How to Use Technology to Teach the Water Cycle
by Judie Haynes
Take advantage of computer technology in your ESL classroom. This CD ROM features a courtroom trial format and can easily be adapted to teach basic science concepts to your English language learners. Student in grades 4-12 will love the animation and humorous presentation. Lessons are written to be used with cooperative groups.
On this Science Court CD ROM, lawyers for each side of a dispute battle over a case and present their arguments. The trial is divided into four parts and at the end of each part, a court commentator reviews the facts and asks students to predict what will happen next.
During each interval there are “hands-on” cooperative learning activities where students answer six content-related questions on reproducible information sheets. Each information sheet contains a different quote from a key participant in the trial to help students answer the questions. This makes each student on a team a participant in the process with important information to contribute to the group. The students predict how the jury will vote at the end of the trial.
The water cycle
Advanced beginning to intermediate ESL students in grades 4-8
Content Concepts & Skills
- Development of science vocabulary
- Comparison of rates of evaporation
- Conducting science experiments
- Working in a cooperative group
- Restating steps in a science experiment
Condensation, evaporation, water vapor, states of matter, water cycle
Materials or Resources
Science Court CD or video Water Cycleby Tom Snyder; Water Cycle Teacher’s Guide; reproducible student activity sheets. The materials for the experiments are not usually difficult to find.
Instructional SequenceThe Science Court material was created for a mainstream students and will need to be adapted for an ESL or Bilingual class. This is easily done because the activities are "hands-on."
- Show each section of the Science Court CD or video to an entire ESL group at one time. At the end of each section there are questions, predictions, and experiments for the students to work on. The action of the trial should be restated by students during this break to be sure that they comprehend the material. Students can go back to review a part of the trial that they want to see again by using a “Trial Clips” button.
- ELLs will need to have more extensive experiences with both the language and the scientific concepts presented in the drama. Some students may need experience with cooperative learning and time should be spent on this. I teach the vocabulary in context unless there are words which are crucial to the comprehsion of the concept.
- If the language in the Science Court drama is too difficult, you may need to restate, or have your more proficient students restate, what has been said. I usually require that students restate the steps of the experiment in drawings or short sentences.
- Many English language learners are not used to predicting outcomes. They may be uncomfortable making guesses.It may not be culturally appropriate behavior. ESL and bilingual students need to learn how to solve problems and explain their point of view to a group. This skill should be taught to ELLs. Explain to students their predictions do not have to be correct. Have them make educated guesses and explain the reasons for their guesses. Give them the opportunity to change their predicitions as the trial unfolds.
- Plan to spend a much longer time on each unit than the recommended 2 or 3 class periods. You may want to pre-teach the concepts or the vocabulary.
- Depending on the size and grade level of your class, you may want to demonstrate some of experiments to the class rather than having students work in cooperative groups. Always have students draw the steps in an experiment and then tell about each step. Have them keep a science journal. Extend the theme to include more oral language and writing which are needed by ESL students. More experiments are available on the Tom Synder website. These experiments are designed for students to do at home with parental supervision.
- Don’t skip the songs or poems included with the unit. These are excellent for reinforcing language and vocabulary. You can access the music and lyrics to the Water Cycle Song on the Tom Synder website.
Use the experiments to teach your students the scientific method. Here is an example from the "Water Cycle" unit
1. Explain to students that this is what we want to find out during the experiment. This is the question. Write the question on the board. (Will the water in different containers evaporate in the same amount of time?)
2. Have students guess what will happen. Write down their responses. This is the guess or the hypothesis. This guess does not have to be correct.
3. Have students list the materials that you will need.
4. Explain to students that the next part is the procedure or the steps of the experiment. This tells what you do first, second, third, etc.
- Use a tablespoon to put small amounts of the same amount of water in each container.
- Draw how the water in each container looks.
- Check the containers each hour.
- Write down what you see.
5. The water in the wide container will evaporate first. This is called the result of the experiment. The result is what happens during the experiment.
6. The water in the wide dish evaporates sooner because more of it’s surface is exposed to the air. Explain to students that this is the conclusion . This is what was learned during the experiment.
Here are some additional resources for water cycle information for children on the internet:
- The Water Cycle on the Evergreen Project web site.
- Learn about the Earth's Water on the University of Miami web site.
© 1998-2004 Judie Haynes, www.everythingESL.net