Icebergs and Glaciers: Unit Outlines

Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of content in this issue of Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears? Not sure where to begin? We’ve created unit outlines for Grades K-2 and 3-5 using some of the resources found in the Icebergs and Glaciers issue. Rather than be a rigid and prescriptive unit plan, the outlines are meant to spark your creativity and help you integrate these resources into your own particular teaching situation.

The unit outlines follow the 5E Learning Cycle model – engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate.

Have an idea for another tundra unit? Share it with us – and other teachers – in the comments area!

GRADES K-2 UNIT OUTLINE

Summary of Purpose for the Unit
This unit is designed to provide primary students with opportunities to learn about icebergs. Students observe ice and make and test predictions about whether icebergs of various sizes and shapes will be able to float. This helps build important science process skills and develop an informal understanding of physical science concepts such as buoyancy and density.


Standards Alignment

National Science Education Standards: Science Content Standards

Science content standards are found in Chapter 6 of the National Science Education Standards.

Science as Inquiry (Grades K-4)

  • Ask questions about objects, organisms, and events in the environment
  • Communicate investigations and explanations

Physical Science (Grades K-4)

  • Properties of objects and materials

Earth and Space Science (Grades K-4)

  • Properties of Earth materials

IRA/NCTE Standards for the English Language Arts

View the standards at http://www.ncte.org/standards.

1 – Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts.

3 – Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts.

4 – Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

5 – Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

11 – Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

12 – Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes.


Unit Outline

Engage
Read Lulie the Iceberg by Takamado no Miya Hisako (from our Water, Ice, and Snow virtual bookshelf) and ask students to share what they know about icebergs. Record student ideas on chart paper, or begin a class KWL chart (or one of the variations described in this article). If you’d like some background information before you begin the unit, please see the article All about Icebergs.

Explore
First, allow students to observe and experience ice using as many senses as possible – sight, smell and touch. Provide time for students to share their observations with one another. Next, present students with “icebergs” in a variety of sizes and shapes. Icebergs can be created by freezing water in film canisters as described in the lesson Do-It-Yourself Iceberg Science, or by filling and freezing water balloons and other containers of various shapes and sizes. Ask students to predict whether or not each iceberg will float when placed in water. Prompt students to justify their predictions. Record student ideas on chart paper, or have older students record their predictions in their science notebooks.

To test student predictions, place each “iceberg” in water and observe its behavior. We recommend using a large aquarium or other transparent container so students can gather around and observe from the sides of the container as well as from the top. Ask students to record their observations and draw pictures showing the position of the icebergs in the water. Were their predictions correct? Why or why not? Older students using science notebooks can write claims and conclusions at this time. If you started a KWL chart, provide time for students to revisit and revise their questions, and add new information to the “L” column.

Explain
Read Floating Ice (look for the Grades K-1 and 2-3 versions by scrolling down through the article) with students – either as an illustrated book or an electronic book. Discuss the text with students, linking it with student observations from the Explore phase. Again, allow students to revise the KWL chart used in the previous two phases.

Next, invite students to draw a picture of an iceberg in the ocean. Underneath their pictures, students should write (or dictate) what they learned about icebergs from the investigations and the text. Allow time for students to share their pictures and writing with one another. Teachers might also compile student work into a class book.

Expand
Ideally, student questions and interests drive this phase of instruction. One possibility is to compare the behavior of icebergs in freshwater and saltwater. Another is to learn about glaciers – massive sheets of ice from which icebergs calve. Finally, this iceberg investigation could be part of a unit about the states of matter or floating and sinking. See the article Using Icebergs to Teach Buoyancy and Density for more suggestions.

Assess
This unit provides opportunities for both formative and summative assessment.

Formative Assessment

  • Observation of students’ participation in class activities throughout the unit will provide insight into their current understanding and engagement with the topic.
  • Ongoing completion of the KWL chart or science notebook entries will allow teachers to modify the unit accordingly.

Summative Assessment
Student drawings and written/dictated facts serve as the source of summative assessment and indicates student understanding of icebergs. Such work is best assessed on a teacher-created rubric.

GRADES 3-5 UNIT OUTLINE

Summary of Purpose for the Unit
This unit is designed to provide elementary students with opportunities to model and investigate glaciers. It uses hands-on experiences and children’s literature to answer the questions How are glaciers formed?, How do glaciers move?, and How do glaciers shape the land?


Standards Alignment

National Science Education Standards: Science Content Standards

Science content standards are found in Chapter 6 of the National Science Education Standards.

Science as Inquiry (Grades K-4 and 5-8)

  • Ask questions about objects, organisms, and events in the environment
  • Communicate investigations and explanations

Earth and Space Science

  • Changes in the Earth and Sky (Grades K-4)
  • Structure of the Earth system (Grades 5-8)

IRA/NCTE Standards for the English Language Arts

View the standards at http://www.ncte.org/standards.

1 – Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts.

3 – Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts.

4 – Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

5 – Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

11 – Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

12 – Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes.


Unit Outline

Engage
Tell students that they are going to be learning about glaciers. Invite students to picture walk or skim through various books about glaciers, including the titles in our virtual bookshelf. Next, ask students to complete a KWL chart (or one of the variations described in this article) independently, in small groups, or as a class. If you’d like to learn more about glaciers before beginning the unit, the article Glaciers: Earth’s Rivers of Ice may be helpful.

Explore
First, students should have a chance to investigate how glaciers form. The lessons How Do Snowflakes Become Ice? and Glacial Pressure model the formation of compacted ice with marshmallows, snow cone ice, or snow (if available). Students should draw diagrams, record their observations, and write about the process of glacial formation. Science notebooks can be used for this purpose. Students should also update their KWL charts by adding new information to the “L” column and any new questions that may have arisen.

Next, students should have a chance to investigate how glaciers move. Several lessons can be used to accomplish this purpose. In Blue Ice Cube Melt and Can You Melt a Glacier with Pressure? (both described in the article Ice, Ice, Baby), students learn that ice can melt through pressure – an important concept in understanding glacial movement. Modeling Glacier Dynamics with Flubber (versions for grades 2-3 and 4-5) allows students to simulate the movement of a glacier and learn that all parts of a glacier don’t always move at the same speed. Again, have students record observations, draw diagrams, and write about what they’ve learned. They should also update their KWL charts with new information and questions.

Finally, students should have a chance to investigate how glaciers erode and shape the land. In the lesson How Does Ice Break Down Mountains?, students observe how freezing water affects various objects (including rocks). The article Explaining Glaciers, Accurately describes two activities that help students develop correct understanding of how glaciers change Earth’s surface by plucking and abrasion. Again, have students record observations, draw diagrams, and write about what they’ve learned. They should also update their KWL charts with new information and questions.

Explain
During this phase, students deepen the understanding they gained during the Explore phase by reading and discussing children’s literature, including the books about glaciers from our virtual bookshelf. Students can also read our Feature Story Ice Sculptures, which describes the effects glaciers have had on landscapes around the world. Students can practice the reading comprehension strategy of visualizing with a template. For more information, see Visualizing to Understand Content Area Text. If you wish to have students practice note taking, the Note It 3 Ways template might be helpful. If students are reading and discussing in small groups, our idea circle graphic organizer might be used instead.

Students will then use what they’ve learned in the investigations and from children’s literature to create Question and Answer Books. Each page of the book includes a question and then a paragraph and an illustration that provide the answer. While students should use questions and facts from their KWL charts to construct their books, most will answer these three questions (at a minimum): How are glaciers formed?, How do glaciers move?, and How do glaciers shape the land?

Expand
This unit can lead into a study of other forces that shape the Earth’s surface – wind, water, volcanoes, and earthquakes. Our issue Earth’s Changing Surface contains a wealth of resources for teaching about these topics.

Assess
This unit provides opportunities for formative and summative assessment.

Formative Assessment
Formative assessment is conducted throughout the unit. For example:

  • Observation of students’ participation in class activities throughout the unit will provide insight into their current understanding and engagement with the topic.
  • Student observations, diagrams, writing, and completion of the KWL chart will provide an ongoing look at their current level of understanding.
  • Observation of students taking notes or visualizing content area text during the Explain phase will provide insight into their understanding of the material being read as well as their ability to take notes from text. Provide support for students as needed.

Summative Assessment
Question and answer books
serve as the source of summative assessment. Books can be assessed on a teacher-created rubric.


This article was written by Jessica Fries-Gaither. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email Jessica at beyondpenguins@msteacher.org.

Copyright August 2009 – The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.

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