National Teacher Enhancement Project

Teaching Examples

Fourth Grade Fifth Grade Middle School

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Mr. Britton's fourth grade class at Mohr Elementary School in Pleasanton, Mr. Smith's fifth grade class at Edison School in Pleasanton and Mr. Perrotta's eighth grade class at Cesar Chavez Middle School in Union City are creating a guide to help themselves and others make better choices when considering whether to engage in "risky" behavior.

Discussions like these introduce the classes to the concept of risk comparison and analysis. The students begin the unit and select a project to abalyze an activity in which they engage: What risks do they take and what is the probability of injury for that activity, based on research?

The students perform several background activities to understand the concept of probability and risk. In one activity, students roll dice and compare odds to determine ratios and probabilities. In another, students rate certain risks and determine the difference between voluntary and involuntary risks.

Fourth Grade Teaching Example

After the introductory work, students form groups of based on common interest, e.g., skateboarding or smoking, and begin work according to their research plan. Some groups work as a whole, others decide to break the task down into components and have individuals or partners work on pieces which the group puts back together. Groups also interact with groups from the other schools to compare and contrast areas of interest and working procedures. The teacher monitors progress, prodding some students, guiding others toward more productive work and asking questions. Students have instruction in Internet use and access to four computers in the classroom at all times and access to the computer lab with 20 computers linked to the Internet with T1 lines.

The students use available resources to gather data to help them evaluate how risky activities like skateboarding are. They find information readily available on the Internet from various government agencies, consumer groups, public interest groups and user groups. As the project continues, groups get back together to share information and resources. Where can the best information be found? What are good search strategies? Is information credible and accurate? What information are other students finding?

When the students have collected enough information, they are ready to evaluate, post and compare their data. What information should be included? Is it accurate and convincing? What is a good way to present it so it is clear and informative? The students must remember that they are looking at a picture bigger than their own interests. Teachers help students design Webpages and present information in a convincing and informative manner. As students finish, they post their pages on the Web.

In the final step students from the different schools get together to rate the riskiness of their activities and figure out how to present the results on the Internet. As a final assessment, they also work on process templates for risk assessment that could be used by any student anywhere in the country.

Work is posted on the Internet for all groups. Students look at their handiwork and discuss what they have learned and what they would like to learn next. Hopefully, students will be more willing to use technology to find information and use scientific thinking to make decisions.

Fifth Grade Teaching Example

After this brief introduction, the teacher tells students that they make "risky" decisions every day, whether they know it or not. The students ckeck out Websites where they can learn about the odds of getting injured in various activites and which activities are rated most dangerous. The students talk about their results with each other, and the teacher facilitates their Web searches with hints and troubleshooting. Students write down information about topics of interest.

Students think about behaviors they participate in that they have been told are risky. The class brainstorms lists of behaviors that may or may not be and share information they already know about those behaviors. Further discussions lead them to ponder the question of how "risk" is determined. Websites with mentors at Sandia National Lab are available to answer questions about how scientists assess risk and some of the projects they assess the risk of.

After the introductory work, students form groups, which may include telecollabrative groups, based on common interest, e.g., skateboarding or smoking, and begin work. Students investigate the risk factors with the understanding that all groups will come back together to develop a "RISK" table to help kids make better choices when evaluating risky behavior.

Some groups work as a whole, others decide to break the task into components and have individuals or partners work on tasks that the group will put together. Groups communicate with the groups from other schools to compare and contrast areas of interest and working procedures. The teacher monitors progress, prodding some students, guiding others toward more productive work and asking questions. Students already have instructionin the use of and access to two computers full-time in the classroom and further access to the computer lab with 16 computers linked to the Internet with T1 lines.

The students use available resources to gather data to evaluate how risky activities like skateboarding are. They find information readily available on the Internet from various government agencies, consumer groups, public interest groups like the American Heart Association, and user groups. As the project continues, groups get back together to share information and resources. Where is the best information to be found? What are good search strategies? Is all information credible and accurate? What kind of things are different age groups at the different schools finding?

When the students have collected enough information, they are ready to evaluate, post and compare their data. What information should be included? Is it accurate and convincing? What is a good way to present the data so it is clear and informative? Teachers help students design pages and present information in a convincing and informative mnner. The students must remember that they are looking at a picture bigger than their own interests. As students finish they post their pages on the Web.

In the final step, students from the different schools get together telecollaboratively to compare rates of risk from their investigations and figure out how to present them on the Internet. As a final assessment, they work on process templates for risk assessment that could be used by any student anywhere in the country.

All work is posted on the Internet for all groups to look at. Classrooms at the various schools look at their handiwork and discuss what they have learned and what they would like to learn next. Hopefully, students will now be much more willing to use technology to find information and use scientific thinking to make decisions.

Middle School Teaching Example

The teacher tells the students that they are all involved in daily risks, whether they know it or not. The students go to the computer lab where they check out Websites to learn about the odds of getting injured by various activities and which activities have the greatest risks. The teacher gives them several URLs to investigate then circulates around the computer lab which contains 32 Apple computers, all hooked up to the Internet with ISDN lines. The students are talking about their results with each other, and the teacher is facilitating their Web search with hints and troubleshooting. Student write down information about topics that interest them. A resource aide works with students requiring additional help. Non-English speaking students go to sites in their native language and receive assistance from student-partners and teacher-aides as needed.

When their initial inquiry is done, students from teams of two to four members begin their own research project using the computers and other media (books, news broadcasts, school injury reports, interviews of students and others, etc.). The teacher assists groups by bringing in additional information as required and redirecting students with suggestions when they arrive at an impasse.

Groups correspond via e-mail with the scientists in the Risk Analysis Department at Sandia Labs to learn how risks are determined and calculated. By contacting various public Websites and people (the local government, hospitals, police department, etc.), the students assemble information about their activity and begin to analyze the benefits and odds of injury.

Groups prepare a multimedia report and present it to the class and public either by constructing a Website or a Hyperstudio presentation. Students publish the results and analysis on the school Website and give oral presentations to the class.

The teacher assesses the projects using the rubrics. The mathematics teachers assist in assessing the data on probability and risk comparison. The students take a short, skills-based assessment on concepts and objectives of understanding risk comparison and probability as part of their individual grades. Students also rate their projects and those of the other teams based on the rubrics. The teacher makes sure that the students offer positive encouragement and criticism to each other in a way that makes the teams feel supported by the class.

Sandia scientists come as guest speakers to discuss the findings with the class. Student share their work with the school administration and staff, offering them a look at the risks of adolescents at school. The results remain on the Website for future students to study and compare results when the project is introduced the following year to the new group of students. The students have determined the risks for their favorite activities, but there are many other activities to research and new data to compare in years to come.


Authors: Bill Britton, Mohr Elementary School, Pleasanton; Diana Fong-Wedgwood, Edison Elementary School; Tim Perrotta, Cesar Chavez Middle School, and Steven Smith, Edison Elementary School.
Created for the NTEP II Fermilab LInC program sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office and Friends of Fermilab, and funded by United States Department of Energy, Illinois State Board of Education, North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium which is operated by North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL), and the National Science Foundation.
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Last Updated: October 10, 2000
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