 3: Evaluate
Using the peer-to-peer or other Socratic Seminar participation rubric, allow students to reflect on their strengths and areas of improvement for personal growth.
Use the voting rubric to assess student justification using evidence and reasoning. See above for criteria for this rubric.
Teacher Notes: Students and teachers who are familiar with the Socratic Seminar process may be able to modify this assignment to be completed in one 60-minute class period. It also may be tempting to shorten the time frame by only providing the pro article to one set of students and the con article to the others; however, providing different facts and details to different groups will lead to a debate in which students become more interested in proving their particular point of view, not a discussion in which all points of view are discussed and evaluated collaboratively.