To Design Instruction, Option A:
Exploring Parts and Wholes (Grades K-2)

Estimated Time: 6-9 hours. (It is recommended that this workshop be held over two days.)

List of Materials

Sample Presentation
Distribute copies of Science for All Americans and Benchmarks for Science Literacy or handouts with appropriate excerpts.

Presenter: The purpose of this activity is to learn to design instruction based on our analysis of how effectively the K-2 lesson "Exploring Parts and Wholes" reflects the principles of Project 2061.

1. Set the context for the lesson. (5-10 minutes)

Have participants discuss the following questions in pairs.


Presenter: I am now going to teach part of a grade K-2 lesson on cells that was developed using Project 2061 principles and tools for science literacy. Then we will analyze the lesson. Later we will look at the design procedure.

2. Teach the lesson. (75-90 minutes)

Teach as much of the lesson "Exploring Parts and Wholes" as time and materials permit.

3. Explore the central benchmarks and determine how effectively the lesson addresses them. (90 minutes)

Presenter: One of the defining characteristics of Project 2061 reform is that instruction will explicitly address specific learning goals. 

TRANSPARENCY: Central Benchmarks: Exploring Parts and Wholes.

Presenter: These benchmarks are the central learning goals for this lesson. According to these benchmarks, what are students expected to know?   Ask the participants to describe to their partners their understanding of the benchmarks. Have several pairs report to the whole group. Record some of their comments on a transparency.

Display the TRANSPARENCY: Exploring Project 2061 Tools-11A (Cell Lessons).

Presenter: We are now going to see how Science for All Americans and Benchmarks for Science Literacy can be used to give us additional insights into what these benchmarks intend students to know. We will study the benchmarks in relation to the five readings shown on the transparency. Each reading has a purpose.  

Briefly review for participants the purposes of the five readings shown on the transparency:
  • The section in Science for All Americans from which the benchmark originated.
  • All other benchmarks in the K-12 list of benchmarks in the same Benchmarks section.
  • Introductory essays in the Benchmarks section for the benchmark being studied.
  • Summaries of research on the topic from Benchmarks, Chapter 15.
  • A relevant strand map, if one is available, from Benchmarks on Disk.
  • Presenter: Your task is to study the reading you’ve been assigned to see how it affects your understanding of the benchmarks and then share what you have learned with your group.  

    After participants have completed their studies, ask individuals to explain to other members of their group or to the total group what their particular reading contributed to their understanding of the benchmarks. Record participants’ comments on a blank transparency. Use this transparency and the one you created earlier in the session to compare understanding before and after the study.

    Distribute HANDOUT: Lesson Plan: Exploring Parts and Wholes (K-2).

    Ask participants to review the lesson, paying particular attention to any parts of the lesson that were not taught. Have participants reflect in pairs on their experiences in the lesson and their examination of the lesson plan for evidence that the lesson addresses the central benchmarks. Develop a list on chart paper of ways in which this lesson addresses the central benchmarks. Ask participants to provide evidence for each statement.

    4. Explore benchmarks related to this lesson. (40-90 minutes)

    Display the TRANSPARENCY: Central Benchmarks: Exploring Parts and Wholes.

    Presenter: We have seen that this lesson addresses these benchmarks. Yet we said this lesson was about cells. How can a lesson be about cells when the central benchmarks are from section 11A Systems and when, in fact, the word "cell" is never used in the lesson? Please discuss this question with a partner.

    Have several pairs share their responses. (Probable response: Understanding part/whole relationships will contribute to later understanding of cell structure and function.)

    Display the TRANSPARENCY: Strand Map: Cells as Systems. Distribute the HANDOUT: Strand Map: Cells as Systems.

    Presenter: Can those of you who examined the strand map in our last activity help us with this question of why we say this lesson is about cells?   Accept responses from those whose special task it was to examine the strand map.

    If participants do not suggest it, tell the group that this map shows how benchmarks from section 5C Cells are related to benchmarks from section 11A Systems. Ask all participants to look at the HANDOUT: Strand Map: Cells as Systems. Ask participants to work in the five-person study groups used in step 3 as they study the strand map. Ask each person to explain to the five-person group the meaning of one arrow on the strand map.

    Presenter: We have seen from this rather brief study of the map that benchmarks about systems are especially important to understanding benchmarks about cells. Here is another document that shows us the same thing.

    Distribute HANDOUT: Benchmarks for Lesson Plan: Exploring Parts and Wholes (K-2).

    Presenter: The first two benchmarks you see on this list are the central benchmarks, the benchmarks on which this lesson focuses. The other benchmarks on this list are also related to the lesson. On this list you see six benchmarks from section 5C Cells. Please read those six benchmarks.

    Continue: Let’s explore section 5C Cells a little more thoroughly.

    Display the TRANSPARENCY: Exploring Project 2061 Tools–5C.

    Ask participants to use the same procedure they used for exploring 11A now to explore 5C. Again, you may wish to distribute the five readings so that one person in each group reads the SFAA section, another the list of benchmarks, another the essays, and another the research. The fifth person in each group could reflect further on the strand map. Have people be responsible for tasks that are different from the ones they completed when exploring section 11A. Ask participants to summarize what they learned for their five-person groups.

    Ask participants to reexamine the lesson plan to find ways in which the lesson provides a foundation for student progress toward the higher grade-level benchmarks included on the list of related benchmarks. Ask for specific examples. (Possible example: Seeing how parts work together to help the wheeled toy move is a good foundation for understanding that cells have specialized parts for various functions, as described in 5C Cells [9-12]#2.)

    Ask participants to refer again to the list of related benchmarks. Point out that some of these related benchmarks come from other sections of SFAA and Benchmarks. Ask participants to read the rest of the list of related benchmarks.

    Presenter: As educators interested in the design of instruction, you may wonder how the lesson designer identified these related benchmarks. Please be aware that the list resulted from a deliberate, methodical study of the book Benchmarks. One useful tool in Benchmarks is the Also See box.

    Ask participants to look at the Also See box for 5C Cells.

    Presenter: Notice that within this box are references to other chapters and sections that contain ideas related to this section on cells. You see that one reference is to 11A Systems. It was exploration of this reference that led the lesson designer to perceive the Systems benchmarks as being especially important to the study of cells, so that two benchmarks from section 11A Systems became the central benchmarks for this lesson.  

    You may wish to have participants refer briefly to the Also See box for section 11A to note that a reference is given there to section 5C Cells.

    Presenter: So you see that the Also See box suggests how, as we design lessons, we can use related ideas. Let’s explore a few of these references.  

    Ask participants to investigate some of the references listed. It is not necessary to assign all of the references in the Also See box. We recommend that you include these assignments: 3A, 4D, 4E, 6C, and 8F. Have participants work in pairs or small groups to read the chapter sections assigned.

    Presenter: As you read the material in the section your group is assigned, look for conceptual connections to 5C Cells. If you find in your section one of the benchmarks related to the lesson on "Exploring Parts and Wholes," try to identify how that benchmark is related to the lesson.

    Collect some responses from participants and record these on a blank transparency or chart.

    Presenter: Review the chapters referenced in the Also See Box. Are there any chapters that you think should be listed that are not? You may want to use the Benchmarks fold-out table of contents as you think about this.  

    Possible answers: Some participants may question the absence of Chapter 12 and Chapter 9. If these are not mentioned, you should mention them and explain that the references included in the 5C Also See box are those that contribute directly to understanding of concepts about cells. For example, understanding the three 6-8 benchmarks in section 11A Systems contributes directly to understanding how a cell can carry out many functions (5C 6-8 #3). The benchmarks in Chapter 12 are learning goals just as essential as those in any other chapter; however, they may be addressed in many contexts, not only or particularly in the context of cells. That is why they are not included in the Also See box for 5C Cells. However, participants should note that there are many benchmarks from Chapter 12 on the list of benchmarks related to this lesson. Ask participants to read them and describe how the lesson "Exploring Parts and Wholes" will help students make progress toward the related benchmarks from Chapter 12. Ask participants to scan the related benchmarks from Chapter 12 and give examples of other contexts in which they could also be addressed.

    Tell participants that the Also See box does not reference other sections within Chapter 5 because, of course, we know these sections are closely related.

    Invite participants to reflect for a moment on the connections made among benchmarks in this lesson and to share any comments they have.

    Presenter: We have used the Strand Map: Cells as Systems, the lesson designer’s list of benchmarks related to this lesson, the Also See box for section 5C Cells, and the Benchmarks table of contents to explore connections among benchmarks that are important to this lesson on cells. Why is the identification of these connections important for instructional planning?  

    Invite participants to discuss this question with a partner. (Among possible responses: teachers need to be aware of how understanding progresses from early to later grades; teachers can ask questions allowing students to connect ideas from various topics; teachers get ideas for lessons that will focus on other benchmarks; teachers are reminded of the importance of developing habits of mind as they design activities.)

    5. Explore how the lesson reflects the principles of Project 2061. (30 minutes)

    TRANSPARENCY: Principles for Lessons.

    Presenter: Let’s consider to what extent this lesson applies the principles of Project 2061 in teaching about this topic.

    Have participants singly or in small groups consider each item on the transparency and give evidence from the lesson that each listed Project 2061 principle is used in this lesson. You may wish to mention that we have already discussed our analysis of how the lesson addresses explicit learning goals.

    Allow time for participants to consider each point. As participants share their comments, be sure the following points are made:

    As a means of encouraging participants to offer additional examples of how the lesson reflects the pedagogical principles of Project 2061, show TRANSPARENCY: Principles of Effective Learning and Teaching. Presenter: This transparency summarizes material from Chapter 13 in Science for All Americans. Read through this list. Does it prompt any additional comments about the lesson’s application of Project 2061’s principles?

    Show TRANSPARENCY: Inquiry and Scientific Values.

    Presenter: This transparency elaborates two of the teaching principles that characterize effective teaching of mathematics, science, and technology. As you review this list, think again about the lesson we studied today. Is there evidence that it is consistent with the nature of scientific inquiry? Would it assist teachers in their efforts to teach science as a process of inquiry, reflective of scientific values? Does it support activities such as beginning discussions with questions about nature, providing an historical perspective, concentrating on collection and use of evidence? What evidence supports your response to these questions?

    Encourage participants to offer specific examples of how the teaching of the lesson is consistent with the nature of inquiry and reflects scientific values.

    6. Explore how instruction about cells might change if Project 2061 tools were used in the design of this instruction. (5-10 minutes)

    Using the think-pair-share strategy, have participants describe how their teaching about cells might change if they used the Project 2061 tools in designing instruction. Record new ideas for instruction about cells on a transparency. Compare these new ideas with present methods of teaching about cells, using the transparency you prepared earlier with responses to the question, "How do we teach cells now?" Remind participants that careful study and clear understanding of the benchmarks are necessary to bring about change in instruction.

    Presenter: By using SFAA and all of the parts of Benchmarks, we practice thinking differently about what should be taught.

    7. Exploring a design procedure.
         a. Engage participants in the design of a new lesson. (90-180 minutes)

    TRANSPARENCY: Steps in Designing Instruction.

    Presenter: Before I taught parts of the lesson today, I said that it was developed by a teacher who applied Project 2061’s principles and used its curriculum design tools in designing the lesson. What does this mean? Let’s look at the design procedure that was used.

    HANDOUT: Steps in Designing Instruction.

    Presenter: These steps recommend one way to plan instruction. The design procedure begins with a topic selected by the developer and then turns to a reflective use of Project 2061 tools as instruction is developed. The steps move us away from answering questions such as, "Which benchmarks support this or that activity?" toward the question, "What kinds of activities support the array of benchmarks that the study of the tools identifies?"

    Ask participants to read through the steps of the procedure.

    Presenter: Are the steps familiar to you?   (Probable response: yes; we used some of them today in analyzing the lesson on cells.)

    Presenter: The best way to understand this procedure and its potential for guiding instructional planning is to use it. We will do that now.

    Invite participants, working either alone or in pairs, to use step 1 to select a topic about which they would like to design instruction.

    Have participants complete step 2 by finding the section in SFAA that relates to their topic. Ask them to read the appropriate paragraphs with two purposes in mind: to identify what a science literate person should know about the topic and to consider how current curriculum materials and classroom instruction at all grade levels might need to change if students completing grade 12 are to progress toward the understandings described. Have participants record their responses on chart paper. Post these and discuss them as a whole group.

    Continue in this way, supporting the participants as they move through the steps. You may wish to have journal entries shared at various points in the procedure.

         b. Analyze the design procedure. (15-20 minutes)

    Presenter: You have had an opportunity to use this procedure for designing instruction. Based on this limited exposure to the design procedure, how would you answer these questions?

    Allow time for participants to think about these questions and discuss them with a partner. Collect some responses and record them on a transparency or chart paper.

    Distribute the HANDOUT: CELLS Through the Lens of Benchmarks. Ask participants to read it.

    Presenter: How does the author of these reflections respond to these questions? She tells us that she did not begin her planning on cells by going first to her files or current textbooks but instead by rereading SFAA on cells to discover what it says are the goals to teach toward. She uses the essays in Benchmarks to find out what misconceptions students often have about cells and what concepts they may have difficulty understanding.  

    Invite participants to respond to the ideas shared in the essay.

    Presenter: Do you believe use of this design procedure would result in improved instruction in your school system? Why or why not?  

    Take some responses to these questions from participants. Briefly summarize what has been learned in the lesson design activity.