Third, fourth, and fifth grade students need many opportunities to participate in group activities. They like to work cooperatively and are most productive working this way. In addition, working on class projects builds a sense of unity and cohesiveness during these years.
Activities for third grade students should build on their keen interest in the natural world. Activities that integrate the ability to categorize are important. Centers at which students have opportunities to take things apart, discover how they work, and put them back together can be an effective and integral part of the third grade classroom.
Fourth grade students need teacher patience and understanding. During group work, fourth graders may argue about rules and facts. They may need opportunities and guidance in looking for the explanation of facts, how things work, and why things happen as they do. However, because these students are developing the ability to deal with more than one variable, they are able to think in terms of “if, then” questions. Activities that allow for scientific exploration provide fourth grade students the basis for a more solid understanding of scientific process.
Fifth graders are fundamentally interested in categorizing, seriation, and ordering, as well as in collections and their organization. Exactness and organization are fifth graders’ strengths. This is a prime time to teach about biological classification and simple genetics. At this age, the use of scientific tools (balances, microscopes) can be successfully introduced. In addition, students can begin to understand the value of repeating experiments, isolating variables, and using multiple attributes to describe phenomena. Teachers can leverage fifth graders’ enjoyment of memorization by selecting facts for study that can be applied to broader understandings. Students should be given numerous opportunities to apply this knowledge to solve problems.
Text modified from Making Connections: A Guide to Implementing Science Standards © California Science Teachers Association. 1999. All rights reserved.