Saturday, November 16, 2013

Student Discovery in Science-Spark Student Motivation

It's Saturday, and I'm linking up with Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching to share one thing we did this week that really motivated my students.
As I have shared before, we are in the middle of our electricity unit in science. Each year my students always love this unit more than any others that I teach in fourth grade. This week as I was watching my students in class perform our experiments I had an epiphany...I give my students time to discover. I don't give them all the step-by-step directions that come with each experiment. Instead I give them the bare basics and ask them to figure it out, and they love the challenge.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. To introduce my kiddos to circuits they each receive a small wire, a battery, and a light bulb. I ask them to make it light. I tell them there are four ways you can hold it to make it light so when they find one way, try to find the other way. Here are a few pictures of them experimenting (sorry they are so dark, we had all the lights off so we could really "tell" if we made our light bulb light.)

After about 5 min. I gave them a hint and let them get back to figuring it out. Normally one or two are able to make it light after one hint and that spurs the others on. After 5 more min. I make one light and quietly walking around the classroom. The students who want more help will get up and look at how I am holding it, those that really want to figure it out themselves will ignore me. (This is the one time I tell them they can ignore me.) Once we all get it we discuss what we have discovered. It is a favorite of all my students.

With all of the "things" we need to cover I know it is hard to give students that time to figure things like this out on their own, but they are so motivated by it.

When and how do you give your students time to discover? How do you motivated your students?


  1. Awesome Bethany! I definitely need to allow my students more discovery time, and you're right it's because of time-we have to so much to teach. Sometimes I feel like I'm always in a rush. I need to slow down and let them have this opportunity. Thanks for linking up and reminding me of the importance of discovery!
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

  2. There is some serious concentration going on here, Bethany! I love that you have the lights turned out and that you have given them time to really explore. That makes it so much more authentic and motivating. I can't wait until we get to circuits. It's always fun!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  3. You just made me miss teaching electricity.
    I agree that the lessons students discover on their own seem to stick the best!

    Fit to be Fourth
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  4. The kids all look so incredibly engaged! You are so right-just giving kids time to actually figure it out on their own and discover is so motivating. It is hard to give them that time but it is essential to help students gain a deep understanding of things. What a fun lesson! Thanks for sharing such a simple idea that reminds just how important it truly is to let kids simply discover things on their own or with a few hints! :)

    Learning to the Core

  5. I am not teaching science this year but this was probably my favorite lesson for electricity. I always found it so amusing watching them try to light that first bulb, especially when so many students are SO confident that they know how to light it. Hehe! I also think about how much they will learn in just a few short weeks! :) What a great reminder to of how to motivate students that you shared, Bethany!
    Fourth Grade Flipper