WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?
Conversations with Students
Water Works For Us!
To answer these questions, please write one to two sentences OR draw a picture to show your thinking.
How does water influence your life?
How do you think people 100 years ago used water?
Where did you get your ideas?
As I am in a school that is in Fairfax County, I was unable to record the conversation with my students. Additionally, asking them orally wasn’t really an option because the time allotted for the activity did not allow for it. As this classroom always seems to be fast paced, I had prepared a response sheet with multiple questions on it for the students to answer about my unit topic, water. As I am in second grade, I knew going into it that the students would have only very basic knowledge about water, so I tried to make the questions quite simple. Creating these questions was difficult because I knew that no matter how I worded them, they might not come up with the answers I was looking for; however, that is the whole point of this activity, to see what the students’ baseline knowledge about the topic at hand is.
I was able to have six students fill out my student response sheet, which they completed during the math block after they had finished their work. I was just to give the response sheets to the first six students who finished early; I was surprised to find that many of the workers who didn’t finish early were eager to also participate in the WATT response. Many asked me to bring it next week for them to work on! Although the student responders were not sitting next to one another, I noticed that they all have very similar answers to the questions. For the first question, “How does water influence your life?” I was hoping that students would think about all the ways that water everyday, which is fairly generic and open ended. I was surprised to find that many of the students only thought about water as a source of hydration, something their body uses, and didn’t consider that boats and ships water to move. However, I assume that they learned about water as a “healthy” part of nutrition in first grade, and that’s why they wrote that.
The second question, “How do you think people 100 years ago used water?” was fairly more specific to my unit, which focuses on how water features influenced the development of Virginia. Since many of the students didn’t grow up in Virginia, I didn’t want to make it specific to Virginia, rather to have them think about ways water might have been used differently than we do today. These responses varied a bit in topic; one student responded to the question by saying “with glass tubes”. Although this doesn’t directly have to do with the point of the question, it’s fair to say that he actually did think about how things might have different back then. He was thinking about the ways people might have collected water. Two students said that people 100 years ago “used” or “drank water from the ocean”, which again means that they understand that people 100 years ago weren’t going to the store and buying bottles of water. Pretty cool to see that they understand that things weren’t always the way they are now! One student wrote, “I predict yes”, which means to me that perhaps he misread the question, thinking that it instead said, “Do you think people 100 years ago used water?”
The purpose of the final question, “Where did you get your ideas from?” was to try and get students to think about and label how they learned the material they shared with me. I was hoping that they would say something about learning the information from first grade or kindergarten. However, one of the math SOL’s for 2nd grade is predicting patterns, so the students have been taught that when you don’t know something you can “predict” an answer, which is just a guess. The teacher has them do this every day at the beginning of their math segment, so I really wasn’t surprised that the students had these types of answers (this is how they have been trained to think J).
This was a pretty cool experience, because I didn’t really know what to expect. Each student has very different schema from their own life experiences, and so I had thought I would have gotten very different answers from students. However, I think this was a good formative assessment to find out which students have what type of schema what major points of the topic you are planning to teach need to be addressed. While planning this unit, I will be sure to include something similar to this in the first lesson as a way to assess what the students know about water and the many different ways that it is used. I will be sure to include a next-day class discussion about the results of the response sheets and encourage the students to think a bit deeper (boats, ships, fishing, etc.) to try and get them to use their schema to come up with more specific ideas how water is used today in comparison to how it was used 100 years ago.