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Elementary Science


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Bethsabet Mora Bethsabet Mora 2210 Points

What are some misconceptions that you have found students to have on the indterdependence of life?

Betty Paulsell Betty Paulsell 48560 Points

This link will take you to a whole collection of NSTA resources about misconceptions. There are several resources about life science. I hope this helps.

Kathy Renfrew Kathy Renfrew 37248 Points


One misconception elementary children have about the interdependence of life is Organisms at higher trophic levels eat everything that is lower on the food web, have more energy within them than those lower in the food chain, and accumulate all of the energy that exists in the organisms that are lower in the food chain.

So knowing that, how should we plan instruction? We heard this but we don't know this for sure so maybe we should see if there is a probe that would uncover students' thinking about this idea.


Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

This study from Harvard provides evidence that the best teachers can predict their students misconceptions "As part of an unusual study, Philip Sadler, the Frances W. Wright Senior Lecturer in the Department of Astronomy, and colleagues tested 181 middle school physical science teachers and nearly 10,000 of their students, and showed that while most of the teachers were well-versed in their subject, those better able to predict their students’ wrong answers on standardized tests helped students learn the most."

Maureen Stover Maureen Stover 41070 Points

Hi Bethsabet,

Identifying student misconception is an important step for any teacher. I always try to identify the misconceptions early in my planning so I can include activities and information in my lessons to address the misconceptions. Of course, even with the best laid plans, my kids always seem to surprise me with misconceptions that I didn't anticipate! Here are a few misconceptions that I've run into over the years:

- Organisms require water for nutrition
- Energy is only associated with movement
- Confuse energy with food
- Think that respiration means breathing
- Think that plants get their food from their environment
- Do not make the connections between food, O^2, CO^2, energy, and respiration

For me, the biggest challenge is presenting commonly used vocabulary (like respiration or energy) in scientific terms. Does anyone have any good activities or ideas to help with this? I really like to use Page Keeley's Identifying Student Ideas in Life Science to help me identify student misconceptions.


Kathy Renfrew Kathy Renfrew 37248 Points


Vocabulary can be tricky. I have done some research about vocabulary. I am most familiar with the work of Isabel Beck and her colleagues. She describes words in tiers. Tier 3 words are very content specific, academic vocabulary.

Tier 2 words are words that have multiple meaning that are used in different ways across the discipline.

Energyis one of those words. Many students around grade 4 think energy is totally connected to food and whether they have lots of energy or are sleepy with no energy .

There are many of those words. I am going to attach an article that might be helpful.



Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

Goodness, I was very aware that misconception can be impervious to instruction.

This guy finds that for video as for F2F instruction eliciting misconceptions prior to instruction if critical

A note of warning about KHAn Academy

Betty Paulsell Betty Paulsell 48560 Points

Pam, Trying to get help students with misconceptions has always been a goal of mine in my science instruction. The video you suggested about misconceptions certainly has a very valid point and it presents it in a very effective way. Betty

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

Hi Bethsabet,
According to some of the research compiled in the Interdependence of Life SciPack's pedagogical implications section, 'Learners hold various conceptions of population growth. Many fail to see the link between fluctuations in population size and related environmental issues (Munson, 1991). Some think populations exist in states of either constant growth or decline depending upon their position in a food chain (Munson, 1991) or that the populations increase until limits are reached, then they crash and go extinct (McComas, 2002).' There are several more misconceptions offered by grade level in the SciPack. You can download all of the misconceptions when you purchase this particular SciPack. I have found the NSTA SciPacks to be my favorite resource for discovering what kinds of misunderstandings to watch for as I introduce my students to various science concepts. If others have used the SciPacks to help them plan lessons and guide instruction, please share!
Warmest regards,

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