Vocabulary Solutions: A Mixture of Science, Conversation, and Writing
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This lesson begins with students investigating mixtures and solutions in a science experiment. Afterward, students take part in shared writing to describe the experiment in their own words. They then acquire and apply new vocabulary by reading informational texts and revising to include content specific terminology and accurate science concepts. Finally, students reflect on new words added to their writing using the Trading Card Creator interactive.
- Brainstorming Handout: Groups of students use this handout to think about ways to approach the task of separating the mixture.
- Sample Shared Writing before Vocabulary Introduction: This handout provides an example of the writing students might produce together after working through the experiment.
Sample Shared Writing after Vocabulary Introduction: This handout provides an example of the shared writing task revised after content-specific vocabulary is introduced. Additions are in red.
From Theory to Practice
This lesson uses a shared experience to ignite discussion and conversation. From this language rich environment, writing is linked to the content areas, breaking out of the literacy block and into other parts of the day. Fisher & Frey (2013) contend that “writing cannot be limited to the literacy block if students are to succeed” (96). By incorporating language arts into the subject of science, students will see the need for conversation and revision as a way to comprehend and later explain technical terms. Fisher & Frey (2014) also state, “vocabulary instruction should leverage interactions between teacher, student, and text such that students are continually growing in their ability to describe, explain, and query” (598).
They go on to suggest that teachers “encourage students to apply academic vocabulary within the context of co-constructed knowledge” (Fisher & Frey, 2014; 598). By talking about the experiment and writing together, there is an emphasis on oral language development and interaction between students and teacher as students are given more opportunities to discuss concepts and create schema to connect to new vocabulary words.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
- Materials for the mixture (water, sand, plastic counters, paper clips, salt clear plastic tub)
- Tools for separating the mixture (magnet, coffee filter, cup, glass jar, rubber band, aluminum foil)
- Properties of Matter by Gregory K. George
- Chart paper
- White board
- Computer with Internet access
This Chem4Kids article may be substituted for the suggested book, Properties of Matter by Gregory K. George, if it is unavailable.
- Consult the and read over the Science Experiment Teacher Instructions to prepare the experiment. Obtain and set out materials for the experiment described.
- Locate and read the book Properties of Matter by Gregory K. George, the Solutions and Mixtures article from Chem4Kids, or a chapter from a fourth grade science textbook explaining mixtures and solutions. Note vocabulary words such as mixture, solution, solute, solvent, and solubility as you read.
- Make copies of all necessary handouts.
- Bookmark the Trading Card Creator on student computers and familiarize yourself with the tool. If necessary, download the Flash plug-in from the Technical Support page.
Students will be able to
- brainstorm solutions to a problem and predict the outcome.
- compose a shared writing through discussion and offer revisions containing more precise academic vocabulary.
- write a reflection on the experience.
- Present a demonstration by mixing together sand, salt, water, paper clips and plastic counters in a clear plastic tub. Pose the following question to students to begin the conversation: “How could we separate this mixture?”
- Divide the class into groups and distribute the Brainstorming Handout. Ask them to make a plan to separate the sand, salt, water, paper clips, and plastic counters using the materials listed, providing scratch paper or marker boards to allow students to brainstorm. If students are having trouble, reference the Science Experiment Teacher Instructions to guide students to separate each object. Use questions such as “How could a coffee filter be used to separate? A magnet? The aluminum foil?” and so on.
- Once students have created a plan and discussed in groups, gather them around the demonstration to discuss their plans and try out their ideas for separating the mixture. Call on students from each group to offer suggestions about how to separate the mixture and allow them to try in front of the class.
- Guide students to focus on the goal of separating each component of the mixture using the magnet, coffee filter, aluminum foil, and their hands.
- When students have removed everything but the salt and water solution ask questions such as
- Where do you think salt comes from?
- What happens to water after it rains?
- Where do all the puddles go?
- If students struggle at this point, tell them they can keep thinking. Set the jar of salt water solution by a sunny window. (Alternatively, have students wet a paper towel with the salt water solution and observe what happens once the water evaporates.) After time has passed, observe any differences.
- Call the students up to the white board to discuss what happened in the previous session, including their observations about evaporation. As a class, consider what kind of composition to write and who the audience will be. In this lesson the class will write a report for another student or class to explain what they learned in science.
- Try to involve all students to collaborate by having them turn and talk to recount steps, procedures, materials, and so forth. As students then share their ideas, help them negotiate language that is as precise as possible at this point. As appropriate, introduce or review sequence of events with students as each step of the experiment is retold in order. See the Sample Shared Writing before Vocabulary Introduction for an idea of what students might write. For additional ideas to support shared writing, see the Shared Writing Strategy Guide.
- Explain to students that in this session, they will be returning to the shared writing from the previous session. In preparation, read aloud the text Properties of Matter by Gregory K. George, the Solutions and Mixtures article from Chem4Kids, or another science text that teaches about mixtures and solutions.
- Call attention the vocabulary: mixtures, solutions, solutes, and solvents. Encourage students to make connections between the text and the science experiment. Possible questions to ask may include
- What is the difference between a mixture and a solution?
- What did we mix together in our experiment?
- Was anything in our experiment considered a solution?
- Allow students to process and expand on the ideas in the text in relation to the experiment. When students begin to make connections, use prompts such as “Why do you think that?” and “Did everyone hear that important point?”
- Then turn students’ attention to the materials list from the shared writing from the previous session and ask them which vocabulary words could be assigned to each item. Guide the discussion with questions such as
- What dissolved in our experiment like a solute?
- What was the solvent or what did the solute dissolve into?
- What items were in the mixture?
- After identifying some of the vocabulary words in the materials reread the shared writing together to review and revise as necessary. Ask students how the new vocabulary words could fit into the writing. Ask questions such as
- Which part of the experiment refers to the solution?
- Which items were combined together to make a mixture?
- What is the solute in our experiment?
- Which item has the most solubility? The least?
- Revise as necessary and reread together guiding students through the writing process. See the Sample Shared Writing after Vocabulary Introduction for an idea for what revision might entail.
- Now that students have written with the class and the teacher, they can show what they know with their own writing. First students will create trading cards to reflect upon vocabulary learned during this experiment using the student interactive Trading Card Creator. Students will need to select the category of the vocabulary term being defined, which in this lesson would be Physical Objects. It would be a good idea to do one trading card together to model how to answer the questions.
- Next students will need to enter one of the words from the science experiment: solute, solvent, solution, or mixture. Describe the vocabulary word using the five senses. Guide students to reflect on how the salt (solute) felt when they tried to separate it from the water (solvent).
- Ask students to describe a location or function for the vocabulary word being described. Start a discussion about where one might find salt and water solutions (e.g., the kitchen or the bathroom). Mixtures of nuts and bolts might be found in the garage, and so forth.
- Students will then answer what the use/effect of a solution is. Talk with students about how a solution of hot chocolate is for drinking or an eye solution is for contacts. Refer to examples of mixtures, solution, solutes, and solvents from the text or Mixtures and Solutions article from Chem4Kids.
- Students can then make a personal connection to the vocabulary word and select an image to finish the trading card.
- In preparation for the reflection, have students order their trading cards as they occurred in the experiment. Show them the chart from the shared writing as a refresher.
- Show students sequence words (first, next, then, after, finally) or transitional phrases such as once we put the sand in the bucket. Guide them how to use these in between each sequence and trading card.
- Finally, students can use the trading cards to write a reflection of this experiment detailing their understanding of mixtures, solutions, solutes, and solvents. Tell students to be sure to explain what makes sense to them now and what is still not understood.
- Share the expectations from the Reflection Rubric to help students understand the goals of the reflection.
- Once the shared writing is complete, consider brainstorming with students alternative writing assignments by changing the form of the writing or the audience (such as writing a letter to a friend in another class explaining our science experiment and outcome, or writing an acrostic poem using the word mixture or solution to describe the procedure of the experiment). Be sure to remind students to use specific vocabulary and concepts in their writing and to refer to the shared writing assignment as a resource.
- This lesson can be differentiated to include other possible mini lessons such as transition words, word choice, paragraphs, commas and appositives, leads and endings.
- This lesson involved a science experiment about mixtures and solutions but could easily be adapted to any shared experience. Shared writing can be used in any content area and would be an excellent vehicle for conversation using academic vocabulary words.
Student Assessment / Reflections
Use the Reflection Rubric to provide feedback on students' written reflections.