Small-group Activity

Small-Group Activities

[Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5]

Group 1 Discussion

Group 2 Discussion

Group 3 Discussion

Group 4 Discussion

Expert Panel Discussion


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Week 1: April 3-9
I have a favorite Microcosmos Kingdom Quest activity that goes directly to the nature of science and is appropriate regardless of grade level. Carrying out the activity in the middle grades involves having small groups of students examine a wide range of living and once-living materials spread out on table tops around the room.

student using AlphaSmartRelying solely on observation, students use a hand-held portable word processor to record characteristics and features. Then students collaborate to identify commonalties and differences in order to generate a classification scheme (e.g., kingdom alignment) that represents organisms on the planet Earth. My seventh graders really get into this and wow me with their ideas. Finally, they compare their schemes to those developed by scientists.

Yesterday, when we did this activity in my seventh grade class, I realized pretty quickly that I had overlooked potential barriers that could hinder Barbara's participation. Barbara, who has cerebral palsy, is confined to a wheelchair. Although she could get close to the marble-topped lab table, she couldn't see what was laid out since it was higher than her wheelchair seat. To make matters worse, when someone handed her several of the objects at the same time, she couldn't manage to handle them all at once. One even broke when it fell to the floor. She was visibly embarrassed and upset.

As students continued to busily type responses with their portable keyboards, Barbara was once again left out. The voice recognition technology she relies on for writing was in the computer lab. She was not able to put closure on the activity with a self-generated summary, as the other students did.

Week 1
Prompting Questions

Please read the vignette and contribute to your small-group discussion, using the following three prompts as starting points:

1. Introduce yourself, describing as much as possible your position/role, the students you work or come in contact with, and one kind of technology you find effective with students who have disabilities.

2. Imagine yourself as the teacher in this classroom.  What could you have done to ensure that Barbara was a full participant in the science activity?

3. What questions, concerns, or ideas does this vignette raise for you?

Post your message to your group discussion.


Week 2: April 10-16
The Microcosmos Micros-Discovery Board activity fosters exploration at the micro level. Regardless of grade level (kindergarten through college), the goal is for students to develop a micro-level perspective of the world around them. Indeed, if the earth could somehow speak to students, its "language" would likely be at this close-up level. To perform the task, students use a small, hand-held microscope (the 30x microviewer from Microcosmos) with a powerful light source.

Here is a description of the instructional method:

1. Students prepare the discovery board. Using cardboard from discarded boxes, they cut out a one foot by one foot square. Using a ruler, they then draw lines dividing the cardboard into equal-sized boxes (usually 3, 9, or 12 boxes, depending on the age of the student).

2. Working in small investigative teams, students examine every-day objects, using the microscope. The objects might include pieces of plastic wrappers; cutouts from magazines or newspapers; foods, such as coffee grinds, salt, and sugar; small but identifiable parts of plants; small scraps of fabric; etc. Teachers can collect and distribute the objects, or-what is usually more fun-students collect the objects over time as a class project.

3. As student teams examine their objects, they discuss what they see. They are encouraged to draw pictures and make notes to record their observations. At this stage, they can go beyond their objects, to look at their own and teammates' hands, clothing, etc., if they choose.

4. Next, students build their discovery boards. They are asked to find several objects that look different to the naked eye but look quite similar when viewed by the hand-held microscope. In each box on the discovery board, students glue down the objects they found that have something in common.

5. Finally, the teams exchange discovery boards. The students now have a new challenge-using the hand-held microscope to examine objects selected by their classmates, they must discover what these objects have in common. Students write their hypotheses and then check them out with the discovery board's creator.

6. The teacher's assessment of the students focuses on their ability to identify ways in which everyday objects are the same, based on micro-level observations. The teacher identifies criteria to evaluate students' understanding. Then she examines the Micros-Discovery Board students created to see what they chose to emphasize as the commonalties. She assesses their ability to determine the classification rationale of another group, evaluating their work against the criteria


Week 2
Please read the vignette and respond to both of the following questions in the small-group discussion:

1. What was built into this exploration (in terms of instructional strategies and uses of technology) that could promote success for a student with a learning disability, a communication disorder, mental retardation, an emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, visual impairment, or a physical disability? Please draw on your own experience with students you might know who have one or more of these disabilities.

2. What more can be done to promote success for students with disabilities?  Keep a specific student with a disability in mind as you respond to this question.

After you have posted your own response to the vignette, be sure to read others' messages  and comment.

Week 3: April 17-23

This week the small-group activity involves designing science activities and giving each other feedback on the designs.

Step 1:
In broad brush strokes, outline a science activity of your choosing by doing the following:

Possible sources of inspiration to help you generate an idea for the activity are:

  • upcoming units or activities in your own school or classroom
  • the mini-vignettes from the first half of the science video we sent you
  • Inner Space Journeys to Life on Earth (the book we sent you), pages 14-15, 25, 45, 54, 59-60, 61-62, 85-87, 110-111, and 117.
  • any other items included in our resource list

Step 2:
Please read others’ activity plans and offer feedback considering the  following questions:

Can the goals be more clear?

Can the activity be sharpened?

Are there other adaptations that could help students with disabilities?

What other technology, media, and materials could be integrated into the unit?

Does the assessment relate to the goal and to the activity?

Step 3:
After reflecting on feedback to your activity, please feel free to defend your ideas or show how you have revised your thinking.


How to post your activity:
Post your science activity as a New Main Topic.


Technical Tips: 
Even if you have nothing specific to put in a reply,  post a message just to let us know you're reading.

Week 4: April 24-30

This week the small-group activity involves filling out a survey and discussing the organization issues that affect both the inclusion of students with disabilities in a strong science program and the integration of technology . 

You can continue to submit survey responses over the weekend.  We will post results on Monday afternoon, May 4.


Week 5: May 1-8

Use this final week to review and continue earlier conversations provoked by the weekly topics from weeks 1-4.

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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998.

ŠEducation Development Center, Inc.