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Misconceptions In the Science Classroom

In science,  I notice my K through fifth grade students often times have many misconceptions. Often they might say to me that they have learned something from mom or dad or they saw something on TV,  however when they are told they are wrong often times students have a really hard time giving up these misconceptions. Especially if they’ve had these misunderstandings for a long time or they trust their mom and dad which they should. What we need to remember that it is most important to not point out that they are wrong, we need to focus on helping students obtain the correct knowledge in order to see why their original belief needed more evidence, just like real scientists do.  

Let me share last week's question, "How do we have day and night?" You can only imagine what second graders would say...so I wrote them down.

*the earth moves around the sun
*when we go to sleep we don't see it
*the moon is there and blocks the sun and we see the moon
*its light then dark (when asked why, they couldn't quite get it)

These are just a few fun answers that I got. We typically make an anchor chart with our ideas down or write it down on the board. I might even start with a simple see saw question they answer as I set up supplies now that I am on a cart in each room. We write down the ideas that we come up with, then we discuss how real scientists may start out with an idea or a belief and through scientific investigations, they might come up with another answer or what they originally thought might be wrong. I ask them, "Is that okay if our first idea is proven to be a misconception?" and as we work on knowing it's okay to be wrong or predict incorrectly they all chime in "Yes!" 

To finish up our lesson, I also create an anchor chart with the correct information on it, as well as visual representations. This will help them process what they learned. We even go back to our predictions and our original ideas. 

 What is a misconception. Well it’s a preconceived notion that a person has about a topic that goes against what is generally excepted in science and in the science community. How can these misconceptions happen? It might be an observation they make on their own in the natural world. It might be because of religious beliefs that disagree with Science. It might be that they’re so young that they haven’t even had a chance to have this topic come up in their life. And it might be that they have had this misconception due to Family members believing something that they were taught when they were younger and they pass that down generation to generation. So how do we S educators replace versus misconceptions with new correct ideas. This can be our often challenging and difficult. Today I will give you three ways that you can help your students understand the science behind a given topic in your classroom. First: you can set up a nickel spearmint and before you show the students the activity you can have them predict what they might see this is where you’ll find students have these misconceptions that are willing to share with you what they believe they know. You may ask what do you think will happen why do you think that will happen what experiences do you have that might give you that idea? Second: now it’s time to show students the science experiment through hands-on activities and their own experimentation. 

So how do we deal with misconceptions in the science classroom? That is a really good question.  Here are three quick tips to help you out.

Idea #1: 

1.Pose a question. Ask them to predict before they start. Then you can do this by giving students materials and having them set up an experiment that you give them as individuals or as a team they may find the answers on their own. When they are done, have them reflect on their thinking and share out. 

Idea #2: 

2. You may also do demonstrations which are great way for students in a large group to see and understand through your delivery this is what we call teacher lead, but inquiry-based learning really allow students to be able to get a better grasp of misconceptions because they’re doing it on their own it’s much more effective.  Just remember make sure you do not tell students they are wrong that is not an effective way to have students better understand a science concept. Students need to learn that mistakes are part of learning. We don't want them shutting down before we even start. I have had to do quite a few more demonstrations due to COVID, and even though it isn't my favorite way to have students understand a concept, it seems to be working virtually and in person. 

Idea #3:

3. Being able to address these misconceptions in your classroom in a discovery based way, allows for student learning it also lets them create an environment where they can be informed and be able to critically think about their role in the world. 

Idea #4:

4. Another way to deal with misconceptions is to be able to have students participate in research-based activities this will allow them to create their own knowledge and can be later backed up by your demonstration and student led conversation about what they’ve learned. They can produce visual representations or they can be able to showcase their learning through an experiment that they demonstrate to the group. 

Often times our students are nervous about sharing what they believe they know which doesn’t allow us to be able to see what their background knowledge is on a certain topic one way that you can go around this is my giving a pretest in order to directly assess what misconceptions your students hold. You can also probe for misconceptions by simply having a class conversation which will engage them in their learning through questioning.  Either way you’ll be able to allow yourself to observe those misconceptions and be able to focus better on the topics you need to cover in your classroom.

Getting supplies ready for the next week, all set for one to one learning. Let's see what they think about why we have seasons...

So what did I do about teaching day and night? I asked the question, did a demonstration, and then we made a hands-on model. We then acted like the earth as a flashlight/light was the sun! Once done, we posted what we learned in see saw. Here is the see saw code for your free download: See Saw Day and Night Activity and Review Free Resource HERE

Grab your free one page resource for your model with your students HERE!

Here are some great digital resources to help you on this topic.

I can help any night and day to bring Science and STEM to you! 

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