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Recording Data

My students are in full, “we are tired of winter” mode. When that comes on it produces lots of interesting side effects.  One that has appeared this year is a dip in their attention to detail when recording data.

I often provide the data recording charts and that seems to help. If I continually provide these charts they do not learn how to construct their own. When asked to design their own experiment many of the students do well with procedures and variables and struggle with data recording methods. It is easy to teach student how to format a chart and a bit more difficult to guide them to what specific data might be important to record. Your detail oriented kids will try to record everything and your less organized kids will record only the easy data.

To combat the dreaded data recording dip I am going through a mini-unit on data gathering this week. The best way to begin is to have students record and report some data. I allow them to select. Some will record calories consumed, others will look for something more creative like number of steps taken by 4 different students (pedometers are handy here), or even daily temperature each hour. There are literally thousands of ideas. Some students did need help with selection.

Data is a great interdisciplinary topic as the social studies, English, math, art, music and physical education teachers can all collaborate on lessons about collecting and analyzing data. Children’s books allow students to rate the excitement or fear in the book from sub chapter to chapter. This is a good way to introduce a Likert scale.

http://changingminds.org/explanations/research/measurement/likert_scale.htm

Scales like this are useful in gauging ranges of data that change over time and may not have an easy numeric value to record. The scale allows us to record that data.

Most of the data activities on the web come from mathematics. Do not discount the value of those lessons for science. At one site there is a math lesson on exponential growth that uses invasive weeds or world population. Those are certainly science related and make use of exceptional math resources to help the students with their data skills.

http://score.kings.k12.ca.us/lessons/growth/growth1.html

The SCORE mathematics web site has a host of good lessons. Most are math but click onto the lesson to discover the tight ties to science in many.

http://score.kings.k12.ca.us/stat.data.prob.html

There are all sorts of graphs out there and some are fun but not as useful. One site has some great sentence strip activity ideas for group graphing and a fun but not as useful 3d graph using sand and soda bottles. Still, the site is chock full of ideas.

http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=7810

The Kid Zone has a “create a Graph” application that will help kids at school or at home.

http://nces.ed.gov/nceskids/graphing/Classic/

Often the template or format you use to record data can help show the patterns in the data. Likewise, a poorly selected chart can make the patterns difficult to see. That selection process is difficult to teach. However, with more experience students will become more skilled in asking the right questions that lead to good chart selection. So, increasing the activities in which charts are necessary will help students with a host of thinking skills.

Charts are easy to make and use in MS word or almost any word processing program. I have a host of formats available as templates so the students can look at different ways of recording and displaying data. It is not the format that matters but the decisions the students make when they look at their variables and decide what is important and what makes the most sense. Often this process will require that the student have the opportunity to revise their data tables. This almost always happens after one group speaks to another. So, to keep that conversation in the mix I ask two groups to collaborate as “critical friends”.

The first time the two groups share their data with each other I like to listen in and give them some sort of sharing “protocol”. Lots of places call these “tuning Protocols”. They consist of a format where one group is given the opportunity to speak without interruption for a bit of time. Then, the folks who were asked to listen in the first part of the protocol get a chance to respond to what they heard without interruption. This format forces kids to listen more carefully.

One of the best descriptions of one of these “tuning Protocols” is on the Minneapolis Schools web site.

http://opd.mpls.k12.mn.us/Tuning.html

So, my kids will put on their miners hats this month and begin to mine their data for patterns and answers to meaty questions. The mining will be so much easier to use when we have taken the time to make good decisions about recording and displaying data.

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